It's Happening

In an official announcement on Friday, July 31st, Mass Maritime President Rear Admiral Francis McDonald '85 informed the wider MMA community that indeed campus will resume academic and other operations come September. The opening plan takes into account the myriad variables involved in creating and sustaining a safe and thoughtful COVID-19 environment for all concerned, with the primary goal being to "deliver our world class education" to those returning and the new arrivals, whose orientation, or "assimilation" period at the Academy, has also been tweaked in order to maximize that experience while maintaining effective health safety practices.

The recent national news is full of stories about the COVID-19 spikes across the country and, as a result, colleges walking back their original plans to open up in the ways they'd envisioned. That may still happen to many, for as every mariner knows, the weather can change without warning, so having a well thought through plan with various contingencies is paramount in order to maintain safety and efficacy while being able to successfully navigate what are still uncharted waters.

The Regiment's leadership and Cadre stand ready to step up to once again lead the charge, and in an environment which will constantly test their capabilities when they arrive next week for their own prep week. They had a huge part in developing the plans they will now carry out, and as such will "own" much of what they need to accomplish. Regimental Commander, 1/C Dominic Vaccari set the tone in his recent letter to the incoming Class of 2024, wherein he penned, "On behalf of the Regiment of Cadets, I would like to congratulate you on your acceptance and decision to attend Massachusetts Maritime Academy. It takes a distinct individual to be a Cadet in our Regiment. You should be proud and eager to embrace being a part of something bigger than yourself. The hard work you have exerted to this point has paid off, but a new chapter of your growth begins now. Seize the opportunity and develop the necessary skills to mold yourself into a valuable member of society."

The challenges facing MMA this year go well beyond the classroom and labs. Judging by the success of getting the senior 1/C cadets back on campus last spring to complete their assessments and pass their "Coasties" (with flying colors we might add), the Academy has already cleared some of those hurdles in terms of what should continue to work. But as we all know, MMA is different, and in good ways, so the obstacles are unlike those that many higher ed institutions throughout the country are facing. For many colleges, decisions to "de-densify" dorms and classrooms by keeping remote and hybrid learning opportunities in place does not by default take away from the core learning experience itself, even though replacing the "give and take" among professors and classmates that has always been the hallmark of the classroom experience is never taken lightly.

But in the "Leadership Laboratory" that is the Taylor's Point campus, those decisions are ones that directly impact the overall educational program. MMA never has, nor will it ever be, just a place where students "go to school." Yes, they learn, but they also DO, and then learn some more, and not just about the subjects at hand. This program is about molding young people from learning how to follow directions well, to being able to give direction, and in a way that fosters personal growth and confidence in their charges. Being on campus and in the moment is about maintaining something very few institutions have, without which, things just would not be the same.

That is a formula recognized by many as one that places the Academy near the top of national rankings for the "Return on Investment" it has enjoyed for so many years. Already this year MMA's ranked 6th in the nation in CNBC's poll for public colleges, and 5th in Massachusetts for ALL colleges in Payscale's recent "Best Value" line up, right behind the usual suspects like MIT and Harvard. During a time when real questions about the true value of the college experience and whether or not much of the higher ed landscape will even exist in the future, it should come as no surprise to anyone why the Academy's overall program remains in high demand. And while it may not be exactly "business as usual" in a few weeks when cadet candidates begin to arrive, be assured that what MMA does and how will continue to pay off.