Fellowship Application Guide

The following advice applies to three fellowship programs open to graduate students – the Knauss, Great Lakes Commission and the NOAA Coastal Management fellowships. Applicants go through a two-stage selection process for each fellowship program. Michigan Sea Grant reviews all applicants from Michigan and then recommends several candidates to be considered by the national program office. For more details, students should visit the website managed by each fellowship program.

For Applicants

Am I Eligible to Apply?

  • Visit the program websites to determine if you are considered a current or recent graduate student based on the program’s eligibility criteria.
  • You do not need to be a U.S. citizen to apply.
  • Graduate students with a wide range of backgrounds have been successful in these fellowships, including students with skills in law, social science, policy, planning, biological and physical science and public health.
  • The fellowship programs require a full-time commitment, so most students participate after they graduate or between a Master’s and Ph.D. program.

Why Should I Apply?

  • The fellowships give students a chance to apply their graduate training to real-world issues such as climate change planning, habitat conservation and fisheries management.  These paid programs provide on-the-job experience and networking opportunities that are invaluable for building a career as a natural resource professional.
  • Fellows gain an insider perspective into how state and federal agencies work, how policies are developed and how funding decisions are made, which is an advantage for working in the academic, non-profit, government or private sector.
  • Many fellows have found opportunities to continue working for their host agency or a partner organization after completing the fellowship.
  • Some students participate in the fellowship hoping to continue their graduate work in the future. Past fellows made very useful professional contacts and refined their research interests, but accomplished only a minimal amount of research or writing during the fellowship.
  • For personal stories, see: Fellowship Blog

Application Materials

  • Visit each fellowship program website and review the specific application requirements and selection criteria.
  • For all three programs, application materials can be submitted in our new online application.
  • The Knauss program requires official transcripts. Official transcripts should be sent directly from the providing university either electronically or by postal mail to Lynn Vaccaro at Michigan Sea Grant, 520 E. Liberty St., Suite 310, Ann Arbor, MI 48104-2210. Transcripts in official, sealed envelopes provided by students to Michigan Sea Grant will also be considered official.
  • The Coastal Management and Great Lakes Commission fellowships accept unofficial copies of transcripts. Applicants should upload a scanned or electronic copy of their most recent transcript in a format similar to an official transcript.
  • During the initial application process, students do not need to secure a letter of endorsement from the Michigan Sea Grant director, but they must submit all other required application materials by the deadline.

Selection Process

  • After applying to Michigan Sea Grant, strong candidates will be invited for a phone or in-person interview. After the interview, we will prepare letters of endorsement for the candidates we recommend to the national program office.
  • Applicants who do not advance to the second stage of the application process will be notified by email within two months of the application deadline.
  • The Great Lakes Commission typically interviews several candidates over the phone before selecting one new fellow.
  • The Coastal Management Program selects 12 finalists based on the recommendations of state Sea Grant programs. Finalists are invited to a “matching workshop” in May, where six applicants will be successfully matched with a mentor in a state coastal program office.
  • For the Knauss Fellowship Program, a national review panel selects approximately 45 finalists. Finalists are invited to a “placement week” in November where nearly all are successfully matched with a host office in Washington D.C.

Additional Tips

  • Review the fellowship websites, research past fellows and their projects, visit Michigan Sea Grant’s fellowship blog and learn about your potential host offices.
  • Submit a 1-2 page resume with your application that highlights your academic achievements. Be sure to organize the information legibly.
  • The fellowship programs are looking for candidates who have strong academic records and outstanding interpersonal skills.
  • Your application is likely to be reviewed by people trained in biology, so be sure to explain how your specific skills (e.g., law, social science, engineering) can benefit a host office.
  • To be successful, you must demonstrate a connection to marine, aquatics or Great Lakes issues.
  • Describe any extracurricular activities or personal experiences that have influenced your career path and interest in Great Lakes or marine issues.
  • Feel free to contact Lynn Vaccaro with any additional questions.

For Writers of Recommendation Letters

Logistics

  • For 2013, address letters of recommendation to:
    Jim Diana, Director
    Michigan Sea Grant
    520 E. Liberty St.
    Suite 310
    Ann Arbor, MI 48104-2210
  • Please use official letterhead.
  • Be sure to sign your letter. Electronic signatures are accepted.
  • Submit the letter as a PDF uploaded to the online application. The letter must be submitted directly from the author of the letter, not from the applicant.
  • If a student is applying to more than one fellowship, please submit separate letters addressing a single fellowship program. Letters will be reviewed by different committees for each fellowship, so the letter narrative can be very similar.

Letter Content

  • Indicate the fellowship program the applicant is seeking and explain how you know the applicant.
  • Focus on both academic as well as interpersonal characteristics, including written and oral communication skills, disposition, leadership abilities, personal convictions and ambitions. The fellowship programs are looking for students that are skilled and ambitious, but can also integrate well into a team.
  • Consider asking students for a copy of their resume or application essay.

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