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My Coast Guard
Commentary | Oct. 1, 2020

Case Study: USCG recruits top minority students from Elizabeth City State University

By Video contributed from Fifth District Public Affairs

Intro Quote:
The Coast Guard strives to be a diverse and inclusive branch when it comes to our workforce and our leaders. Our Office of Diversity and Inclusion oversees the Minority Serving Institutions Partnership Program. 

This video highlights how the program aims to work with federally recognized Title IV colleges and universities that are eligible for federal funding under Title III of the Higher Education Act of 1965 to recruit individuals into our service to better reflect the nation we serve.

Rear Adm. Keith Smith: 
I’m Rear Admiral Keith Smith, I’m the Fifth Coast Guard District Commander, but I’m also the executive champion for Elizabeth City State University. In that Capacity, I lead our efforts for the relationship with the Historically Black College and University, and I’ve been in that role since 2018 when I took over. Our relationship with Elizabeth City State University and the Coast Guard in the Fifth Coast Guard District goes back almost ten years, and people don’t realize that we’ve had that relationship for that long, and I take great pride in that. We’ve had two memorandums of understanding with Elizabeth City State University. The first one was in 2016, Adm. Austin actually signed that, and then in 2019 I updated that. So this is a relationship that isn’t new, it’s been going on for quite some time, and I think it’s getting stronger, actually, I know it’s getting stronger with each year. 

ESCU Chancellor Dr. Karrie D. Dixon: 
I think the relationship that we have with the Coast Guard is a strong one and from the very start we wanted this relationship to be intentional, which means, you know, we wanted ECSU to really focus on our agreement with the Coast Guard on how we would help to build a pipeline of students who are interested in serving in the Coast Guard. So we’ve been very successful in doing that and being intentional about it by just bringing in our students to expose them to the Coast Guard, expose them to the CSPI program, and so in doing that our students get a wealth of information. They look at opportunities as they think about what happens after graduation. So that’s been really great for us because they see the partnership with the Coast Guard and how important that is to the university.

One of the students who graduated from there was Warren Judge, who was a commander, he recently got promoted to captain, and when you think about that, that one of the students from there is now a captain in the United States Coast Guard, that is an Elizabeth City State graduate. 

Capt. Warren Judge:
I’m Cmdr. Warren Judge in the United States Coast Guard, currently the executive officer at the Command Control Communications Engineering Center. Well, my relationship with ECSU goes back to 1993 when I was enlisted down at Elizabeth City Air Station, and I wanted to go to college, and I knew I wanted to try to break grounds and get into the officer school, so I was going to school on my own at the Elizabeth City State University, and then I applied for the PPEP program, the pre- command commissioning program for enlisted personnel. And I applied twice, I got picked up, and they told me I can go to the college of my choice, and so since I was at ECSU, I went to school over at ECSU and I received a degree in computer programming in 1997.

Collin Gilley CSPI Student at ECSU:
Hi, my name is Collin Gilley and I’m attending Elizabeth City State University as part of the CSPI program. I chose ECSU for a number of reasons; part of it was the fact that it is a part of the CSPI program but also for its location and proximity to the Coast Guard air station, which gives me lots of opportunities to partner with pilots.

At Elizabeth City State University they have an aviation program, and just by coincidence we have one of the largest air stations right down, just in the same city as Elizabeth City, and the air station works very closely with the students and with the university to bring them down. We’ve done a lot of activities with that. You also have a large population within the Coast Guard if people or students are not interested in aviation to bring them and touch and feel those types of activities as well, which I think is very beneficial. So not only do they get to learn about the Coast Guard, understand about the Coast Guard, but sometimes we can actually bring those members from the Coast Guard to talk about those activities to get them to talk about it. 

At ECSU, we have the only four-year degree program in aviation science in the entire state, and so it makes sense with the Coast Guard base being right up the street, and their focus on aviation here at this particular base, and our focus on aviation for us to partner. And in doing so, our students have visited the base. They’ve seen things that have happened in regards to aviation and unmanned aircraft systems, and it just brings to light what it looks like to be able to utilize the skills that we’re teaching in the real world, and more importantly with the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard landed a helo on our campus and it just brought so much excitement and energy around this partnership and how important it is. 

One of the ways ECSU and the Coast Guard also partnership is building the diversity and inclusion throughout the Coast Guard. Right now with ECSU being a historical black college and university, a lot of the minority students there are applying for the program, and it also gives us an opportunity to build the officer program, so with each successful graduate student. We are able to build an officer, a minority officer, and bring them up through the pipeline.  

So we were honored to be able to host the Coast Guard on our campus for the 
HBCU summit this year. This was something that I wanted to see happen on this campus, it made sense with our neighboring U.S. Coast Guard base right down the street from the university, and we were very excited to host the summit and it drew a lot of people, it drew a lot of Coast Guard members, it drew our CSPI students from the past and present, coming together and really celebrating the initiative that the Coast Guard has in place to diversify the pipeline of those who are exposed to the Coast Guard and then later enlist in the Coast Guard.

My experiences over at ECSU while I was in school, was all positive, and when I tell you positive, I’m talking from understanding the backgrounds to getting in to the university, and then getting into the university and having mentors. I gained mentors quickly. For example one of the mentors was captain-retired Bill Barker, who was a prior CO over at air station. He called me to the side one day and pretty much reeled me in, saying “Looks like you’re having a lot of fun, don’t forget you still got studies and don’t forget you’re still representing the Coast Guard.” So, and that type of mentoring is what students need, you know to be professional, and to really be successful.