Written by Lt. Cmdr. Zeita Merchant and Petty Officer 2nd Class Walter Shinn.
Every day the Coast Guard successfully completes incredibly diverse missions at home and around the world. The Coast Guard is part of the fabric of the maritime community by protecting the environment, extending rule of law on waterways and helping other nations in time of need. These facts are largely unknown to college students and the Coast Guard is working to do something about this by providing opportunities for the next generation to make their impact known in the maritime community.
The aim for the Coast Guard is to educate and excite a diverse population of college students and encourage them to explore career options in our Service. This falls under the Coast Guard’s Diversity Strategic Plan, challenging active duty, reserve, civilian and auxiliary to join in changing the Service to better reflect the diverse fabric of American society.
Since 2007 the Coast Guard has strongly encouraged its most senior leaders to partner with a minority serving institution. Today, those leaders are officially affiliated with Historically Black Colleges and Universities such as North Carolina A&T University, Hampton University and Norfolk State University. These schools represent just a sampling of the 105 HBCUs in 20 states around the country.
This month, Base Support Unit Portsmouth showcased the Service’s commitment as a national leader in hiring and retaining a diverse workforce by hosting an HBCU summit which included students and faculty from Norfolk State University, Hampton University, Virginia State University and Elizabeth City State University. The summit included leadership symposiums and demonstrations of Coast Guard operations including search and rescue along with law enforcement. There were also displays with information on aviation, engineering, marine environmental response and marine safety and security.
The summit correlated with the Coast Guard’s strategic plan for diversity as the theme was “Enhancing Career Development through Leadership, Mentorship and Diversity.”
“The recent Historically Black Colleges and Universities Summit in Portsmouth, Va., was a wonderful opportunity to inform this diverse group of students and college administrators about some of the exciting career opportunities in the Coast Guard,” said Rear Adm. Kevin Cook, deputy commander of Coast Guard Atlantic Area. “We were also able to strengthen our partnerships with the four universities while developing student career and mentorship opportunities. I look forward to future events as we build on the enthusiasm generated through this landmark event.”
The Coast Guard has seven official partnerships with signed Memoranda of Understanding between the Service and HBCUs. Morgan State University in Baltimore is the newest addition in this rapidly expanding program with Coast Guard involvement.
On Nov. 1, Congressman Elijah E. Cummings, ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, joined Coast Guard senior leaders and president of Morgan State University, Dr. David Wilson, aboard the service’s newest national security cutter, Coast Guard Cutter Stratton. They signed the partnership agreement providing new academic opportunities to Morgan State’s students and faculty, while supporting the Coast Guard’s efforts to recruit new officers and employees.
Rear Adm. Karl Schultz, director of Government and Public Affairs will serve as lead on the partnership with Morgan State University along with Sector Baltimore’s sector commander, Capt. Mark O’Malley.
Congressman Cummings commended the Coast Guard on their efforts during his speech at the signing.
“The United States Coast Guard protects the waterways and borders of our nation each and every day in ways that many Americans will never see,” said Cummings. “It is critically important that the Coast Guard not only represent the people it protects, but that it affords an equal opportunity for all Americans to have the honor of serving their nation in that effort. Because of this new partnership, new doors will open to Morgan State University students leading them into a career serving our nation perhaps they never previously considered. I applaud the Coast Guard for working with Morgan State University to make that goal a reality.”
Under the new agreement, Morgan State University students will have an opportunity to participate in mentorships, internships and scholarship programs offered by the Coast Guard. Additionally, full-time Morgan State University students will receive direct support from Coast Guard mentors as they apply for the College Student Pre-Commissioning Initiative program, in which participating students can receive full tuition for up to two academic years, books and essential supplies as well as active-duty benefits.
Four seniors from Morgan State also attended the signing who are each majoring in a specialty within the engineering discipline. The four students were a part of a total of eight HBCU students who participated in a six-week internship program leading and mentoring 550 high school students who attended the Coast Guard’s Academy Introduction Mission summer program. The HBCU students roomed with and worked side-by-side with Academy cadets throughout the life of the program. At the end of the six weeks each student stated a life-changing experience.
“Through my experience at the Coast Guard Academy this summer I learned a lot about myself,” Tanika Hooker from Morgan State stated. “I learned that you must always be patient, flexible and that everything is not always about you. With my experiences I feel that I have become a better engineer, a better mentor and overall a better person.”
The Coast Guard recognizes that diversity is vital to mission readiness and excellence. Diversity sparks innovations by incorporating new approaches and fresh perspectives to problem solving. The Coast Guard’s partnership with HBCUs across the country will attract and employ a diverse and talented team of active duty, reserve and civilian members that ultimately enables a higher level of performance to perform challenging missions.