Inspired Arrival

CAPT Brigid Pavilonis

Massachusetts Maritime Academy’s new Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs, CAPT Brigid Pavilonis, arrived on campus in July, bringing with her a commitment to student success honed by 20 years in the classroom at the United States Coast Guard Academy (her alma mater).

After graduating in 1991, she served as Deck Watch Officer on CGC RELIANCE out of New Castle, NH for two years, then as an Admiral’s Aid in Boston and DC.  In 1995, she was assigned for two years to Sector Long Island Sound, where she directed Search and Rescue and Marine Environmental response operations.  Though feeling completely at home with the Coast Guard, its mission, and on a career path that might have taken her anywhere she wanted to go, Pavilonis realized she’d always been drawn to academia and felt a kinship with teaching professionals. “It was something about the nature of teaching and learning, and the fact that I had mentors who had an enormous impact on my life within that process.”

Bucking what many saw as the traditional way forward, Pavilonis then followed her instincts. After earning her Masters’ at Tufts’ Fletcher School, in 1999 she found herself back at the Coast Guard Academy standing at the head of a classroom full of young, earnest minds. In 2005 she was offered a Permanent Commissioned Teaching Staff position there (akin to tenure), which she eagerly accepted.  She went back to Fletcher for her PhD, and remained in New London as a faculty member and later Department Chair of Social Sciences and the Humanities until last year.

Possessing that indispensable combination of “real world” experience and academic achievement, Pavilonis sees many similarities between New London and Taylor’s Point. Both are mission-driven institutions which produce educated, well-rounded professional mariners who are also disciplined, thoughtful leaders. To that end, the role as educator is not so much teaching the subject as it is teaching students how to think and problem-solve, Pavilonis says. “In my brief time here, it has already become clear to me that the Massachusetts Maritime Academy community is deeply committed to its students. I am privileged to be a part of an authentic, caring teaching faculty who pride themselves on educational excellence and believe in what they are doing.”