Select Page

Follow the Careers of Two S.C. Sea Grant Knauss Fellows

Apr 13, 2017 | News

By Joey Holleman and Susan Ferris Hill, S.C. Sea Grant Consortium

M. Grant Cunningham and Elizabeth Day-Miller symbolize the diverse paths possible to earning a John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship. They both worked for the S.C. Sea Grant Consortium in 1988, Cunningham as a graduate student intern in the Charleston office, and Day-Miller as a marine extension agent based in Georgetown. Then their routes diverged.

Cunningham was chosen as a Knauss fellow in 1989 directly from his internship. During his fellowship year in Washington, D.C., Cunningham served on the staff of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on National Ocean Policy Study, chaired by Senator Ernest F. Hollings. Cunningham prepared statements, organized hearings and helped draft legisla­tion. After the fellowship, he was hired to continue his work as a professional staffer on the committee in 1990.

Grant Cunningham learned the foundation for policy development as a Knauss Fellow in 1989 after an internship at the S.C. Sea Grant Consortium. Photo courtesy of Clemson University.

“As a Knauss fellow, I got a better grasp of the philosophy behind the development of the coastal zone management program,” Cunningham says. “I became more knowledgeable about policy development and understood more about the program’s ‘carrot and stick’ approach.”

In 1991, Cunningham returned to South Carolina for a new position at Clemson University: research associate and director of the South Carolina Rural Recreation Development Project, a start-up program working with rural communities to develop full-time recreational programs and services. After earning his doctorate in 1995, he’s now an associate professor with Clemson’s College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities . He is still involved with coastal planning, as well as outdoor recreation resource management, community development and travel and tourism.

Cunningham was introduced to coastal issues when he helped gather information for the publication South Carolina Public Beach & Coastal Access Guide. Photo by Grace Beahm.

“I’ve been teaching 21 years, and I have made so many connections–local, state, federal and non-profit groups. When I have taken my students to various meetings on the coast, they are amazed by all the connections I have. That’s what Sea Grant did for me. It helped me make those connections.”

Day-Miller’s journey to her Knauss fellowship took a decade longer, years she spent gaining experience as an environmental educator and earning her Ph.D. in marine science at the University of South Carolina . She wasn’t sure she was the right fit for the Knauss program, with its research and policy focus.

“I was definitely an anomaly for the Knauss fellowship program,” Day-Miller says. “Maybe I opened doors for people to be more involved in that way.”

During her fellowship, Day-Miller worked with the National Science Foundation (NSF) Division of Ocean Sciences. She thought more attention needed to be paid to helping teachers and scientists understand each other. “Teachers would learn a lot by working with scientists, and scientists would learn a lot by working with teachers,” Day-Miller says. “We needed to bring them together.”

Day-Miller wasn’t the only one thinking that way. Those conversations at NSF led to the establishment of the Centers for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence (COSEE). The COSEE network, with a goal of fostering collaboration among research scientists and educators, grew to include 12 regional centers through­out the country.

After her Knauss fellowship, Day-Miller moved on to a program analyst position with the National Sea Grant College Program . She developed expertise in writing proposals, designing projects, developing curricula and evaluating proposals. Now she helps others with those tasks through her Bridgewater, Va. based consulting company.

“I had the opportunity to support and influence many of the education initiatives that came out of NOAA ,” she says. “And all of that grew out of my Ph.D. work funded by S.C. Sea Grant and my work as a Knauss fellow.”

Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Day-Miller.