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Curriculum Reviews Ensure NPS Degrees Remain Current with the Fleet

Director, Strategic Systems Programs Vice Adm. Terry J. Benedict, left, is briefed on NPS’ systems engineering programs by department chair Dr. Cliff Whitcomb during the curricula review process in late October. Benedict, an NPS engineering science graduate, was briefed on current student research, and held a free exchange of ideas with students, during his examination of the programs.

A critical necessity with the Naval Postgraduate School’s fleet-driven degree programs is relevancy to the Navy’s current issues and needs. But in a constantly evolving security environment, staying on top of those requirements can be exceedingly challenging.

To solve this challenge, long ago Navy and NPS leadership instituted the curriculum review process, where senior leaders from relevant commands spend time on campus for a first-hand look at the curriculum, and to provide strategic direction for program leadership.

“The curriculum review is our opportunity to engage with Navy leadership about how each field is changing,” said NPS Director of Programs Cmdr. Andrea Cameron. “Fleet admirals [as sponsors] share the evolving needs of the Navy, and partner with NPS to ensure officers are getting the most current and relevant information.”

Curriculum reviews, along with Educational Skill Requirements (ESR) and mandated academic requirements, all partner to define the educational objectives of each program. Program Officer for the university’s meteorology/oceanography and Undersea Warfare programs, Cmdr. Bill Sommer, says the review is a crucial component to maintaining a very tight relationship with his community.

“Just over 12 percent of all METOC officers in the community are onboard NPS at any one time, and a little over half of the approximately 350 officers in the community are graduates of the program,” Sommer noted. “There is no other community in the Navy more closely tied to NPS than the METOC community. Our curriculum is very solid, a tried and tested program.

“Program sponsors are always interested in hearing from the students and from the faculty, and always are looking to balance the many competing demands. They dig into the research and ask the hard questions,” Sommer continued. “How is this relevant to Navy? Are you working with our commands and acquisition offices? When was the last time the basic research transitioned to applied research?  There are no ‘gimmies.’”

Sommer’s METOC programs are reviewed by Oceanographer and Navigator of the Navy, currently NPS alumnus Rear Adm. Jonathan W. White, and Commander of the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command, Rear Adm. Timothy C. Gallaudet.

“It is very important that we take a hard look at the program… to ensure that the faculty, the students and the overall curriculum are part of the mission of NPS to support our Navy and national government,” said White. “There are some challenges ahead to maintain and grow the level of excellence we need from this program.

“I think the curriculum review went very well,” White continued. “The value of … expertise in meteorology and oceanography has become even more important to the Navy and DOD because of changes ongoing in our climate, and with the Arctic being one of the CNO’s focus areas."

METOC is just one of countless academic degree programs at NPS that maintains a curriculum review process. From space systems engineering to national security affairs, defense analysis to logistics, a wide range of NPS degree programs are directly reviewed by senior flag leadership.

“How is electrical engineering changing as it supports the future of the Navy? How is national security affairs changing as the international world context changes? Change is always happening within the Navy, the government and how we do business,” stressed Cameron. “With the curriculum review, we have an essential part of the process to make sure we are getting the latest information, and continuing to move forward.”

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