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Alumni Spotlight: Bethany Williams

I started at TFA in 3rd grade, when my mom started teaching in the Lower School. I graduated in 2011 and went on to Florida State University where I pursued a biology degree. During my time at TFA, I was well known for my love of the ocean. While I was in college, I found out that I could turn that love into a career by becoming a marine biologist. The summer after my freshman year, I took an internship doing research on oysters. A few more internships and years later, I graduated from FSU and started a marine science Master’s program at Virginia Institute of Marine Science, part of the College of William and Mary. While I worked on my Master’s degree, I spent a lot of time on the water, with animals, and further focusing my passion for marine science, science policy, and communication.

As I finished my Master’s in 2018, I was blessed to be selected for the Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship, a program where recent grads in science, law, or policy spend a year in the federal government at the science-policy interface. For this fellowship I moved to Washington, D.C. and started a whirlwind journey, spending the year working at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA’s mission is to conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources, a mission I so strongly believe in, and an agency I had hoped to one day work for while I was in graduate school. Taking a position there was basically my dream job.

The work I did focused on providing research that would help influence decisions about how space in the ocean is used. From studying the importance of our nation’s marine sanctuaries for fish and sharks, to the role of marine protected areas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, to helping determine the best locations for offshore wind energy development to minimize impacts on the ocean, I was participating in the responsible stewardship of our planet’s resources. After the fellowship ended in early 2019, I started working for the same NOAA office as a government contractor working on similar projects and supporting management through science. For now, I spend a lot of my days out on the water, collecting fish, scuba diving, and doing more research to help inform coastal and ocean management decisions. In addition to doing research, I spend time communicating science to the public, volunteering in museums and creating media that can be used in classrooms. I’m also active in groups that promote inclusion and equality for women in science fields, including the Society for Women in Marine Science.

Looking back, I can so clearly see God’s hand guiding every step of my path. Every opportunity so perfectly prepared me for or helped me take the next step in my career. In so many ways, TFA helped prepare me for my career and life and helped shape me into the person I am today. The academic rigor of courses at TFA made the transition to college and eventually graduate school an easy one. TFA also focuses on developing strong leaders. As I moved forward in my career path, and even my current position, those leadership skills have been so important. So many teachers had an impact on me during my time at TFA but a few especially so. Mr. Kowars, my English teacher my junior year, really helped develop me as a writer, which is a critical component of my job now as I have to communicate science to diverse audiences.

Dr. Toenges challenged me to think critically and to develop my own ideas. Coach Moreman, my volleyball coach, helped foster my ability to thrive under a team setting, something so vital to the work I do now. I can’t talk about teachers at TFA that impacted me without mentioning my mom, Fran Williams. Although she was never my teacher while at TFA, she exemplified the school’s mission both in her classroom and our home. Most importantly, the faculty and staff at TFA have surrounded me with support and encouragement, far beyond my years in school. Even to this day, I routinely receive notes of prayer and encouragement from some of these influential teachers. I’m so thankful for the community, friends, and opportunities that my years at TFA have given me.

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