Matthew Womble, currently completing his master’s in the fisheries program at Auburn University, is one of approximately 50 future leaders to be awarded a 2016 John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship, sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Sea Grant College Program. A panel made up of representatives from the Sea Grant Association, the National Sea Grant Advisory Board and current Knauss fellows selected him through a highly competitive application process. Womble will spend a year in Washington D.C. working with national leaders on marine and coastal policy.
He applied to the master’s program at Auburn with the Knauss fellowship as a goal, he said.
“Politics and policy has always been an interest — you could say it runs in the family,” he said.
Womble’s father worked for U.S. Senator Trent Lott, so he split his childhood between Washington D.C. and Ocean Springs, Miss. In Mississippi, he developed a passion for spending time on the water to go with his interest in politics. During his undergraduate years at Mississippi State University, he completed two internships that took him further down his path — one in the office of U.S. Senator Thad Cochran and another working for the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources.
“Matthew has a strong desire to gain more in-depth policy experience than his short stint as Senator Cochran’s intern supplied,” said LaDon Swann, director of the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium. “I believe the Sea Grant Knauss Fellowship program will provide him with the perfect opportunity to work on major federal policy challenges.”
The Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium endorsed Wombles’s application for the fellowship. In November, Womble will spend a week in Washington interviewing with the different agencies affiliated with the program. Once assigned to an office, he will put his practical and theoretical fisheries knowledge to use helping shape federal legislation concerning marine issues.
“It’s a great opportunity to learn about policy, plus it’s a chance to see if I will enjoy living and working in D.C.,” said Womble.
The Knauss fellowship program started in 1979 and is named in honor of John A. Knauss, a former NOAA administrator and a founder of the National Sea Grant College Program. More than 1,000 Knauss fellows have served since the fellowship began. Sea Grant is network of 33 programs that provide support, leadership and expertise for university-based marine and coastal research, extension and education.
*Tara Skelton is a freelance writer in Ocean Springs, Miss.*