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Candidates for Texas A&M Maritime Academy Superintendent position hold public forums on campus

Rear Admiral Gary Hall

By Amanda Barbato, '19

Rear Admiral Gary Hall was the third of three candidates for the Texas A&M Maritime Academy Superintendent position. Hall graduated from the United States Naval Academy with a BS in Marine Engineering. 

Rear Admiral Gary Hall was the third candidate for the Texas A&M Maritime Academy Superintendent position to visit campus. Similarly to the other two candidates, a public forum was held in which Hall discussed what he would focus on as Superintendent of the Academy. Following his speech, students, faculty, and administrators in attendance were able to directly ask Hall questions.

The first issue Hall addressed in his speech was the strategic plan for the Texas A&M Maritime Academy. He commended the overall focus of the strategic plan and expressed the need for it to become a “living, breathing document.” His thought was to not only have a well thought out strategic plan, but to have a functioning, operational, and inspiring goal that could be carried out with the plan in mind.

Hall emphasized the great work Rear Admiral Robert Smith, former Superintendent of the Maritime Academy, Chief Operations Officer, and Vice President of Texas A&M University at Galveston achieved. “I think Admiral Smith did a great job and if I were to follow him I would be standing on the shoulders of a very tall man,” Hall said.

Hall finds his place at Texas A&M Maritime Academy to be implementing and overseeing the vision Smith set. “Overall, I don’t look at this opportunity as one that needs fixing or changing, but it’s an inflection point and it’s time to execute Admiral Smith’s vision,” he said.

The Superintendent candidate does however have some areas he would like to see improve. If chosen for the position, Hall wants to increase liberal arts studies so that students can understand their place in the big picture after they graduate. This is something he claims to have struggled with after higher education.

Rear Admiral Hall attended the United States Naval Academy and graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Marine Engineering. He then earned his Masters of Business Administration from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, giving him “a little business savvy.”

In addition to increasing liberal arts studies, Hall believes cyber hygiene and cyber warfare classes should be taught as soon as freshmen year. These classes will demonstrate cyber defense techniques, tactics, and procedures. Hall said in this increasingly technological age cyber hygiene is becoming essential as the Pentagon is attacked daily. As ship systems become more intricate cadets should be learning cyber defense.

Candidate Hall stated that Pelican Island houses more than just a campus; it houses a leadership academy. “The more you empower the students, the Corps of Cadets, the better the organization will be,” Hall said.  If he were given the position of Superintendent he would use his first 100 days to listen and learn from faculty, administrators, and all groups within the Corps of Cadets, he said.

Another issue he addressed was diversity on campus and within the Corps. “I believe diversity is a requirement,” said Hall firmly. His thoughts on seeing diversity increase start not with a strategy but a change of campus culture. “You have to work on the culture of this campus so that people of all backgrounds know it is a safe place,” he said. The culture cannot be counter to the strategy the school creates.

Rear Admiral Hall then took questions from the audience. The topics of these questions involved maintaining connections with companies for alumni, diversity plans and ideas, and his qualifications as a leader. Hall comes from a cadet/midshipmen environment and understands discipline. He has accomplished a lot in his career in the Navy. One accomplishment he mentioned was converting an amphibious group into an expeditionary strike group as a flag officer.

Hall spoke on the importance of creating well-rounded individuals. Going to sea gives you an edge over other students because you develop a fix-it-yourself mentality that increases problem solving skills. Hall plans to capitalize on being “multi-purpose” individuals as a marketing tool for Texas Maritime Academy students. Hall said “Those that go to sea, travel the world and meet people of all nations. When they graduate from here will become ambassadors for Texas, for Texas A&M, for the United States as they go forward with their career.”

Captain Michael Rodriguez

By Jack Clark, ‘19

The search for the new Superintendent of the Texas A&M Maritime Academy has reached its final three candidates. The first prospective applicant that held forums on campus was Captain Michael J. Rodriguez.

The meetings with the nominees will encompass many complex issues that our university faces. Rodriguez came to TAMUG and attended meetings throughout the entire day held by several different committees that will all help decide who the next Superintendent will be.

Captain Rodriguez began his day by meeting with the executive heads of campus. This was Rodriguez’s chance to make his initial introduction to the directors of campus. Rodriguez, unlike the other two candidates, is not an Admiral in the Navy. However he has a distinguished career in the United States Merchant Marine as a deck officer.

