KINGS POINT, N.Y., September 24, 2015 – Leaders of the Maritime Administration (MARAD) and the United States Merchant Marine Academy’s (USMMA) at Kings Point answered stakeholders’ questions about the Academy at a recent pair of town hall sessions.
Deputy Maritime Administrator, Michael J. Rodriguez, and USMMA Superintendent, Rear Adm. James A. Helis, USMS, Ph.D., took questions from parents, alumni, and other stakeholders outside of the Kings Point area through a town hall telephone conference held from the Maritime Administration Headquarters in Washington, D.C. on Sept., 16.
Rodriguez and Helis addressed questions covering a wide range of topics, including Armed Forces pre-commissioning requirements, implementation of the 2010 STCW (Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers) amendments, outreach to the Charleston, S.C. alumni community, personnel issues, and summer STEM programs.
In response to a question on the Academy’s and state schools’ respective roles in meeting the nations needs for licensed mariners, Rodriquez noted, “our industry benefits from the diversity of opinion and diversity of approach to the challenges of our industry.” He continued, “by the year 2022, growth in maritime occupations is expected to exceed 104,000 job openings. So we're very pleased at the prospects for growth in our industry, and the model that we have at state maritime academies and the USMMA certainly support that.”
Answering a question from Eugene Bonacci, class of 1963, about the Academy’s standing in recent college rankings, Helis said “Kings Point stands out as being an outstanding opportunity for young people.” The USMMA was Forbes’ number seven for “Best Value” school, and number three for regional colleges in the northern region by U.S. News and World Report. By the Department of Education’s new College Scorecard, among the 98 four-year schools offering transportation programs, USMMA was number one for “Salary after Attending” and “Percent Earning Above HS Grad”, number two for “Average Annual Cost,” and number seven for “Graduation Rate”.
The second town hall session, for midshipmen, faculty and Academy staff, was held on campus, Sept. 21.
After giving an overview, the Superintendent and the Acting Commandant, Capt. Bob DeStafney, answered questions submitted by e-mail and from the audience about readiness for a potential lapse in federal funding, sufficient rest for midshipmen, suicide prevention, new hires, leadership development and other topics. A midshipman’s specific suggestion to make it easier to study while serving watches was taken by the Superintendent and Acting Commandant for immediate action.