KINGS POINT, N.Y., Mar. 21, 2016 – A group of five U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) midshipmen participated the first annual Yale Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps Leadership Conference in February.
Superintendent, Rear Adm. James A. Helis, USMS, Ph.D., said “our participation in this inaugural event is another example of how leadership and service must be at the forefront of the Academy experience. I am very pleased that our midshipmen had the opportunity to meet with such outstanding leaders, and that they were able to interact with their peers from other intuitions. The lessons they learned will certainly help shape and enhance USMMA’s leadership program.”
The conference, held on Yale’s campus in New Haven, Conn., brings together leaders in their fields and students from universities around the country to discuss what role leadership has in a rapidly changing world and to allow for students to learn and improve upon leadership and character development. The conference theme, “Leadership in Motion” focused on using the context of current political and military affairs to give conference participants dynamic and effective leadership and management tools that they can use throughout their education and career.
The midshipmen’s participation was funded by “The Class of 1962 Gift Fund,” which was created to sponsor on and off-campus midshipmen activities that enhance the Academy’s professional and leadership training. USMMA’s Director of Ethics, Capt. Reed Bonadonna, USMS, said, “I'm very glad that we were able to obtain funding for this first annual Yale NROTC Leadership Conference. Some of the ideas and practices that the five midshipmen who attended were introduced to at Yale look very promising, and we’re planning to incorporate their insights into our leadership education at Kings Point.”
The conference’s interactive aspects, involving discussion, feedback and simulation, were particularly valuable, noted Bonadonna. “Any possible future leadership program at Kings Point must include these elements, and not just lecture or learning by rote.”
Midshipman 2nd Class Wiese said, “being able to hear some of their stories was an eye opening experience, giving a much greater perspective of what is really going on in the world and how important effective leaders are, in the military and as a civilian.”
The keynote speaker, Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michelle J. Howard, USN, focused on the growing cyber world and how terrorists are taking advantage of the Internet and technology. “It opened a lot of our eyes to the potential for warfare to be conducted through computers, and how the growing technology will lead to more opportunities for problems,” said Wiese.
Noting how the Yale Leadership Conference provided excellent sources for experienced and varied leadership, Midshipman 2nd Class Eric Reinholt said it “will help facilitate my own development as a leader.” Midshipman 2nd Class Philip Juliano noted “the conference introduced a new dynamic on leadership; effective followership can generate great leaders when individuals learn from superiors and apply said experiences to ensuing leadership roles.”
“It was a great experience getting to meet ROTC members from so many schools around the country, and being able to learn more about leadership from so many experienced civilian and military members,” added Wiese. “I look forward to putting some of the things I learned to use, and hope to attend again next year.”
By Veronica Cassidy Barry and Cmdr. Benjamin Benson