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A Conversation with CPO Grants Manager Diane S. Brown on Women’s History Month

Diane Brown

Diane Brown, a senior member of the Administrative Services Division (ASD) at the NOAA Climate Program Office (CPO), is an expert in federal grants management with over 40 years experience. In her current position as grants manager, she provides administrative and technical oversight of all CPO grants. She informs CPO of upcoming deadlines and deliverables, ensuring smooth processing of grants. CPO runs between 8 to 14  program competitions per year that receive about 400 grant applications per year. The total annual CPO budget is about $60 million. 

CPO has advanced climate science and services for over thirty years, spanning multiple science disciplines, partnering with diverse organizations, and covering multiple timescales. Thanks to Diane and her talented colleagues in ASD, CPO maintains a high standard of excellence for its business and administrative functions. ASD is a disciplined, efficient force working behind the scenes, making everything CPO does possible. CPO’s new Strategic Plan contains more detail on its mission and divisions.

The Administrative Services Division at NOAA CPO maintains a high standard of excellence for its business and administrative functions.

This Women’s History Month, I talked to Diane about her career, women’s history, and more. I was fascinated to learn that she is a Washington, DC native who started to work for the federal government at the age of sixteen thanks to the Marion S. Barry Summer Youth Employment Program. Through this summer program, she worked at the Environmental Protection Agency, which lit a spark in her for public service.

The rest of our conversation follows:

When did you start working for the federal government?

I started working at the federal government at the age of sixteen. My first job, through the Marion Barry Summer youth program, was with the EPA. I ultimately worked for the EPA for 2.5 years and from there I went to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. I learned a lot from senior employees. Listening to their research projects. I love to hear about impacts.

Later, I worked at the National Institutes of Health, at the National Cancer Institute, in their extramural grants program. A lot of my grants experience is dealing with the public, offering administrative guidance as it pertains to grant public laws.

What do you like about working for CPO?

I enjoy working with people–listening to them discuss climate and climate research. I think it’s very interesting. I get to work independently, setting up my own internal processes. I speak about regulations, guidelines, changes from Congress. I enjoy the challenges. This career has become a real passion for me. It’s a privilege to be on the forefront of scientific efforts that address global climate change.

What is the greatest challenge in making grants management successful?

Diplomacy is the greatest challenge. Ensuring effective communication and collaboration among all stakeholders involved. This includes grantmakers, grant recipients, program officers, financial teams, and other relevant parties. I pride myself on being a good listener when dealing with multiple people with multiple personalities. I value people’s opinions–their contributions.

What is something you wish more people knew about your work?

I wish more people knew about the impact of climate and the challenges of climate change.

What is a moment from your career you feel proud of?  

I feel proud to be a part of a community that values inclusivity, equality, and the advancement of knowledge for the betterment of society. I am committed to using my skills and expertise to drive positive change and to inspire the next generation of women to pursue careers in science and other related fields that support science. I consider myself a mentor and I feel proud that my expertise has impacted other team members. I hope that I have a profound impact on other team members. I have trained a lot of people.

What gives you hope, either with regard to NOAA or the federal government in general? 4

Future generations that join the government are invested in the work we do and bring about change in the environment–especially as it pertains to climate research. Especially Generation Z.

What does Women’s History Month mean to you? What do you celebrate?

Women’s History seeks to address historical gaps, biases, and stereotypes by shedding light on the diverse and significant roles that women have played in shaping the world we live in today. I celebrate the recognitions, achievements, experiences of all women throughout our history. 

Some women I admire are Mary McLeod Bethune and Michelle Obama. Obama’s words and wisdom. I’m a really big advocate for her.

For the young women looking to enter your field of grants management, what is your greatest piece of advice? 

I would say to believe in yourself and your capabilities. Stay updated with the latest trends, regulations, and best practices in grants management. Continuous learning and professional development will help you stay ahead in the field. Finally, network, advocate for yourself, and remember to prioritize self-care and maintain a healthy work-life balance.

What do you do in your spare time away from NOAA?

I like reading, traveling, doing word puzzles, and spending time with my family. I just recently  joined a Double Dutch group for women 40 and older.

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