The United States Naval Academy stands as the second oldest of the five service academies, created in 1845 in Annapolis, Maryland, a “healthy, secluded location” to help students (or midshipmen, as they’re termed) avoid “the temptations and distractions that necessarily connect with a large populous city”. Originally created without Congressional funding, it began on 10 acres with a 50 student class, combining academics and naval instruction with classes offered in navigation and English, gunnery and natural philosophy.
Today, the US Naval Academy’s mission remains the same, to develop future naval officers with “up-to-date academic and professional training” by educating them “morally, mentally, and physically”. Still maintaining its home in Annapolis, it has grown to 338 acres of Chesapeake Bay adjacent land, teaching a 4,400 member student body how to grow from freshman “Plebes” to eventual Naval officers. Accepting women since 1976 (when Congress authorized the admission in all service branches), there is a coed incoming class of roughly 1400 annually, all meeting strict academic and physical standards, as well as having a Congressional recommendation.
The Academy addresses moral, physical, and academic education resulting in a Bachelor of Science degree and a five year commission as an officer in the Navy (part of the “no tuition” agreement all students have at most service academies). Though there is no distance learning offered at any service school (as experiential, collaborative learning is key to military training), the Naval Academy offers 22 different BS majors, all with a broad core of humanities, social sciences, math, and, of course, engineering. Intertwining professional and leadership training, midshipmen also become familiar with all the “life and customs of naval service”, from taking orders to leading maneuvers and making split-second command decisions. Popular majors are arrayed from typical college programs like English and Political Science, to more Navy specific ones like Oceanography, Naval Architecture, and Systems Engineering.
Faculty number around 600 professors, that include ex and current Navy, as well as professional educators, teaching small (18:1 ratio), collaborative classes. Not just academic education, there are stresses on moral and physical aspects as well. All here are asked to adhere to an Honor Concept ensuring the high fiber of all midshipmen, including the ability to call out another student seen breaking the honor code. As for physical, there is a mandatory athletic policy, as sports teams are here seen as “an integral part of the overall education”, teaching cooperation and maintaining a high level of fitness for all midshipmen.
Special programs for Naval students include a Summer Seminar for students with one more year of high school left and who are planning to enter the academy following graduation. In addition, there is a graduate program here available that exists at no other service academy, allowing a student to put off their commission in the Navy for work towards a graduate degree in their field at another school. Immediately after receipt of the Master’s degree, though, the Navy renews the contract and expects five years of dedicated service before any more education or a non-military career can be pursued.
Standing alongside the other service academies as the essential education for the men and women who defend our interests at home and abroad, whether it be sea, air, or ground, the US Naval Academy has stood in Annapolis in three different centuries and looks to be educating for many more to come.