On Aug. 7, the United States Merchant Marine Academy advisory council held its inaugural public meeting at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA). The council includes 13 members, five of whom are USMMA graduates, including one member from the Class of 2022.

The council is made up of leading experts, drawn from academia, the maritime industry and maritime labor, the senior ranks of the U.S. military, and Federal entities — including the U.S. Coast Guard, Military Sealift Command, Naval War College, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command. This group also includes experts in administering institutions of higher learning; institutional governance; sexual assault and sexual harassment prevention and response; infrastructure and facilities management; and diversity, equity, and inclusion.  

Members traveled from across the country to attend the day-long event and were greeted by the Maritime Administration and USMMA leadership. Council members received presentations on academics, extra-curricular activities, campus infrastructure improvements and actions, and policies surrounding prevention and response to sexual assault and sexual harassment and governance at the academy.

Council members toured USMMA facilities and received real-time feedback through interactions and conversations with academy midshipmen and staff.

“These are some of the best and brightest young men and women this country has to offer,” Advisory council’s chair, Dr. Peg Klein, a retired rear admiral and U.S. Naval Academy graduate, said in a prepared statement announcing the first meetings’ activities. “They will eventually carry the sacred obligation of serving in either the armed forces or our national maritime fleet — we owe them the right tools to succeed and thrive.”

The introductory meeting of the USMMA advisory council represents the implementation of a key recommendation from the National Academy of Public Administration’s (NAPA) November 2021 report entitled “Organizational Assessment of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy: A Path Forward.” Specifically, NAPA’s report recommended that the U.S. Department of Transportation charter an advisory council to advise the Secretary of Transportation on matters related to improving the Academy.

The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, which trains and prepares an extraordinary group of young mariners to be leaders in the field, will benefit tremendously from the broad experience and expertise of the advisory council," said Deputy Transportation Secretary Polly Trottenberg. “The advisory council will play a critical role in continuing our efforts to strengthen the academy while ensuring the safety and success of its students.” 

“Convening this Council is a major milestone for the future of USMMA,” Marad Administrator Ann Phillips said. “Council members will help USMMA, together with USDOT and MARAD, effectuate lasting change for USMMA, which will ensure an enduring positive impact upon the maritime industry for years to come.”

The members of the council will provide substantive and actionable recommendations on improving the academy. including in the areas of maintenance and redevelopment; curriculum development and training programs; diversity, equity, and inclusion; sexual assault and harassment prevention and response; and other matters. 

The council is scheduled to hold four public meetings annually, with members serving two-year terms.