Science Serving Maryland's Coasts

Information for Fellows and Finalists

Congratulations on being selected as a Knauss Fellow! To help you navigate your fellowship year, we have prepared the information below.

Anytime before or during your fellowship year, we encourage you to call us with any comments or questions. Remember, because Maryland Sea Grant pays for this fellowship, you need to keep us informed of your activities and travel needs throughout the fellowship. Consider us your "go-to" group for any issues related to your fellowship experience.

Award Amounts and Schedule

Amounts of stipends and benefits vary depending on the year of your fellowship. Find specifics and a calendar of key dates for your class.

Placement Week Details

Hosts

A "host" is an executive-branch or Congressional office that has requested a Knauss Fellow for the year. Read the host offerings on the National Sea Grant Office website, usually posted in late October or early November. Remember, fellows are not allowed to contact host offices, but you can contact current fellows or past fellows and ask them questions about their position or experiences. Fellows contacting host offices for placements before placement week may be immediately dismissed from the program.

Expenses and Reimbursements

Make sure you have up to $2500 set aside for expenses (hotel, travel, food, etc.) during placement week. During this week, fellows travel to Washington, D.C., and interview with hosts to seek placements. Fellows do not begin to draw their stipends until after they begin working for their hosts. Fellows living in Maryland or the District of Columbia will likely have lower travel and lodging costs (closer to $1500). If you are unable to pay these costs, contact Jeannette Connors in the Maryland Sea Grant office to discuss options.

Receipts

Make sure you save all your receipts during placement week. This includes hotel, parking, taxi, metro, internet access in your hotel room, etc. Maryland Sea Grant (MDSG) pays the following per diem rate for meals: $10, breakfast; $12, lunch; and $25, dinner. You do not need to show receipts to receive this rate; however, you will not be reimbursed for meals that are provided by the National Sea Grant Office (NSGO) as part of the selection week program. If you exceed your spending for a given meal, you may provide a receipt and a detailed explanation of why this occurred and why the circumstances justify reimbursement. However, MDSG is very unlikely to approve such requests.

Mileage

Reimbursement for car mileage is $0.535/mile.

Reimbursement Limit

You are allocated up to a total of $2500 for placement week from your fellowship award. What you do not spend can be applied to other fellowship costs during your fellowship year.

Filing and Receiving Reimbursement

Once placement week is over, you must submit your expense statement (on the specific Maryland Sea Grant form) and your receipts to Jeannette Connors on the MDSG staff. You will receive reimbursement two to four weeks after you submit your expense statement and receipts.

Key Tips for Interviews With Hosts

  • Be prepared to wear suits or other conservative, professional attire when visiting host offices. You may want to bring comfortable shoes to wear between interviews and during transit time, as you will be doing a lot of walking during placement week.
  • Stay relaxed, be flexible, and stay open-minded.
  • Don't pre-determine where you want to work.
  • Remember that this week, as well as the fellowship itself, is an educational opportunity for you.
  • Ask lots of questions. Refer to sample questions on the NOAA Knauss website, or talk to former fellows and peers about good questions to ask.
  • Schedule 12 to 15 interviews. Wanting to have options is understandable; however, scheduling too many interviews will pack your schedule, cause interviews to run together in your mind, and limit the time you have to reflect on your options.
  • Remember that the hosts want you. You should view the interview process as an opportunity to learn about a particular office and why you would want to work there. They are pitching to you, rather than in a job interview where your responsibility is to convince the interviewer that they want to hire you.
  • If possible, contact the current fellow in the office (if there is one) or a former fellow and ask them questions about the office and their duties.
  • Make sure you can interview or speak with co-workers and your potential immediate supervisor.
  • Check to see if the office accepts international students (if applicable).

After Placement Week, Before You Begin Your Fellowship

Fellowship Start and End Dates

The award start date and host start date are February 1. Your pay periods will begin on February 1 and will end on January 31 of the following year.

Stipend and Benefits -- Maryland Sea Grant

Status:  Student or Non-Student

Your benefits and costs will vary depending on whether you are a student or a non-student during your fellowship. Sometimes, student status may change during the fellowship year, i.e., if you graduate. That is not a problem, but it may result in changes in some costs to you and to the program. It is important that you begin your fellowship with a clear understanding of your student status so that you can estimate your expenses accurately. Maryland Sea Grant will help you with this.

Pay

Your stipend will be paid over 26 pay periods. To ensure that you receive your paycheck on the first payday after your February 1 start date, you must work with Maryland Sea Grant to complete the necessary payroll documentation by the first week in January. Contact Jeannette Connors of the MDSG staff in December to schedule an appointment to discuss completing your payroll documentation.

Federal Taxes

If you are a student at an institution in Maryland or the District of Columbia, then you are generally exempt from FICA (Social Security and Medicare taxes) during the academic year (you may be charged FICA during the summer). If you are not a student during any part of your fellowship year, you will be taxed for FICA at 7.65 percent. As an example, for a stipend of $47,500, $3,634 would be taken from your 26 paychecks and another $3,634 would be paid from your remaining fellowship funds. See details from the IRS about federal taxes and withholding.

State Taxes

The jurisdiction where you will be living during your fellowship (Maryland, Virginia, the District of Columbia) is probably where you will have to pay state taxes. You must select the appropriate state when you fill out your payroll paperwork.

