As an intern for the EPA, I have worked on the reviewing end of grants. I had no idea how much work went into the grants process, and I have only touched the surface! I wanted to learn more about the grants process, so I sat down with Marco Santos, Senior Grants Management Specialist for the EPA.
What is your position at the EPA?
I am a Senior Grants Management Specialist. Grants award money to different State agencies, nonprofits, universities, and tribes, to carry out environmental priorities. I manage all these types of grants.
Do you have prior work experience that has helped you here?
I had an internship after college working for the D.C. city government with administrating art grants. I got to see the entire process of how a government agency gives out money to fund projects. Coming from a political science major, I have a strong policy background, which helps on the job.
What is a typical day like for you?
There is no typical day at the EPA, and it depends on where we are in the fiscal year. There is a lot of multi tasking. I work with all of the EPA divisions to make sure we secure what we need to fund grants. I work with grantees themselves to answer inquiries they may have. I review proposals, process paper work, draft agreement, clarify administrative requirements, and track money to make sure it is being spent correctly.
What is the best part of your job?
It is rewarding to know I had a small part in contributing to the agency’s goals and missions. Programs wouldn’t be able to do the work they are supposed to do without grant funds. I feel a sense of importance because we implement the mission and safeguard the use of taxpayers’ dollars.
Did you always have an interest in the environment?
Yes. In high school I was very politically savvy. I was always interested in recycling and was very aware of the environment and was mindful to not be wasteful. After college there was a job opening at the EPA which combined my interest and educational background.
What classes did you take in school that you use on the job today?
I have a political science degree. I took classes on policy and environmental issues in addition to writing and communication classes. Policy provides a foundation for what I do. I need to know the laws.
Do you have any advice for kids today who have an interest in protecting our environment?
It is important to be aware of what is going on politically. Keep up with the news and latest developments in technology. Think outside the box. Try to expand your experiences and education and be open to new things. Practice what you preach. Environmental stewardship starts at home. Good writing and communication skills are important regardless of where you end up!
Kelly Siegel is a student volunteer in the EPA’s Air and Radiation Division in Region 5, and is currently obtaining her Master’s degree in Urban Planning and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She has a passion for sustainable development, running, and traveling with friends.