KINGS POINT, N.Y., June, 30, 2013 - On Thursday, the United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) faculty, staff and Regiment of Midshipmen came together during the Academy’s Eighteenth Academic Convocation to celebrate the beginning the 2013-2014 Academic Year. “The Academic Convocation is one of USMMA’s proudest traditions. It is our official welcome to plebe candidates and new faculty and celebrates the atmosphere of academic excellence, in which our midshipmen faculty, and staff excel.” said Superintendent, Rear Admiral James A. Helis, PhD.
Deputy Superintendent, Rear Admiral Susan L. Dunlap, began the convocation by calling the audience to attention for the arrival of the faculty, Superintendent, Academic Dean, department heads and senior administrative staff, who processed into Ackerman Auditorium led by the senior-ranking faculty member, Dr. Charles Weber, carrying the Academic Mace. Academic Dean, Shashi N. Kumar greeted the assembly and introduced the Academic Department Heads, thanking them for their hard work over the last year. He highlighted the many achievements of midshipmen and faculty over the past year, most significantly the recent approval of the new USCG curriculum. He then complimented midshipmen and faculty saying, “I look forward to another outstanding Academic year.”
Dr. Kumar was followed by The Regimental Commander, Midshipman Captain Kevin Berto. Midshipman Berto delivered a short speech directed at the Regiment of Midshipmen. He said, “Here we are, prepared with our textbooks and schedules, at the starting line of an endurance race. Recognize where you stand today, the starting line, the beginning of a competition against yourself, but surrounded by a community that is devoted to your success.”
Then Admiral Dunlap shared a video that highlighted significant events of the 2012-2013 Academic Year. The video was warmly received by an energetic and enthusiastic audience that, at times, made the auditorium feel like a pep rally. Midshipman laughed as they recalled some of the wonderful memories they shared at USMMA, and plebe candidates envisioned the many experiences they can look forward to.
At that point, Admiral Helis, addressed the entire Academy community, saying, “Today we mark the start of a new year. Before we look forward to what is ahead, let’s take a moment to recall some of the highlights of the past year. It was a great year for Kings Point on many fronts. We saw important progress on the Academy’s infrastructure. We started a multi-stage process to completely refurbish Delano Hall’s original kitchen. We renovated the soon to be reopened Rodgers Hall. And the replacement of Mallory Pier got underway. These multi-million dollar projects are evidence of the government’s continuing commitment modernizing Kings Point’s facilities. Kings Point was the first academy to receive Coast Guard approval for a revised curriculum that incorporates the new STCW requirements for Coast Guard licensing. Our Dean and faculty deserve congratulations for bringing this complex effort to a successful and timely conclusion. But more importantly, the Regiment of Midshipmen excelled—in academics, in athletics, in leadership.” Helis added, “Our greatest achievement last year: the graduation of over 200 leaders of exemplary character who received their degrees, their Coast Guard licenses, and their officers’ commissions, who are now serving in all the armed services, and on every type commercial vessel you can name, and who we know will all continue to serve the nation’s marine transportation and defense needs for decades to come.”
Finally, Helis introduced the guest speaker, Dr. Sharon van Wyk. Dr. van Wyk is the Executive Vice President and Chief Operations Officer of the American Public University System. In May 2013 she was appointed Chair of the Secretary of Transportation’s US Merchant Marine Academy Advisory Board. Dr. van Wyk holds a Ph.D. and M.S. in Instructional Systems from Florida State University. She earned a B.S. in Communications from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
Dr. van Wyk, gave a very motivational speech, sharing many personal experiences that led to her own success, while challenging midshipmen to become outstanding leaders. She told the midshipmen of a time when she worked for Jack Welch, the former Chairman and CEO of GE. She explained that Welch evaluated successful leaders on the “4 E’s of Leadership”. Van Wyk explained that successful leaders share the following characteristics; “Energy, Energizes, Execution, and Edge”. She encouraged each midshipmen to “apply yourself, take care of yourself, energize others, and watch your leaders.” She reminded them that, as graduates of Kings Point, they “will truly shape the world.”