Health Insurance

You are required to carry health insurance as part of your fellowship agreement. You may select an insurance plan through the University of Maryland System or elect to purchase separate insurance. Depending on what plan you select, you will have different costs associated with it regarding co-payments. Your fellowship award provides up to $9000 (plus any funds remaining from placement week) to pay for the university portion of the health insurance payment and the fringe costs on your stipend. You are responsible for paying the employee premium cost, as well as any plan-required health insurance co-payments. Maryland Sea Grant can explain the different health benefit packages to you and discuss the costs. Please contact Jeannette Connors on the MDSG staff to complete your health benefit package. In general, Maryland Sea Grant budgets $2500 for placement week costs, $6,000 for benefits and fringe (including tuition), and any remaining funds for fellowship and academic-related travel during your fellowship year.

Please begin discussions regarding your health care benefits with Maryland Sea Grant in December and submit your benefit enrollment form to Maryland Sea Grant by mid-January.

Re-confirm Your Start Date

Stay in e-mail contact with your host office, NSGO, and MDSG after you are assigned to a host and before the fellowship starts. Use Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc. if you no longer have access to your college e-mail account. Re-confirm the start date with your host in mid-January. This will serve two purposes. It will remind your host that you are coming and give you an opportunity to ask about any necessary reading, opportunities to visit the office prior to the start, and possible early travel opportunities. Contact Maryland Sea Grant to make sure that your paperwork for pay and benefits that you submitted in early January will be processed and benefits in place by your start date.

Submit Photo and Biographical Sketch to Maryland Sea Grant

We highlight our new MDSG Knauss Fellows in Maryland Sea Grant’s magazine Chesapeake Quarterly. To help us do this, we ask you to send us a photo and biographical sketch by early January. The photo preferably would be a field or outside shot of you alone. The resolution should be at least 300 DPI and the size at least 3X5 inches. We also need a summary paragraph (maximum 250 words) about you and your placement office. Details that highlight special things you have done (Peace Corps, volunteer, exotic research places) add to the interest of the biography. Examples are shown on our Current Graduate Fellows page.

Moving

If you are relocating, you may use non-stipend fellowship funds to help defray moving expenses if you are moving more than 50 miles to DC. Remember to budget wisely: you must leave at least $6,000 to $7,500 of these funds to pay for your mandatory health insurance and fringe costs, and perhaps tuition as well. Allowable reimbursement for moving expenses includes travel and mileage to house hunt/move and rental of a moving truck. You must use a travel reimbursement form to request reimbursement. Remember, if you are moving, you can change your address with the post office, locate contact information and sign up for utilities and services (newspaper, cable, phone, gas, internet, etc.), and obtain community information at http://www.moversguide.com/.

Housing

See the NOAA Knauss website: Housing 101 and Lessons Learned.

During the Fellowship Year

Once you start your fellowship, you are basically on your own. However, if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact us. You must contact Maryland Sea Grant to submit your final report (January), to submit two blog entries to Fellowship Experiencesas well as to complete the necessary paperwork to remove you from our payroll and to submit any travel for which you want approval and reimbursement. Beyond that, we don't expect to hear much from you. (Although we’ll welcome an update about how your fellowship is going!)

Travel

If you have fellowship funds remaining after health insurance, fringe and tuition, placement week, moving, and other costs, this can be used for "degree-related" or "fellowship-related" travel during your fellowship year.

Approval for Domestic Travel

The fellow’s host and the sponsoring Sea Grant director must approve all travel in advance. A travel request letter (paper or e-mail) should include the destination, purpose of travel, approximate costs, likely airlines and flight numbers, and travel dates. This letter is initiated by the fellow, approved by the host, and then sent to Jeannette Connors and Dr. Michael Allen at Maryland Sea Grant. This process must be completed 30 days prior to departure to ensure adequate opportunity for the host's and the Sea Grant director's comment and approval.

Approval for Foreign Travel

Foreign travel is a little more complicated. You still must route the same travel request letter as for domestic travel. You must also comply with the requirements of the Fly America Act, which means we require a full itinerary with all flight legs and likely flight numbers. You must submit your travel request letter and host approval to Maryland Sea Grant at least 45 days prior to departure.

Remember, you cannot book any travel expenses before travel is approved by Maryland Sea Grant or you risk not being reimbursed.

After Approval

Once the host and Maryland Sea Grant (and NOAA Grants, if necessary) approve your travel, you may complete your travel arrangements. Remember to keep all your receipts if you are to be reimbursed. You must submit a travel expense statement and receipts to obtain reimbursements. The same reimbursement procedures and per diem support rules that applied to your placement week travels also apply to travel during your fellowship year. Per diem rates and reimbursement procedures for Maryland Sea Grant fellows are based on those of the University of Maryland, not those of the federal government. Make sure you stay in contact with Maryland Sea Grant so that your travel and reimbursement goes smoothly.

Business Cards

While you are on your fellowship: network, network, network! Remember to take a stack of your business cards with you everywhere you go. Order cards the first week of work as they take anywhere from two weeks to two months to get to you. Some offices will pay for this; in others, you must pay for this. You are not allowed to use fellowship travel funds to pay for this expense or any other materials and supplies. 

Other Concerns

We urge you to visit the NOAA Knauss website, Lessons Learned, for information on other topics that might make your fellowship year more enjoyable:

  • Voting
  • Vehicle registration, driver's license, parking, etc.
  • Gyms
  • NOAA/NIH social clubs
  • Banking
  • Getting started

Maryland Sea Grant Contacts

Dr. Michael Allen, Associate Director for Research and Administration
mallen@mdsg.umd.edu

Jeannette Connors, Travel Coordinator
connors@mdsg.umd.edu

Maryland Sea Grant College
4321 Hartwick Road, Suite 300
College Park, Maryland 20740