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Life as Knauss Fellow in the Office of the Navy’s Oceanographer

May 26, 2011
U.S. Naval Observatory entrance.

Knauss Fellow Abigail Graefe works in the office of the Navy's Oceanographer, in the domed building in the distance beyond this gate where Vice President Joe Biden enters to get to his official residence. ©Abigail Graefe

By Abigail Graefe

Life as the Navy Fellow
Working in the Office of the Oceanographer of the Navy at the Naval Observatory has its perks. I am writing this as the breeze comes through the two huge windows that are next to my desk, which has views of the Observatory grounds – including the VP’s helicopter landing pad (but only in the winter when the trees don’t have leaves)! The windows on the other side of the office have views to our neighbor, the Vice President’s residence. The small forest with resident deer provides a nice break from the concrete character of the city.

Abigail Graefe

Abigail Graefe

After sitting at a desk all day, there are tennis, basketball, and sand volleyball courts on the grounds to stretch those tight muscles.

In spite of all of these distractions, we are able to get plenty of work done. Almost all of my meetings are high-level and interagency, which widens my perspective of the various executive departments and increases my professional network. This year, my position focuses on participating in the formation of the National Ocean Policy, scheduled for public release at the end of February 2012.

Close Encounters
During the second week of the fellowship, I was the sole attendee for my office at a meeting. When I arrived, I was asked to sit at the main table behind the table card that said “United States Navy.” It was nerve-racking, but it really helped the importance of this fellowship sink in!

After work on the first 80 degree day of the year, I went for a run in Rock Creek Park. While running on a trail, I passed VP Biden, Dr. Biden, their dog, and their secret service entourage. I was close enough to give the VP a high-five (but didn’t attempt it)!

Advice for Future and Prospective Fellows

  • Be flexible
  • Understand that your schedule changes on a daily basis
  • Learn your priorities
  • Use your non-stipend funds to attend conferences and symposiums – try to do one internationally
  • Try to be frugal
  • Begin expanding your professional wardrobe now!