Recognizing the challenging yet outstanding achievements of another graduating class, the Naval Postgraduate School celebrated its Summer Quarter graduates becoming alumni, Sept. 25. In a continuously evolving COVID-19 environment, this class adapted swiftly earlier in the year to implement remote learning and remained steadfast against its challenges completing the requirements for their rigorous academic and research programs.
In commencement remarks recorded prior to graduation day, Secretary of the Navy Kenneth J. Braithwaite congratulated the 295 graduates, including 24 international students from 13 countries, in highlighting and drawing similarities to obstacles that Adm. Arleigh Burke faced during the global flu pandemic of 1918 that curtailed his high school education, but not his spirit in attending the U.S. Naval Academy later that year, and ultimately graduating not just from the Academy, but also what later became NPS.
“Arleigh Burke did not allow a pandemic to stall his pursuit of innovation and neither have you,” said Braithwaite. “Through the challenges of COVID-19 and the many other hurdles in your way, you’ve each kept your focus on the mission at hand. Each of you has helped strengthen our Force and protect our nation for the future through late nights, hard work, and the spirit of inquiry you brought to your studies, your partnerships, and your projects.”
Braithwaite highlighted the importance of an NPS education and the investment it represents to the American people.
“The Naval Postgraduate School is a keystone of our Education for Seapower Strategy which will position our Naval force to dominate the cognitive age against all adversaries and challenges of the future. The American people sent you to this great institution as an investment. It’s a mark of faith in your capability to deliver the next great innovation and forge the next historic partnerships with our allies around the world.”
“You have delivered a fine return on that investment,” he continued. “Now you must take what you know and apply it with determination, urgency and imagination.”
As Braithwaite expects these leaders to use their education to deliver seapower, NPS President retired Vice Adm. Ann E. Rondeau also believes the graduates will take their NPS education and be leaders who not just produce solutions, but know how to use them.
“The Department of the Navy operates in all warfighting domains, and our NPS graduates and their research are critical to prevailing across all of those domains,” said Rondeau. “Our graduates are tackling key operational problems in every domain, which often puts us in the position to examine the broader implications of what an education from NPS means. At NPS you have become technically astute and strategically savvy thought leaders and change agents who are the ground truth of our education for seapower strategy, and you define the value of an NPS education – graduates uniquely equipped to lead the future force.”
Among this group of new NPS graduates is U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Ezra Akin, the first student to graduate from NPS’ Marine Corps Doctor of Philosophy Technical Program. During the hooding ceremony that conferred on him his doctoral credential, Akin echoed Braithwaite’s emphasis on the weight an NPS education holds for the future protection and prosperity of our nation.
“I pursued being the first in the technical component to the Corps’ PhD program because, as a master’s student here at NPS, I recognized the value of this education to the Marine Corps’ current and future fight,” stated Akin. “I wanted to do more, to take what I was learning as an NPS student and deliver additional capability to our leaders through the education I was entrusted with, and the research we pour into as graduate students.
“As our military and those of our allies face the trifecta of a resurgence of Great Power Competition, rapid technological advancement across society, and the increasingly widespread collection of data at every level, the education provided here by the Naval Postgraduate School is absolutely critical to meeting these challenges and increasing our strategic and tactical advantage,” continued Akin.
Braithwaite urged the graduates to keep in touch with their classmates, shipmates, and instructors as they move forward in their career.
“Work together to forge the breakthroughs that will help protect our people and preserve the rules-based international order that enables the prosperity of all of us,” said Braithwaite.
Joining Braithwaite in applauding NPS’ latest graduating class was Vice Adm. Lisa Franchetti, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Warfighting Development (OPNAV N7), who echoed Braithwaite regarding the great advantage an NPS education brings to the table.
“You may not fully realize how much you’ve learned and how much your thinking has been shaped by the NPS experience, but as a former Strike Group and Sixth Fleet Commander I can personally attest to the value NPS grads brought to the table every day,” said Franchetti.
On the subject of perseverance, FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor praised the graduates and acknowledged his homeland security colleagues among them for staying the course and completing their studies in face of a global pandemic and local wildfires.
“Your knowledge and leadership will help us create new policies and strategies to meet the challenges we face in this ever-changing world,” said Gaynor. “All of us at FEMA honor the perseverance and commitment of your graduating class. We can’t wait to see your NPS education in action. Thank you for serving your country, your states, and your local communities.”
Visit the Summer Quarter Graduation website.