The Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) bid farewell March 30 to its most recent cohort of graduates.
Through a rousing ceremony in a packed King Auditorium, 250 advanced degrees – including three doctorates – were formally conferred on a broad assembly of U.S. service members representing all branches, Department of Defense (DOD) civilians and international students from 9 different nations.
NPS president retired Vice Adm. Ronald A. Route opened the ceremony with a congratulatory message to the quarter’s graduating class, recognizing the significance of their commitments and accomplishments, made possible by the love, support and sacrifice of family and friends.
“We are so proud of your success,” he said. “We have immersed you in an extremely competitive academic environment that has enabled you to focus on the challenges that affect your service, our defense capabilities and our national security.”
Route then introduced the ceremony’s keynote speaker, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Manpower and Reserve Affairs Robert L. Woods, who offered his congratulations to the new graduates, and commented on the university’s rankings in a recent report through “U.S. News and World Reports.”
“Not only have you bested Harvard and Columbia in that particular area of exploration, but you’re also well-ranked in other national rankings,” Woods said. “The school has every right to be proud of your accomplishments and the amazing faculty and staff we have here.”
NPS students add immensely to national security and science and technology, to make the United States a more effective country at large, he said. The diversity of their experiences and connections gained at NPS will continue be a force multiplier as they return to their respective services.
“I know that you’ll continue to nurture the relationships that you’ve made here and work hard to stay in touch over the years to come,” Woods said. “Remember, we’re always stronger together.”
Since its inception in 1909, NPS has continuously provided this connectivity to the military and beyond, Woods noted. Its unique environment has engendered cooperation, diplomacy and military-to-military relationships across the DOD and beyond.
“Your leaders have invested heavily in your education and advancement, and we expect much from you in helping us tackle complex operations and challenges, such as terrorism, transnational crime, cyber security, conventional warfare and nuclear proliferation,” Woods said.
“These challenges, of course, require such things as managing complex systems acquisition; tackling, obtaining and harvesting big data; and mastering supply chain management,” he added.
At the heart of such endeavors lies the graduates’ greatest challenge – nurturing and advancing people. Investing in people, operational leaders as well as thought leaders, has become a priority focus of DOD’s senior leadership, Woods said.
“This may sound like a soundbite, but I guarantee that senior leaders are fully committed to this truth. People are our most important resource,” he said. “We are committed, and I expect you to commit yourself, to fostering a culture of mutual respect, accountability and the highest ethical standards, from top to bottom and back again.”
Woods drew on the personal experience of his 35-year career to underscore this and render advice to the new graduates. Success comes from individual efforts coupled with the efforts of others – family, friends, colleagues, supervisors and leaders all play a role.
“You need to spend the time and energy to nurture those important relationships,” he said. “It’s all about relationships.”
The military doesn’t always allow choice in duties or assignments, but that doesn’t mean a tough job isn’t a growth opportunity.
“Remember to grow where you’re planted; don’t worry so much about that, but focus on doing your best in each and every job,” Woods said.
Woods concluded his address by imploring the audience to keep in mind those teammates forward-deployed who guard our safety so that we can enjoy the opportunities such as those NPS offers.
“With that, God speed and may you always have fair winds and following seas,” he concluded.
Watch the complete ceremony on the NPS YouTube channel.