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What I Am Thankful For

(Athletics, Extracurricular and Faith-Based Involvement, Class of 2020) Permanent link
Joshua Roh

Hello, everyone. If you haven’t heard already, life at the Academy can be hard. You take 16-23 credit hours per semester and, on top of that, you have several military obligations as well as mandatory athletics. With all of these challenges, many of us cadets often forget that we have a lot to be thankful for and, as Thanksgiving approaches, I thought it would be an appropriate time for me to reflect on what I am thankful for here.

  1. The Swim Team: I have been a swimmer since I was six years old, which means I have been swimming for almost a decade and a half. Swimming is a big part of my life and my identity and being able to continue with this throughout my tenure as a cadet has been an enormous help in keeping me motivated. Not only do I have something familiar from my life before the Academy but also the men’s team is a true brotherhood. Every day, no matter how tired I am, I can look forward to practice if for nothing else to see the guys.
  2. OCF and Jiu Jitsu: Officers’ Christian Fellowship (OCF) and Jiu Jitsu are the two main clubs, besides the Blog Club, that I participate in. I decided to talk about them together because they both help me equally decompress. My dad was a youth pastor in Des Moines, Iowa when I was born and so Christianity has been a large part of my life. Having the opportunity to fellowship with other believers on a weekly basis at OCF is not only refreshing but has allowed me to meet other likeminded people who I now call friends. Jiu Jitsu is relaxing in another manner entirely but for me no less spiritual. I have done martial arts from when I could walk until the end of middle school and intermittently after. My dad being an avid martial artist helped train me in Taekwondo and Krav Maga before I came to the Academy but, due to the time commitment needed to swim, I was unable to continue for much of high school. When I came to the Academy, I was looking for something to get back into Taekwondo when I came across the Jiu Jitsu club, which I had never heard of before, so I thought I would try it and ever since then I have been a fanatic. As a grappling martial art, it is very different from Taekwondo and Krav in that there is no punching/kicking (i.e., striking); it’s solely grappling. After every practice I go to no matter how tired I was going into it or how physically tired I come out, I always leave energized and ready to go at it again.
  3. My Company: The Corps of Cadets is split into eight companies: Alpha- to Hotel and as a fourth class you are assigned to a company for a year and then transfer to a new company for your last three. Last year I was in Delta which was an amazing experience. I am extremely glad I was able to spend a year there and I would have loved another three but alas, things must change, and I hit the jackpot. I am now in Golf company, which by most people in the corps would not be regarded as the highest in morale. However, the people who transferred in from my class are awesome, several of my good friends came with me, and it feels like the majority of the swim team is in Golf so I get to be with my team all the time, I couldn’t ask for a better group.

There are so many more things I could write about, but, as this is longer than most papers I have written I’ll keep it at these three. Despite the challenges of this place, there is always something there to pull you through. These three are a few examples of many that have gotten me where I am now.

Spes In Virtute


ORCA: Applied Mathematics, Not the Whale

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Jill Friedman

I am an Operations Research and Computer Analysis major, or ORCA for short. ORCA is the applied mathematics major at the Academy. I applied as an ORCA major but I was tempted to switch to Civil Engineer during my 4/c year. I realized I liked the applied math part of engineering and not designing bridges or highway so I decided to stick with ORCA and it’s worked out so far. I describe the ORCA major as giving you mathematical tools to analyze information leading to an educated decision about real-world issues.

A graduation requirement for most majors is to complete a senior capstone project but what makes ORCA unique is that we solve real Coast Guard problems and our recommendations are put into effect. A few years ago two cadets analyzed the effectiveness of small boat stations so in the event the stations got damaged, like in a hurricane, the Coast Guard would know which stations to rebuild, if the station should be relocated, or if the station should be dissolved. This work was put into effect after the hurricanes hit Texas. Knowing what I’m learning can be used to solve problems and encourage change makes the major interesting to me.

My biggest piece of advice when choosing a major at the CGA is to pick something you’re not going to hate doing at 2 a.m. At some point in your cadet career you are going to be up until 2 in the morning, working on some assignment. Your major at the Academy has no bearing on your job in the first assignment in the operational Coast Guard so choose something you are going to enjoy learning about. Granted, if I’m up half the night working on a project I’m probably not the happiest person in the world, but for me it’s better than being up late deciding what material to use as the superstructure of a boat.

