I'm back from a long week in DC! That's right, placement week is over and all the finalists (you're a finalist until placed, then you become a fellow) have been placed in various offices. I'm an executive fellow and am happy to say that I've accepted a position with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) as an aquatic invasive species specialist.
The process was long. Many of the fellows were stressed out. They tell you to trust the system and be open to many different offices (which you should!), as they rarely end up with a fellow in a position that they don't love. Still, it was difficult to decide because there are so many projects that can take you in so many different directions. Through it all I kept calm and enjoyed the week and took advantage of the opportunity to get to know all the different people from the various host offices. I interviewed and met with people from the National Science Foundation, the Department of State, the US Department of Transportation, the Army Corps of Engineers, and tons of folks from NOAA's various offices. I've already made some great contacts and I was only in DC for a week!
Placement week in a nutshell:
Dinner Sunday night to get to know each other and hear about what's in store for the week. After a few dozen presentations on Monday, I scheduled 16 interviews and finished them up over the next few days. As hard as it was whittling my list of favorites down to 16, at the end I had to call back my top 3 host offices and tell them they were my favorites. On Friday morning we saw how the host offices ranked us and we went through the placement process. Those at the top got to choose first and select the offices they like the most. Though that may sound intimidating, it works out well for all since even if you aren't at the top, it is likely that the people ahead of you select other positions and open up the list to you. More likely than not you'll be near the top of at least a few lists, especially your call-backs. Mixed up in that whole process is a slew of dinner/happy hour socials where you get to meet with other to-be-fellows, past/current fellows, and host offices. You rarely have time to sit and relax during the day, and get even less time to do so at night while you're mingling. That may sound busy, but it was tons of fun! I stuck around for an extra half-day and rented a bicycle, which was well worth it. Then before I knew it I was back on the metro, back on a plane, and back in freezing-cold Michigan.
I was very fortune to end up in a position where I can continue working in the field of aquatic invasive species. I'm an aquatic ecologist and study food web impacts of invasive species in the Great Lakes region and am happy to stay in that field. My host office is excited to have me on board because of my Great Lakes experience, so all of the worrying I did over my lack of marine coastal experience was for nothing!
Last thing...I'm wrapping up my M.S. at Central Michigan University right now, but all my name tag said was "Michigan." What do people think when they read that? U of M of course. I got lots of "Go Blue!" to which I quickly replied, "Go Buckeyes!" That's right, I'm an OSU graduate and a Columbus, Ohio native. I was blown away at how many people in the offices I interviewed at have degrees from OSU, and it turned out to be an easy ice-breaker that led me through some of my best (and salvaged some of my worst!) interviews.
Thanks for reading!
Knauss Marine Policy Fellow
(2/2014 – 2/2015)