A Conversation With West Point’s Associate Dean for Strategy and Initiatives

By Joshua Kim

Chris Mayer is an Associate Dean for Strategy and Initiatives, an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the United States Military Academy at West Point, and a colonel in the US Army. I first ran across Chris on his active Twitter feed @ChrisMayer_WP. Chris generously offered to answer my questions about academic life within the military, his thoughts on COVID-19 and the academy, and the future of higher education. Please note that the views expressed in this article are Chris Mayer’s and do not reflect the official policy or position of the United States Military Academy, the Department of the Army, or the Department of Defense.

Q1: I’d like to start by trying to understand the world of the US service academies. These include West Point (where you are) and the four other academies for the Navy, the Air Force, the Coast Guard, and the Merchant Marine. Can you provide insights into where the service academies fit into the broader postsecondary ecosystem, and maybe some points of distinction and differentiation?

Service academies have the mission of developing and graduating leaders of character to serve as officers in their respective services. The United States Military Academy’s (West Point) graduates are commissioned as Army officers, United States Naval Academy graduates as Naval officers, United States Air Force Academy graduates as Air Force officers, United States Coast Guard graduates as Coast Guard officers, and United States Merchant Marine Academy graduates become licensed Merchant Marine officers or commissioned officers in the Armed Forces. Students at service academies do not pay tuition or room or board, but they do have a service obligation once they graduate (West Point graduates have a five-year active duty service obligation).


Author: Dian Welle