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CEO Spotlight

Q & A With

RADM Michael Alfultis USMS, PhD, President, SUNY Maritime College By John R. Snyder, Publisher & Editor-in-Chief


he six state maritime academies and the federally operated U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, NY, are the life’s blood of the U.S. merchant marine and U.S. maritime industry. The cadets that graduate not only find work at sea aboard U.S.-flag vessels, but also in professions onshore such as shipbuilding, ship management and port operations, and even in other transportation sectors. One of those state maritime academies is the State University of New York (SUNY) Maritime College situated on a beautiful campus near the Throggs Neck Bridge at historic Fort Schuyler in The Bronx. Right now, the college is in the midst of updating its strategic plan, which will set its course for the next five to 10 years. Working with students, faculty, alumni, and industry, the strategic plan will shape the college’s future mission, practices and curriculum. The strategic planning effort is being chaired by SUNY Maritime President RADM Michael Alfultis, USMS, Ph.D., who became its 11th President in 2014. A retired U.S. Coast Guard Captain and former director and chief administrative Officer at the University of Connecticut’s Avery Point campus, Alfultis joined the

24 Marine Log // September 2017

college at a rocky time in its history—he was its fourth president in five years—but has shown a steady hand in guiding and leading the academy and its 1,800 cadets towards a bright future. MARINE LOG was fortunate enough to catch up with Admiral Alfultis during Summer Sea Term 2017 and at his office on campus to discuss the future of SUNY Maritime College, maritime training and education, and the maritime industry. ML: How did you get started in your maritime career? RADM Michael Alfultis: I was born and raised in the Midwest, one of six children. Back in high school, I felt the call to military service. My dad had a career in law enforcement, so he did not have the money to send me to college. That meant my only options to go to college were either through an ROTC scholarship or to be accepted at a service academy. I applied to all the service academies and I got accepted into Annapolis, West Point and the Coast Guard Academy. I choose the Coast Guard because it was a small service, small school, it was a peacetime mission, and it had the major I wanted, marine science and oceanography. Since I was from the Midwest, I had never

seen the ocean a day in my life. The first summer at the academy, I sailed on the Eagle and fell in love with the ocean. I spent 28 years in the Coast Guard, 21 of which I was a permanent member of the teaching faculty at the academy. After I retired from the Coast Guard in 2010, I joined the University of Connecticut as the Director of their Marine Campus in Groton, CT. While I thought that was my dream job, a friend of mine nominated me for this job. I didn’t think I had any chance of getting this job. It wasn’t until the Chancellor called and said, “I want to offer you the position” that it hit me that I was going to SUNY Maritime. But that’s what I tell my students: You have to have a plan in life, but you have to be flexible enough to take advantage of opportunities that come along. ML: What goals did you set when you came to SUNY Maritime? MA: As a new leader, my first goal was to take the time to listen and learn. I didn’t know the culture of a maritime college. My first year I spent engaged in the process of listening and learning as much as I could about the school. I was the fourth President in five years for the school. While I made adjustments where I thought immediate adjustments were needed, I wanted to put a steady hand on the helm and get things going in a steady course. My second year, I started to focus on the faculty and looked at strategic investments around the campus. I worked hard on building partnerships with industry. I started to establish very important silos of investment in faculty, students, and partnerships. This year, we just started our strategic planning, so we are going to map out the next five to seven years of my presidency. ML: You mentioned partnerships with industry. One of those industry partners has been Bouchard Transportation. Can you talk about the tug and barge simulator and how important simulation training is? MA: Most of that work on the tug and barge simulator was done before I got here. Bouchard Transportation Company approached us with the desire to create a state-of-the-art Tug and Barge Simulation Center to allow the training of our students and professional mariners. This one is the only Articulated Tug and Barge simulator in the country, where the tug and barge are actually physically connected in an articulated fashion. Bouchard has been very generous. They made a large investment to

Marine Log September 2017  
Marine Log September 2017