U.S. Merchant Marine Academy releases strategic plan

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The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy released its 2018-23 strategic plan on Tuesday. (Photo from MARAD)
The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy released its 2018-23 strategic plan on Tuesday. (Photo from MARAD)

The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy released its five-year strategic plan on Tuesday, listing institutional culture, governance and leadership, and communications among its priorities.

The plan was forged through interviews with over 700 midshipmen, faculty, staff members, people in the maritime industry and other stakeholders, according to administrators, as well as a two-day meeting with more than 160 participants.

“On the eve of celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Academy’s dedication, we are postured to go to even greater heights,” Rear Adm. Mark Buzby, the head of the U.S. Maritime Admistration, which oversees the academy, and Superintendent James Helis said in a joint letter. “The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Strategic Plan 2018-2023 charts our course for navigating towards the future together.”

The letter also notes several victories by athletics team and a first-time pass rate of 90 percent on Coast Guard licensing examinations, as well as the Class of 2022 having “the highest percentage of women ever.”

The plan’s release follows the academy’s full re-accreditation by the Middle States Commission, a nonprofit academic accreditation agency, which had placed the academy on warning for failing to meet five of its standards.

The report highlighted issues with institutional planning, leadership and governance, administration, student support services, planning, and resources.

Sea Year, when midshipmen spend time aboard a merchant vessel, was also suspended in 2016 to hold student training following reports of bullying, sexual assault and harassment.

The men’s soccer season was canceled in 2017 due to a federal investigation into alleged sexual misconduct by seven of its players on a team bus. The students were deferred from graduation before commencement, leading to a lawsuit from the students. They were ultimately able to graduate and receive their diplomas and licenses after private meetings.

Since the report’s release, the academy has hired people to deal with sexual misconduct, expanded its sexual assault prevention and response program, and added a hotline for midshipmen serving during Sea Year, according to Helis.

According to the strategic plan, the academy wants to “cultivate an institutional culture in which every Academy community member is respected, valued and can fulfill his or her maximum potential as a leader of exemplary character.”

The goals include instilling “a sense of personal responsibility” and building “shared ownership,” developing an enrollment management plan, and underscoring the importance of diversity on campus.

The plan also calls for creating a “human capital plan” to get quality personnel, ensuring transparency of information among stakeholders, and creating “an effective structure for shared governance.”

Additionally, the plan says, physical education programs should be “environments of inclusivity and community, a laboratory for leadership development, and a means of instilling the importance of lifelong health and wellness.”

All of this would be paired with an “integrated, enriching, and relevant educational program for midshipmen,” the report says. This includes creating a “rigorous, coherent, and flexible” program that also emphasizes “development of the whole person.”

Infrastructure is also listed as a priority, with the report suggesting the creation of two plans: the campus master plan and the technology plan, which seek to integrate modern technology into the campus.

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