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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.
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
During placement week, fellows travel to Washington, D.C., and interview with hosts to seek placements. The National Sea Grant Office is currently using "invitational travel" to bring students to Washington, DC for placement week. This means that they are providing the funding and guidance to set up your travel and arrangements for the week. We recommend that you have up to $1500 set aside for expenses (hotel, travel, food, etc.) during placement week. Fellows do not begin to draw their stipends until after they begin working for their hosts. For finalists who live within 50 miles of Washington, DC, other arrangements may be necessary and can be discussed with the National Sea Grant Office and Maryland Sea Grant.
Key Tips for Interviews With Hosts
Fellowship Start and End Dates
The award start date and host start date are February 1. Your stipend period will begin on February 1 and will end on January 31 of the following year.
Stipend and Benefits -- Maryland Sea Grant
Your fellowship provides an annual stipend which may vary from class to class (see Award Information for your class). Stipends will be paid every four weeks for 12 increments over the course of your fellowship. As an example, for a stipend of $47,500, you would be paid $3,958.33 before taxes every four weeks. To ensure that you receive your paycheck on the first scheduled payday after your February 1 start date, you must work with Maryland Sea Grant to complete the necessary payroll documentation by the orientation in January. Contact Jeannette Connors.
Generally, you will be taxed for FICA at 7.65 percent (Social Security and Medicare taxes). 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. You are also eligible for federal income tax withholding which you may select when you fill out your payroll paperwork. See details from the IRS about federal taxes and withholding. Please note as state employers we are not able to provide tax advice.
The jurisdiction where you will be living during your fellowship (Maryland, Virginia, the District of Columbia) is probably where you will pay state taxes. You must select the appropriate state when you fill out your payroll paperwork.
You are required to carry health insurance as part of your fellowship agreement. You must provide proof of insurance, either through a spouse or parent’s plan or by purchasing an individual plan (e.g. from a health care exchange). As a fellow, health insurance is not available from the university. You are eligible to receive reimbursement for an individual health insurance plan from your federal award (e.g. health insurance, prescription coverage, dental insurance). To be reimbursed by Sea Grant you must complete the reimbursement form and attach the appropriate documentation (proof of payment).
Please begin discussions regarding your health care selections with Maryland Sea Grant in December and provide all payroll documentation 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.
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/.
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 Experiences, as 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!)
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," "fellowship-related," or "office-related" travel or 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 associate 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.
Once the host and Maryland Sea Grant approve your travel, you may complete your travel arrangements. Reimbursement for expenses occurs after travel is complete.
Make sure you save all your receipts. This includes airfare, registration fees, abstract fees, hotel, parking, taxi, metro, internet access in your hotel room, etc. Maryland Sea Grant (MDSG) pays State of Maryland per diem rate for meals. Federal government per diem rates only apply when traveling internationally. You do not need to show receipts to receive these rates; however, you should not request reimbursement for meals that are included in the costs of your travel (e.g. free hotel breakfast, lunch included in a conference registration fee).
Reimbursement for personal vehicle travel is reimbursed at the State of Maryland rate.
Filing and Receiving Reimbursement
Once you have completed travel, you must submit your expense statement (on the specific Maryland Sea Grant form) and your receipts to Jeannette Connors on the MDSG staff. You must send an original form via postal mail if you have any physical receipts (e.g. taxi fare). If all receipts are electronic, you may submit your package electronically. You will receive reimbursement two to four weeks after you submit your expense statement and receipts.
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.
We urge you to visit the NOAA Knauss website, Lessons Learned, for information on other topics that might make your fellowship year more enjoyable:
Dr. Michael Allen, Associate Director for Research and Administration
Jeannette Connors, Travel Coordinator
Maryland Sea Grant College
5825 University Research Court Suite 1350
College Park, MD 20740