Dartmouth's Mikayla Correia tackles leadership at maritime academy

By Douglas McCulloch | Jun 23, 2017
Courtesy of: FJ Gaylor Photography Mikayla Correia.

Mikayla Correia accomplished a lot of firsts at Massachusetts Maritime Academy, from her first overseas trip to her first exposure to the maritime industry. There’s also an important second. She’s the second female Regimental Commander in academy history.

The Dartmouth resident’s journey to the top student leadership position in the academy began shortly before her 2014 graduation from Dartmouth High. Unsure about a career path or where to study, she discovered the Buzzards Bay-located academy and grew to admire it, even though her family doesn’t have a background in the maritime industry.

“I have family who were fishermen, but that was my only connection to the water,” Correia said. “That gave me the most anxiety.”

But she discovered the academy closely aligned with her own values, and places a heavy emphasis on experiential learning. Experiential learning is what led her on her first trip outside the United States, which has since morphed her into a globetrotter who casually lists off exotic locals she’s worked in through academy programs.

Although confident in travel now, her very first overseas trip to Panama – alone - got off to a rough start when she realized she couldn’t use her cell phone in the country, triggering a frantic search for a workaround.

“I spoke a little Portuguese, but that didn’t help,” Correia recalled. “I had to recruit people to help me buy a SIM card for my phone.”

In Panama, she worked at the Panama Canal, and participates in an exchange program with the Universidad Maritima de Panamá every year.

“I’ve made dozens of friends through this program. They taught me Spanish too,” Correia said.

She climbed the ranks of the academy’s Regiment of Cadets leadership structure, culminating in her appointment as next year’s Regimental Commander at a ceremony in May. Next year, her senior year, she will oversee all cadets in the regiment. She’s the second female Regimental Commander in the academy’s history, although she views that as more of an inspiration for aspiring female commanders.

“I think it’s only special in the sense that I’ll encourage other women to take on this opportunity,” she said.

As regimental commander, part of Correia’s job includes representing the academy at events and getting the word out about its programs. She aims to tackle misconceptions prospective students might have about the academy, like the idea that it’s only for those who want to work on ships.

It’s something even Correia discovered she has no interest in after living aboard a merchant marine ship in Asia supporting the United States Navy’s Seventh Fleet. Although she admitted the experience was eye-opening, it wasn’t for her.

“It’s really a different life, and it takes a special kind of person to do,” Correia said. “There’s a huge culture shock too. You’re on naval bases, but as soon as you leave it’s a different world.”

She added that it wasn’t uncommon to move between various countries on a routine basis, making the culture shock stand out even more.

Instead, Correia plans to use her major in international maritime business to break into the logistics industry, owing to her love of complex systems and finding ways to improve efficiency.

Mikayla Correia, standing alongside outgoing Regimental Commander Thomas McEntee, at the Change of Command ceremony. (Courtesy of: Gina Manning)
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