Cal Maritime Cadets Ready To Become ‘Giants Of Industry’


Credit: unsplash/John

After four years of navigating difficult times while learning the tools of the industry, Cal Maritime Academy cadets were in need of a joke to help loosen things up on Saturday morning. With this in mind, Craig Johnson used his time before the undergraduate students for a knock-knock joke.

“Knock, knock,” Johnson said.

“Who’s there?” the audience replied loudly in unison.

“Actually, there is no punchline,” Johnson said. “I’m just here to say that opportunity is at the door.”

Opportunity. The word was used often during Cal Maritime 2023 Graduation Ceremony. During her commencement address, Ally Cedeno of Women Offshore Foundation used the word when speaking to the school’s 93rd graduating class — this one featuring 195 cadets graduating, along with another 17 earning their master’s degrees.

“The world needs your leadership and you belong in this industry,” Cedeno said. “You are your own captain of your life and your ship’s name is Opportunity. Whether you are ashore or afloat, I look forward to seeing you do work in the industry.”

Cedeno, the founder and president of the Women Offshore Foundation, is a 2008 graduate of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, and a 2020 graduate of Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business with a master’s in business administration. She is licensed as a chief mate of unlimited tonnage vessels and has worked as a senior dynamic positioning operator.

At Transocean, she is the HR focal point for four ultra-deepwater drillships and has spent much of her career at sea as one of the only women in operations on the vessels she worked on. Yet she is determined to change that with the Women Offshore Foundation, an online organization and resource center for a diverse workforce on the water.

The organization’s mission is to propel women into meaningful careers through access to a worldwide community and professional development resources, while raising awareness among industry leaders and decision-makers about issues affecting women on the water.

Cedeno’s speech had added meaning for students on a campus that has dealt with the kind of turmoil experienced at Cal Maritime. The Times-Herald and Los Angeles Times reported on accusations of rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment from students and employees aboard the 500-foot ship.

The 2023 class also experienced a fire on campus in October of 2019 that halted in-person classes temporarily. Then came a global COVID-19 pandemic that halted in-person classes in March of 2020.

“I have faced immense challenges and at times they have taken a toll,” Cedeno said. “I have experienced sexual harassment and assault as colleagues have looked the other way. There were times I wanted to quit, but I stuck with it because I am the captain of my life. Just like all of you I belong near the sea and in this industry. I’m starting to see change. Now I see women behind me and in front of me when navigating this career.”

Johnson also addressed taking “what we’ve learned to have a better and more inclusive workforce.”

“We need to be more inclusive,” Johnson said. “We need to end all harassment and work together … over the last four years we’ve known each other on and off campus, in the residence halls. Only one group shared all these experiences and that’s us.”

Joyce-Lynn Redondo used her graduate student address to talk about how her time at Cal Maritime had inspired her.

“As I look upon you, I am overwhelmed with emotions,” Redondo said. “I’m full of excitement, relief and curiosity. I now have a lot of pride and confidence to say, ‘I’m a Keelhauler.’ This program shaped me to help me overcome obstacles and create friendships that will last a lifetime. We are the ones that have chosen to change Cal Maritime. The credit belongs to us.”

Rear Admiral and Cal Maritime President Thomas A. Cropper told cadets and their friends and families how proud they should be for getting through the pandemic.

“This is a great day for the graduates,” Cropper said. “They confronted the impossible and created the possible during COVID-19. They’re ready for global careers in their impactful professions. Today is a dream come true for a generation — your generation. We have great hopes, faith and expectations for all of you.”

Jolene Koester, the Interim Chancellor, also wished the graduating class her best in a written speech.

“This celebration marks a new beginning for you — a time to commence a new life, with opportunities and prospects made possible by your degree from California State University. With this rite of passage we call commencement you will join a dynamic, global network of more than 4 million CSU alumni … I ask that — in the Cal State spirit — you use the knowledge, skills and personal qualities you have developed to work for justice, seek opportunities to foster equity and always uplift and empower others.

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Source: Timesherald