Remembering Dr. Nancy Foster through scholarship

2019 Dr. Nancy Foster Scholars at the Dr. Nancy Foster Florida Keys Environmental Complex. Photo courtesy Jenna Hartley

Dr. Nancy Foster was one of the most influential and impactful advocates for ocean science and conservation in United States history.

Dr. Foster’s early understanding of marine ecosystem science and conservation set her apart as a pioneer and visionary in the field. She spent 23 years with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and paved the way for women in marine science. Her tenure included titles such as: Assistant Administrator for Oceanic Services and Coastal Zone Management and Director of the National Ocean Service, which oversees the National Marine Sanctuary System.

Throughout her career, Dr. Foster championed diversity and the fair and equal treatment in the workplace. She is remembered by numerous current and former NOAA employees as someone who encouraged others to use their unique talents and perspectives to make NOAA, the ocean, and our world a better place. In fact, she personally engaged institutions serving minority students to create opportunities for students and aspiring scientists who may not have otherwise had the chance.

After a year-long battle with cancer, Dr. Foster passed away in her home in Baltimore, Maryland on June 27, 2000. On November 12, 2000, just months after her death, President Bill Clinton signed into law legislation that created the Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship program, named in tribute to her outstanding contributions in advancing NOAA’s mission through her leadership, mentorship, and lifelong passion for marine science.

The Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship Program supports graduate students, particularly women and minority students, who are studying marine science, marine archaeology, marine social science and resource management, and other relevant disciplines. NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries manages the program and offers up to two years of support to masters students and up to four years of support to doctoral students. Through 2017, 89 percent of Dr. Nancy Foster scholars have been women and 17 percent are minorities.  Ninety-three percent of the former scholars currently work in a STEM field.

Applications for the 2020 Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship program are now open through December 6, 2019. Learn more and apply here.

Alongside the scholarship program, Dr. Foster’s legacy includes the environmental center at Florida Keys NMS and has a NOAA ship named after her. To learn more about Dr. Nancy Foster’s life and legacy, click here.