Coast Guard Academy: Addressing our flaws, building new leaders

In one month, the Coast Guard Academy Class of 2019 will graduate and enter the fleet. Following four years of hard work, growth, and sacrifice, Commencement represents a tradition and culmination of everything they have worked towards since reporting.

Coming from myriad backgrounds, states, and countries, the Class of 2019 is among the most diverse in the Academy’s history. They will enter the Coast Guard as Ensigns… ship drivers, pilots, vessel inspectors, and cybersecurity professionals. And, from the first moment they walk up the brow of a Coast Guard cutter, into a hangar, or onto a command center watch floor, they will be called upon to be leaders of Coast Guard men and women. The Class of 2019 will be ready to embrace that challenge, and we are very proud of them.

Our country is engaged in a national discussion about equality. Academic institutions, including the Coast Guard Academy, are taking a robust role in this discussion by closely examining our existing structures and culture. As the institution charged with creating the next generation of leaders for an Armed Service, the Coast Guard Academy is rightly held to a higher standard — both by the public and ourselves.

It is our responsibility to create a leadership tradition of character, with a commitment to identify shortcomings, take responsibility, and constantly improve. It is important that our cadets, their families, and our Coast Guard community understand how we are following through on that commitment.

Under the leadership of our Chief Diversity Officer and other dedicated faculty and staff, our efforts have been many. We’ve partnered with the University of Southern California’s Center for Urban Education to be the first military service academy to undergo the Equity Scorecard process and produce the Vital Signs Report of student outcomes. We chartered our Equity Task Force to study and close the gaps identified in that report. Our Dean of Academics, Commandant of Cadets and Associate Athletic Director participated in Wellesley College’s “National SEED Project” — Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity training — and have facilitated many SEED seminars here at the Academy for cadets, faculty and staff.

Additionally, we are actively engaged with the American Society for Engineering Education’s Engineering and Science Diversity Initiative. We’ve invited thought leaders from academia, government and industry to visit us, assess our work and engage in dialogue with us. We’ve made changes to policies and practices as a result of the things we’ve learned. Our work continues.

I addressed our cadets, faculty, and staff during Convocation last August and stated that we will continue to welcome criticism and opinions to assist us in identifying our shortcomings as we strive to improve the Coast Guard Academy. I continue to stand by that statement.

The Coast Guard Academy is not without blemish. Various reports, studies and investigations cited in the press are examples of efforts to examine our institution, identify where our systems fell short, and investigate instances where our cadets, faculty or staff may not have been treated fairly or had similar opportunities to succeed.

We take ownership of our shortcomings, and continually seek ways to improve the well-being of our faculty and staff, as well as the inclusion and readiness of the Corps of Cadets. The Academy leadership embraces the opportunity to be more transparent, to work more closely with both supporters and critics of the Academy, and to move our institution closer to its ideal — an environment of respect and equity for all in which we can build the leaders of tomorrow’s Coast Guard.

There are so many remarkable things happening at the Coast Guard Academy. We look forward to building upon these achievements and growing the Academy with the support of our entire community, a community that has embraced our members so heartily.

For nearly 100 years, New London has been our home. Our communities are inextricably linked, and we remain deeply grateful to so many, including those whose voices are not as loud, but whose support has never wavered.

Semper Paratus!

Rear Admiral James E. Rendón is the superintendent of the U. S. Coast Guard Academy in New London.

 

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