Rodriguez set out to sail the day after his graduation in 1979 from the United States Merchant Marine Academy. Throughout his 17 year career as a deck officer Rodriguez gained crucial experience that can be beneficial to cadets as they too make the same passage to become a third mate.
While he is the current Deputy Maritime Administrator for the United States Maritime Administration (MARAD) his background includes close ties with Congress and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) over maritime related issues.

Throughout the day Captain Rodriguez met with the academic leadership team, the search committee, the license option department heads, and also had a luncheon with Corps of Cadets student leadership.

There are certain issues on campus that every committee concerned themselves with. The biggest was the obstacles cadets face when trying to attain their required sea days. The first part of the issue with sea days comes from the size of Texas A&M’s training ship. The T.S. General Rudder is not capable of servicing the growing size of the license option department.
Captain Rodriguez addressed the issue cautiously, expressing that any move towards getting a bigger training ship would require time and many steps. He explained that a better goal would be improving communication with other academies in order to share assets.

The second obstacle cadets face in the license option program is the lack of commercial billets offered to the university. During Captain Rodriguez’s career he returned to Kings Point and served as the Academy Training Representative, which oversees cadets shipping out to companies for needed sea days.

In the public forum Rodriguez addressed cadets and faculty over the issues students face in the changing industry. He emphasized that the changing political relations around the world pose competition for all United States mariners.
When his day in Galveston came to an end, his next stop was College Station to meet with university officials. Throughout his time in Galveston he received plenty of feedback on the need for the future Superintendent to maintain a constant line of communication with main campus. By the end of the day Captain Rodriguez expressed that if he were to assume responsibilities as Superintendent he would stay well connected with College Station officials.

While Captain Rodriguez has a background that can serve Texas A&M University at Galveston, the search continues with the other two candidates.

Rear Admiral Thomas Shannon

Admiral T.K. Shannon was the second candidate to arrive at Texas A&M University at Galveston for the open spot of the Superintendent of the Maritime Academy. His visit was the same itinerary as Captain Rodriguez and he met with many of the same executive leaders on campus. After his visit he too made the trip to College Station for a review by their officials.

Admiral Shannon has had a long successful career in the Navy. As Shannon explained, he started his college education at Maine Maritime Academy as a deck cadet. While times were tough, he self-paid his way through the program and graduated in 1982 with a Bachelor of Science in Nautical Science.

However when it was time to get a job in the Merchant Marine the industry was down in a rut. He decided that he would join the Navy until the recession cleared up, only expecting to spend three years in the Navy. However, roughly a month ago Admiral Shannon retired after 34 years of service in the United States Navy.

Throughout his career he served on many ships including frigates, destroyers, and cruisers. He also commanded a carrier strike group and served as the air defense commander for the John F. Kennedy battle group.

One of the assignments during his naval career was his service at University of Texas at Austin. Shannon was the professor of Naval Science, and was the head of their NROTC program. However, when addressing his job at the University of Texas, Admiral Shannon pulled out an A&M decal from his binder and waved it at the public form.

Throughout the day many of the same questions were asked about the future of the Academy. When it came to the issue of our training ship, Admiral Shannon expressed concern.

He went on say that when he was a cadet, he lived on the ship his first semester. He continued that Maine cadets weren’t allowed to move off the ship until they could trace out nearly all the systems in the Engine room. He said that he knew the ship inside and out, and that every Maine Maritime Academy cadet took great pride in their ship.

He further explained that beyond the need of a ship to attain sea days, it is the comradery that ship life presents to the Academy. Shannon said that when you walk into his house the first thing you see is a painting of the training ship Shannon took so much pride in.

Admiral Shannon most recently was the commander of Military Sealift Command (MSC). As commander of the largest employer of US mariners he was responsible for over 100 ships in MSC. Shannon also told the search committees that he has worked closely with maritime academies across the country while at MSC.

Since Shannon is leaving MSC and the Navy, he told executive heads on campus that it was time for him to give back to the younger generations. He explained that now that his career in the Navy has come to an end, he looks toward the prospect of being Superintendent as his opportunity to educate the next generation of U.S. mariners.

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