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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