U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced the appointment of seven members to the United States Merchant Marine Academy Advisory Board. The USMMA advisory board serves as an independent body whose purpose is to examine the course of instruction and management at the academy and advise the USMMA superintendent and maritime administrator to ensure the best possible educational atmosphere for all midshipmen. “The department is committed to providing every midshipman at Kings Point the highest-quality education possible,” said LaHood. “This board will help the academy achieve its strategic plan goals. Their experience and expertise will further its mission to educate and graduate the best-qualified merchant mariners who will be the future leaders in the global maritime industry.” The board will advise the academy’s superintendent on academic, organizational, and institutional best practices. Its members, selected by the secretary of transportation, will also review the implementation of the academy's strategic plan as well as the academy’s fiscal soundness, curriculum, morale and campus climate, student life, diversity and facilities. “Kings Point graduates go on to careers in global transportation,” said USMMA Superintendent RADM James Helis. “It is essential that we have an advisory board that helps the academy stay current on maritime industry trends and educational best practices. I look forward to working with the members of the board.” By statute, advisory board members must be individuals distinguished in education and fields related to the academy's mission. In appointing new members to the advisory board, the department sought candidates with expertise in areas related to the Academy’s strategic plan, academic excellence, leadership development, and current maritime industry needs and trends. The seven advisory board members are appointed for not more than three years and must include one graduate from the academy within the past six to 10 years. The new members are: Dr. Sharon van Wyk, executive vice president and chief operations officer, American Public University System; Dr. Kathy Humphrey, vice provost and dean of students, University of Pittsburgh; Dr. Laurie Leshin, dean of the School of Science, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; Marty Linsky, J.D., faculty, Harvard Kennedy School and Co-Founder, Cambridge Leadership Associates; Lt. Manuel Maddox, U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Class of 2006; Bill Pennella, vice chairman of the board and executive vice president, Crowley Maritime Corporation; Dr. Jean-Paul Rodrigue, professor, Department of Global Studies and Geography, Hofstra University.