Mass Maritime to Welcome Newest Class of Cadets Saturday

BUZZARDS BAY – Massachusetts Maritime Academy in Buzzards Bay welcomes its newest class to campus Saturday.

The incoming freshman class includes 465 cadets bringing the total regiment up to 1,700 – the most in the school’s history.

Admiral Fran McDonald says interest in maritime education is at an all-time high and that total enrollment has increased by 60 percent over the last decade.

“We have artificial caps on our majors because we are looking for some space to grow,” McDonald said. “[We] haven’t figured that out just yet with some help from the state.”

Students come to the academy from across the country and 200 towns in the Commonwealth.

“The bulk of them are from the Southeast (part of Massachusetts) including the Cape and Plymouth County,” McDonald said.

McDonald, who was a graduate of the academy himself, said the first day for incoming cadets is a combination of excitement and “what did I get myself into.”

“Pretty quickly you realize that the focus is to have the freshmen in each of our seven companies quickly connect with each other,” McDonald said.

About two weeks into orientation, the new cadets will take a three-day sail about the T.S. Kennedy to New York City.

Interest continues to grow for the academy’s programs as graduates continue to have success finding employment upon finishing.

The educational philosophy at MMA combines STEM Bachelor of Science degrees, co-ops and internships, a leadership laboratory and civic engagement.

“That combination sets them up to be in high demand by employers throughout Massachusetts and again all over the globe,” McDonald said. “When you add in the lowest price of tuition and fees in the public system the end result is a significant return on investment which then equates to demand.”

Academy officials are continuing to look at expanding space to meet demand.

“We have had a request for some new academic space,” McDonald said. “Over the same decade when we have grown about 60 percent our academic space has increased only about 4 percent.”

The academy is working with Governor Charlie Baker and the Secretary of Education Jim Peyser to submit a concept proposal to include some academic space and construction.

The school has converted other spaces in the meatime.

“We’ve converted some of our larger storage rooms to temporary classrooms. We’ve converted space in our former power plant to an engineering design lab,” McDonald said. “We’ve taken over conference rooms and everything else and put academic folks just about everywhere.”

Dorms at the academy house about 1,400 cadets and 50 senior cadets will be living on the ship. A lease agreement has been signed with a hotel property in Wareham to house another 90 cadets.

“All the while we are doing a housing study to look at expansion hopefully to include possibly construction in the village of Buzzards Bay,” McDonald said.


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