Rita Williams works for NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL). She was recently promoted to administrative officer for GLERL. Before her promotion, she was a budget analyst.
What drew you to your current career or field?
I have always loved numbers, budgeting and investigating funding issues. I get a chance to do this every day with an organization that does great research in my birth state of Michigan, the state that has the largest freshwater system on Earth. More than 35 million people rely on the Great Lakes for drinking water, jobs, and their way of life. Another great thing about GLERL is that it is in Ann Arbor, home of University of Michigan – “GO BLUE”. That also affords me the opportunity to work with NOAA’s Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research (CIGLR). This leads to another aspect of my job, which is grant management. In any given year I can process over 20 research proposals to the University of Michigan, which can average between four to five million dollars. How great is that?
What projects or research are you working on now?
As a budget analyst and now an administrative officer, I can work on all of GLERL’s research projects from the pre-planning stages to planning, and then execution. Research on the Great Lakes focuses on natural hazards to our lakes, from severe waves, storm surges, and ice, as well as studying harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie and food web in Lake Michigan. Let me not forget about work assignments concerning the water levels of the Great Lakes. The researchers at GLERL look at the water levels of the lakes and how they fluctuate, often dramatically, in response to precipitation and lake evaporation. The research is important to water as well as dependent industries and shoreline residents. As the administrative officer, I assist our researchers in making sure funds are available, their spending is accurate and that they follow all federal guidelines.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
One of my favorite quotes from John Maxwell says, “When you discover your place, you will say, ‘There is no place like this place anywhere near this place, so this must be the place!’” That is how I feel about NOAA GLERL. This is the place where I have learned “the chain of the command.” For this non-military person, it took time for me to become accustomed to this, but I have adapted. I enjoy my job and the people I work with. It is great when you know that the place you have been looking for is the place where you currently work. So NOAA GLERL is the place!!!