Najwa Obeid’s experiences as a Knauss Fellow at the National Science Foundation can perhaps most accurately be described as diverse. And that diversity, she said, will go a long way in helping her achieve her goal of working on water and coastal policy.
Her greatest exposure to policy came while participating in an ecosystem-based management working group with representatives from agencies like the Department of the Interior, NOAA, the U.S. Navy and EPA. Ecosystem-based management is a type of resource management that focuses on whole ecosystems instead of individual species or resources and is one of nine policy recommendations included in the National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan. The group - officially known as the National Ocean Council ecosystem-based management interagency subgroup - was charged with determining what this recommendation meant for each agency and identifying work priorities and pilot projects. In her role with the National Science Foundation, Najwa identified science and knowledge gaps and connected the group with academic experts.
“I have a better idea now of how things do and should work, particularly when there are a lot of agencies involved,” said Najwa, a Ph.D. candidate at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. “Reading about the work is one thing, but being immersed in it adds much more value.”
Before her time with the working group, Najwa helped launch the new Coastal Science, Engineering, and Education for Sustainability program, part of the Division of Ocean Sciences (OCE), and facilitated peer review and award decisions for grant proposals. She also analyzed data on past OCE proposals to better understand award trends and determine how best to change or modify current OCE policy.
And, like her co-fellow Will Tyburczy, Najwa has some advice for those considering a Knauss fellowship.
“If you have any sort of interest in policy or want to be involved with work that has a faster and more direct social impact,” she advised, “give it a try. It is a very unique and educational year.”