In a first, a nonmilitary organization - the University of Maryland, College Park - will train junior commissioned officers in leadership skills before they take on assignments leading companies of midshipmen at the Naval Academy.
The program - dubbed LEAD, for Leadership Education And Development - was previously administered by the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterrey, Calif. Academy officials decided to take bids from universities to see whether they could save money and provide future company officers with a graduate school experience at a civilian institution.
"We wanted to provide a rich graduate educational experience typical of what you would experience if you went to a high-quality graduate program," said Donald Horner, professor of leadership education at the Naval Academy.
"We wanted students to be immersed culturally, socially, educationally in a graduate program typical of what you might find in the finest programs in America," he said.
Similar agreements exist between the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., and Columbia University and between the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., and the University of Colorado, but this is new territory for the Naval Academy.
In addition to the University of Maryland's bid, the Academy received proposals for the one-year master's program from Johns Hopkins University, George Washington University, Georgetown University and the Naval Postgraduate School.
The Maryland proposal - which will draw from nationally ranked programs in military sociology, education counseling and personnel services, and industrial and organizational psychology - will cost the Academy about $225,000 a year, a savings of about $200,000 annually compared with the Naval Postgradute School program.
"I'm very excited," said Charles Wellford, director of the University of Maryland's office of international and executive programs. "I'm a lifelong Marylander, and I grew up near Annapolis and have so much admiration for the Naval Academy. The fact that we will be working with them in this way is tremendously satisfying."
Officers in the Navy and Marine Corps accepted in the program will study at College Park for a year. After they complete the program, they will leave with a master's degree in professional studies in leadership education and development. They will spend the next two years leading one of the 30 companies to which the Academy's 4,200 midshipmen are assigned.
The LEAD program was established in 1995 because the Academy was not attracting top junior officers to lead midshipmen in companies, Horner said.
"The Navy was not identifying high-quality candidates," he said. "The best of the best in junior officers had no incentive to come back to the Academy as company officers."
Before 1995, many companies were led by officers serving their last Naval assignments, he said.
"When I was here as a midshipman, I did a lot of mentoring and teaching," said Lt. Marlon Terrell, a 2002 Academy graduate who will enroll in the LEAD program at Maryland this year after serving aboard a submarine in King's Bay, Ga. "That's something I've been passionate about and makes me passionate about my time in the Navy."
Company officers, who supervise, train and advise midshipmen, are often credited with helping Mids decide what Navy or Marine Corps career they will pursue after graduation.
Terrell, 27, said that was the case for him in 2001, when a company officer and junior officers who had been in the submarine community before returning to the Academy helped him pick submarines.
"The great thing about the LEAD program is that because I do love the teaching and mentoring thing, it gives me more insight into leadership and organizational studies," he said. "And when I get out of the service and get into some educational field, I can take that with me."
Horner said that under the Naval Postgraduate School's program, a faculty member would fly to the Naval Academy from California to administer the courses and then leave. The officers in the program would get a master of science in leadership and human resource development, but the degree was research intensive. But in studying the role of a company officer, Horner said, Academy officials realized there wasn't much need for a research component.
"Now we can identify some star performers in the fleet and put them in an education program that's tailored for their next job," Horner said. "Fifteen graduates will have developed a great relationship during the year and take that right into Bancroft Hall."