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Navy Civilians Credit Parents, Spouses, Authors and an Aviation Pioneer at 2019 Academic Recognition Ceremony

By NSWCDD Corporate Communications | Oct. 15, 2019

KING GEORGE, Va. – What do Albert Einstein, Nelson Mandela, and Wayne Gretzky have in common with the parents and spouses of Navy civilian employees honored for academic achievement?

They were among the authors of quotes that inspired Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) academic awardees to pursue their dreams of completing degree programs or professional certifications.

As Julie Heflin, NSWCDD Academic Programs manager, called the awardees’ names, command leaders congratulated them on stage at the 2019 NSWCDD Academic Recognition Ceremony, Oct. 9.

Meanwhile, the names of authors and quotes motivating many of the awardees appeared before the audience on a big screen in the University of Mary Washington Dahlgren campus auditorium.

“That’s his dad’s quote,” said Heflin, while announcing that NSWCDD engineer David Stone was recognized for completing his doctoral degree in electrical and computer engineering at Virginia Commonwealth University. 

The motivating quote Stone attributed to his father: “The most important letter in ‘attitude’ is ‘I’, because I decide if I am going to be successful or not.” Stone added advice of his own to encourage others in pursuit of their academic dreams: “Keep pushing forward, don’t give up, and you will make it.”

Pedro Ortiz Rivera, who received a master’s in engineering management from Old Dominion University quoted aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart: “The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.”

Brittany Haga – recognized for completing a master’s in business administration at Old Dominion University – was encouraged by speaker and author Earl Nightingale: “Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.”

Nicholas Strawn, who received a master’s in cyber engineering from Morgan State University, quoted former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill: “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”

Ya Lun Li – recognized for completing a doctoral degree in systems engineering at George Washington University – quoted Nicholas Willis, author of Bistatic Radar: “To my parents, who complained when I didn’t study, and to my wife, who didn’t complain when I did.”

The quips and quotes inspirational to NSWCDD academic awardees continued as employees walked up to the stage to be congratulated and recognized.

“The quotes could reflect the time working on their degree, it could be a quote that was inspiring to them, or it could be advice to those following in their footsteps and considering pursuing a degree,” said Heflin. “The quotes do not necessarily reflect the views of the government or the Navy or Dahlgren, but they do reflect the individual and the diversity of our organization.”

In all, NSWCDD leadership honored 93 employees for their academic and professional achievements at the command’s 23rd annual celebration of academic success.

They recognized scientists and engineers as well as business and technical leaders who completed professional certifications or academic milestones covering the spectrum of bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees.

“You successfully balanced family commitments as well as your academic efforts while continuing to support the Navy and the warfare center,” said Plew in his welcoming remarks. “It’s absolutely a great accomplishment and very hard work that takes a great commitment. We also recognize those family members who support them and the friends who share in their commitment in pursuing academic work.”

NSWCDD employees were recognized for earning six doctoral degrees, 36 master's degrees, 42 baccalaureate degrees, and one associate’s degree between August 2018 and August 2019.

In addition to core engineering disciplines – mechanical, electrical, and systems engineering – this year's graduates earned degrees in diverse fields such as international maritime trade and supply chain management, cybersecurity, computational modeling and data analytics, accounting, and public administration.

“Dahlgren’s investment in you will pay off in the years to come both professional and personally we hope,” Plew told the awardees regarding their participation in the command’s academic program. It offers the opportunity for employees to take academic courses or pursue a degree to enhance or further the NSWCDD mission of technical and business excellence. 

“We hope that those who were there for you throughout that time will share the rewards with you,” said Plew. “Every part of our organization has an important role to play in providing support to the warfighter. Professional development and academic achievements are critical to providing that support.”

The awardees included 13 employees recognized for their professional or academic certifications that included defense financial manager certificates, global security leadership certificates, and an information systems cybersecurity graduate certificate.

Among the awardees were 14 government civilians selected for the fiscal year 2020 Academic Fellowship Program. The competitive program accelerates academic and professional growth of employees and contributes to the increase in degrees awarded at Dahlgren. This year, the selected employees are progressing in their master's and doctoral degree programs in fields of study that include materials science and engineering, aerospace engineering, mathematics, and physics.   

“I am a product of this program and have utilized the program to pursue my master’s degree,” said Darren Barnes, NSWCDD deputy technical director. “Thank you to all the employees who have taken advantage of this program, especially in context of the advanced degrees. We very much appreciate your sacrifice.”

At one point, the first two recipients of the command’s new Naval Innovative Science and Engineering (NISE) Fellowship Program was announced by Alan Canfield, NSWCDD deputy chief technology officer. The NISE fellows will be completing their doctoral degrees in electrical engineering and physics.

“We established this program to sponsor doctoral research in areas of study and competence critical to Dahlgren’s technical capabilities,” said Canfield. “We’re really excited to have this program taking off in fiscal year 2020 and ask those of you working on your master’s and thinking about going to your next step to please consider this as a future opportunity.”

The NISE Fellowship Program is a competitive and corporately funded workforce development effort designed to assist NSWCDD employees in completing their doctoral research and dissertation in an approved program of study by providing tuition and time on-the-clock labor financial support.  For NSWCDD, the program increases the academic stature of its workforce, provides recruiting incentives, and supports human resource goals by focusing participation on organizational priorities. 

The majority of the bachelor's degrees recognized at the ceremony were earned by employees participating in student programs such as the Pathways Internship Program – established to provide degree-seeking students with exposure to public service while enhancing their educational experience, and possibly providing financial aid to support their educational goals.

“Some things are worth repeating,” said Oravec in his closing remarks as he echoed NSWCDD Commanding Officer Capt. Casey Plew’s commendation of the awardees as well as their families, friends, and colleagues who supported NSWCDD employees in their pursuit and achievement of the milestones for which they have been recognized.

“Whatever your circumstances were – if you’re going back to school or you’re going at night while you’re taking care of family, all of your work responsibilities, and studying – you did a great job and you should be proud of it,” said Oravec. “Now you’ve got the credit, degrees, and credentials – go out there and use them please. Go use your knowledge, go use that experience, and encourage your co-workers to do the same.”