You’ll have plenty of resources available at CGA to help you make your decision. During 4/c year you will be given a presentation on all the majors and have the opportunity to talk to upper-class in your intended major. The faculty here is also amazing. They are more than willing to sit down and discuss the major with you so you can make an informed decision. If you have any questions feel free to email me at


My Dad Was Right, Civil Engineering is for Me

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MegMarie Stanchi

I chose the Coast Guard Academy for many reasons, but one of the main reasons was for the challenging educational opportunities. I wanted to study some sort of environmental science, and after a typical Google search for schools, my dad mentioned the Coast Guard Academy had a Marine and Environmental Sciences (MES) major if I was interested. I responded with “yeah right, I’m not going to a military academy.” However, after a lot of research and thinking, of course my dad was right, the Academy did spark my interest. I accepted my appointment and was set on studying MES. However, before I arrived on R-Day, I remember my dad talking to me and saying, “I know you’re interested in MES, but know that you’ll take some basic engineering courses your first year and that engineering is always something to keep in mind ‒ especially majors like Civil Engineering (CE) that have the environmental engineering aspect.” Again, I shot down that idea down and told him I would definitely not be studying engineering. I told people my whole first semester at the Academy that I was “not an engineering kind of person.” I just did not think there was an engineering major for me, and I also did not have the confidence that I could make it through. Here we are three years later and, you guessed it, my dad was right. I am two years in to studying Civil Engineering, and it was the most challenging but rewarding decision I have made since deciding to come to the Academy.

It was actually the 4/c academic major lectures held in the beginning of my spring semester that influenced me to switch to engineering. I remember a CE instructor standing in front of us and explaining the three focuses of Civil Engineering at the Academy ‒ structural, geotechnical, and environmental. During these lectures, I was enrolled in the 4/c basic engineering course Statics and Engineering Design (SED), which, at the time, all 4/c had to take. The class was very interesting and I really enjoyed my teacher, Commander Madalena. SED was a challenging class for me but I found myself constantly in my teacher’s office trying to figure out problems and the interesting concepts. I found that the concepts were physical things that I could make sense of, instead of sciences I had taken where interactions happened that I could not necessarily see. Those meetings lead to conversations of SED applications in the real world, and subsequently CDR Madalena’s experience in the Coast Guard with Civil Engineering. I eventually talked to him about my struggle in deciding whether to change majors, and within a few minutes I knew that I needed to switch. During this time, I also realized that my interest in environmental science was more toward fixing problems rather than studying them, and I felt engineering would allow me to do just that later in my life.

I never thought of myself as the kind of student who loved all things math and science and had no experience in high school with engineering/technological classes. I think this is why engineering seemed so impossible to me. However, once I got to the Academy, I saw how invested faculty were in cadet success. I saw how many opportunities there were for help and how often teachers were willing to meet with you to help you succeed. I realized that if I was going to study engineering, then there was no other place to do it than at the Coast Guard Academy. During my first year at the Academy, I also realized that math and science weren’t impossible, and I was able to work through them and do well. I always attack classes with a strong work ethic to continue to learn and understand the material as much as I can. With organizational skills and self-study habits, I have been able to continue this work ethic. My classes continue to get harder and my schedule has continued to be busy. I have not always been successful on exams or in certain classes, and the grades I got in high school are not the ones I get now. However, I try my hardest, I plan in advance, I meet with my teachers regularly, and I depend on the help of my classmates to get me through my classes.

I am very proud of myself for sticking with Civil Engineering and feel successful even in the busiest, most stressful, and academically challenging times. I enjoy being a member of a major that challenges me and I am excited to see what I can accomplish in the Coast Guard and the civilian sector as a civil engineer. My 2/c courses are my first major-specific courses and they are extremely interesting. I am enrolled in Environmental Engineering 1 and it is my favorite class! It is rewarding to get to my 2/c year and take the classes that I have been waiting for. I hope that anyone reading this, or anyone who may be doubting themselves about studying engineering, knows that it is completely possible if you continuously work hard, apply yourself, and use your resources. You have to believe in yourself, and trust that it will all pay off in the end once you get that diploma in your hand!


Operations Research and Computer Analysis: Thinking Logically and Analytically

(Academics, Class of 2020, Mathematics) Permanent link
Anthony Turner

When I first came to the Academy, I was a Marine and Environmental Sciences (MES) major. In the early spring of 4/c year, I switched to be an Operations Research and Computer Analysis (ORCA) major. Since then, I have loved my major and am blown away with the cool stuff we do. ORCA is more than just math and coding, it helps you think from new perspectives. Personally, I love thinking logically and analytically. The ORCA major does just that.

Since I made my switch to ORCA, I have never considered switching to another major. One reason I stayed was because of the faculty. The teachers in the Math Department are amazing. They are always there to help you with anything and make incredible mentors. In my opinion, they are the best teachers on campus. They realize that the material we cover can be hard sometimes, but they are always willing to sit down and help you understand it.

When I switched into the major, I did not know much about it. We had presentations from all the majors about all the work that they did. This was all I knew about ORCA. The presentation cleared up all the misconceptions I had about this program. It showed how applicable the major was in and outside and the Coast Guard. Another selling point for me was that for our capstone projects, the Coast Guard sends the Academy current problems to solve and we get to solve them. Even as cadets, we can have a direct impact on the fleet. This is the type of challenge that I like!

I did a fair amount of research before I changed majors. I talked to my previous academic advisor and the ORCA faculty as well. In addition to that, I used the Academy website to learn about every major. The most impactful in my decision was talking to the upperclassmen. When I played rugby, most of my teammates were ORCA majors and they encouraged me to switch. They described it as the “slept-on” major because it is the perfect balance of free time and challenging work. As a 2/c, I can attest to that. I spend about four hours a week studying for my classes. A pro tip would be to do this studying during the free periods you have.

The easiest part of the major are the math classes, such as Multivariable Calculus and the optimization classes. They still have a certain level of difficulty, but they are the easiest classes you may take. The hardest classes are the ones that involve coding. I never coded until I took Computer Model Languages and it was like learning a new language. To those who code frequently, it’ll be a walk in the park. If you have never written a line in your life, rest assured because the faculty will be there to help you out.

In terms of how I prepared for ORCA in high school, I did not. I focused on science classes, because I thought I was going to be a MES major. Some computer classes were offered, but I chose not to take them, simply because I didn’t think I would need them. In terms of the calculus classes, I was not very prepared. I was placed in pre-calculus and worked my way to get on pace with my classmates.

To those that want to be ORCA, just get ready to work. Have no fear though, you will never feel overworked, and always ask your teachers for help. Those are the only tools you’ll need to succeed!

Until next time. I’ll see y’all later!


Selecting a Major: Marine and Environmental Sciences

(Academics, Marine and Environmental Sciences) Permanent link
Deborah King

The academic majors offered at USCGA are of critical importance to properly supplying the United States Coast Guard with officers that are prepared to serve in a demanding environment. The goal at USCGA is to graduate and commission an evenly distributed number of officers in each academic major every year. It is essential that CGA applicants carefully examine their desires and do research when expressing their original intent for a major.

I am a Marine and Environmental Sciences (MES) major with a focus on chemical and physical sciences. I knew I wanted to be an MES major since I applied because I love the outdoors and wanted to learn more about it. In high school, I took AP Chemistry, Physics, and Biology. Even though I did not earn college credit for the AP classes, the rigor was worth it to prepare me for science at the Academy. I was fortunate enough to validate Chemistry 1 and 2 at the Academy, giving me more options in the major. As of now, I am also taking botany classes at Connecticut College because of my interest in forestry.

I spend about two hours plus a night on major-specific studying. The best part of the major has to be the field trips and field work. It’s cool to be exposed the information in the classroom, but it’s better to see science in action at the aquarium, beach, or in and around the Thames River. The most difficult part of the major is the math and programming portions for Waves and Tides. I did not expect as much math as there is, though it’s mostly in the physical oceanography portion. If I were to give advice to someone considering my major, I would say that MES is one of the most tactile and rewarding academic programs. There are difficult semesters, but nothing beats hands-on learning.


My Major: Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering

(Academics, Class of 2020, Engineering) Permanent link
Amy Chamberlin

Hello! I wanted to take some time to talk about why I chose my major, Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering (NAME), and the experiences I have had with Nav Arch thus far. I will start off by saying that, unlike a lot of my shipmates, I came into the Academy knowing what I wanted to major in and never looked back.

Growing up in Rhode Island and learning how to sail when I was 12, I knew I wanted to spend my life helping others while being on the water. With that, I found that Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering was a possible major, and that the Coast Guard Academy was one of the few colleges that offers it. Immediately, I looked at the Academy’s website and knew that the CGA was right for me. Ever since I received my appointment, I have been waiting to take major-specific courses. Now that I am in my 2/c year, I am finally enrolled in classes like Principles of Naval Architecture, which are relevant to what I want to do in the future. One unique experience that Nav Archs get at the Academy is to be a part of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers (SNAME). The New England chapter holds meetings at the Academy and cadets are able to attend. There is always a nice dinner followed by a talk by professional naval architects. It is refreshing to hear how what we are learning in the classroom applies to real life.

If you are a prospective cadet, I would recommend participating in Cadet for a Day. I attended the program when I was a senior in high school and I shadowed a 3/c (who is now an ensign!). She was a Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering major and was on the dinghy team. The experience sealed the deal for me to not only come to the Academy, but to major in NAME. I feel like my high school prepared me really well to be successful at the Academy. I think it is really important to take higher level math and science courses ‒ for example, I took AP Calculus AB, AP Physics I and II, and AP Environmental Science!

Being an engineer at the Academy is not the easiest life but late nights, lots of coffee, and studying with friends are all things to look forward to. Between homework and studying, I spend at least 20 hours a week doing work outside the classroom. I would say that is typical for most engineers. If I were to give advice to a prospective cadet it would be to study hard in high school, but also to have fun. The cadet experience is nonstop but I have learned to make the most of every moment. Ask a lot of questions, get to know your teachers well, and don’t just survive, but thrive!

If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at


Choosing Marine and Environmental Sciences as a Major

(Academics, Class of 2020, Marine and Environmental Sciences) Permanent link
Jacqueline Jones

I am a Marine and Environmental Sciences (MES) major here at the Academy. I chose my major because I was originally interested in biochemistry and the Marine and Environmental Sciences program is most closely related. There are three tracks in the major; Physical Oceanography, Biological Environmental Science, and Chemical Environmental Science. I had to choose two tracks, so the most obvious ones for me where the biological and chemical, where I am taking classes such as organic chemistry, fisheries biology, marine biology, and meteorology. Personally, organic chemistry is my favorite subject; however, the field trips in the other classes made them equally enjoyable. The most frequent field trips being to the Mystic Aquarium and out on the R/V Michael J. Greeley, a research vessel for cadets.

The most difficult portion of the major are the prerequisites. I love science, but I am not a math person at all so luckily the professors in the math department are amazing and were there to help me every step of the way. There were a lot of long nights working with the professors who stay late about once a week to help students catch up on material that they may be struggling with or those that just want extra practice. I would have had a much harder time getting through calculus, multi-variable calculus, and differential equations, if it were not for the resources available to me. Now, I only need to get through probability and statistics next semester and I am done with math requirements for my major! If you are interested in learning more about major-specific requirements, check out the Marine and Environmental Sciences page on the Academy website. I did a lot of researching on the page looking at not only the major requirements, but also cadet blogs like this one (I hope it helps). I also stayed for an overnight visit with a cadet in my major so that I could ask more questions.

In the end, I chose this major because of all the career possibilities inside and outside the Coast Guard. In high school, I had the opportunity to intern at research institutions such as the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Agriculture. I loved both of those internships and I found that I would love to work in environmental response while in the Coast Guard, and environmental health or environmental justice when I get out of the Coast Guard. My major allows me to take a few electives that I believe will help me learn more about this path. As of now, my electives are microeconomics and emergency management. Next year, I hope to take public policy and environmental policy.

Besides the classes and the field trips, the best part of my major are definitely the professors and my classmates. All of the professors are passionate in what they do. So, if you are thinking about the Marine and Environmental Sciences major, I am here to tell you that it is the way to go, but do your research and see if it is the right fit for you.


Reflections on the Summer Past

(Just for Fun, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2020) Permanent link
Anthony Turner

Let me set the scene for you. If I were to say that you and seven of your classmates were given a million dollar yacht for a week, you would think I was crazy. What if I told you that you were to sail the coast of New England and immerse yourselves in the local cultures of each port. The only catch is that you have to have fun.

On a more serious note, the Coastal Sail Training Program (CSTP) will most likely be the highlight of your 2/c summer. The program requires a lot of work, but the benefits greatly outweigh the costs. Not only do you learn how to sail, but you also gain a lot of leadership experience. Often the hardest thing is peer leadership. The program is designed to be challenging in certain aspects, but your safety officer and friends aboard the yacht will be there to support you. The beauty of the program is that it doesn’t demand that you become an expert sailor or a world-renowned leader, only that you learn more about yourself.

On the flip side, there are plenty of good things that arise from the program. It’s an excellent opportunity to get to know people in your class. The best way to get to know someone is to live on a 44 foot boat with them and see how they cook. Speaking of food, the cuisine up in Cape Cod and Newport, Rhode Island was outstanding. While in Hyannis, Massachusetts, all the coastal sail boats went to an all-you-can-eat Brazilian barbeque buffet and the food was AMAZING.

The ports that you are going to visit are Stonington, Connecticut; Newport and Block Island, Rhode Island; and Woods Hole, Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, Hyannis and Cuttyhunk Island, Massachusetts. The majority of the ports are in Massachusetts, but each one is vastly different from the next. There are plenty of museums to visit so you can learn about the history of each port, in addition to seeing the different kinds of architecture there.

When I said that you learn about yourself, this is an understatement. You not only see how you function in stressful situations, but also how you deal with people in that environment. For me, this revelation occurred when I was watch captain, which means that I oversaw the ship for the day. And the weather was awful: there were three to five foot waves; the wind was around 15 knots; and it was foggy, raining and cold. To top it off, we received a search and rescue case that day. Now let me ask you, how do you command seven of your peers in these conditions? During this, the safety officer is there, but simply sitting back to see your course of action. Situations like this really reveal the type of person you are as it did for me that day.

Altogether these experiences made the program. If I’m being honest, it was my favorite experience as a cadet. Nothing tops sailing New England in the summer, meeting new people and experiencing new cultures.

Until next time!