Adapting for the Future
New VP for Academic Affairs & Provost says MMA graduates have what the US needs.
DR. KEITH WILLIAMSON BRINGS more than 30 years experience to his key leadership position; 13 years as a mechanical and electronics engineer and project manager for the US Navy, and 17 years in academic leadership and teaching. He was most recently Dean of the School of Business and Technology at Fitchburg State University.
Williamson is an avid learner and passionate about the role of research and student welfare. He sees MMA positioned to keep pace with technology and higher standards driving marine and related fields the Academy serves.
What brought you to MMA?
Deep appreciation for the MMA mission. I worked for more than a decade as a ship program manager for the US Navy. My job involved phased maintenance of the US Navy’s Landing Personnel Docks. I oversaw the planning, design, and installation of ship alterations related to repairs and maintenance, but also modernization with new technologies. I found the work with ships inspiring, and it motivated me to go back to school to study materials and become an educator. MMA’s mission inspires me the same way, and I’m honored to be part of such a great institution with a remarkable record of success.
What best prepared you for the position at MMA?
While in the Navy, I learned the importance of embracing change and working with people from different backgrounds and perspectives.
I started my career at SUPSHIP Boston working on battleships that were brought back to service after many years in the inactive fleet. The same office was also responsible for ongoing support and maintenance of the USS . I worked with mariners who cared deeply about the profession and were generous with their time and patient with newcomers.
What impresses you most about MMA?
During this pandemic, we’ve stayed true to our commitment to keep each other safe. The entire community has been thoughtful and patient in dealing with compressed semesters, scheduling changes, snow days, make-up days, and enough Zoom meetings for a lifetime.
What challenges face MMA?
The maritime industry is being impacted by the revolution in cyber-physical systems and automation. The pace of change is rapid, and like other employers, the marine industry needs graduates who can quickly adapt to change. As a top provider of engineering, management, science, and transportation graduates, our stakeholders are expecting to see this in our graduates. This adaptability requires that we have an approach for continuous improvement. When you’re as good as we are, it’s tough to find how to improve what’s already better than what most people do. It can be a challenge, but the MMA community is up to it.
What are the major opportunities?
I’m ecstatic about the opportunities for off-shore wind. Although there are unanswered questions, we’re pretty clear-eyed that off-shore wind technologies and related infrastructure will boost demand for MMA graduates from our traditional license programs, and from new areas of emphasis, such as autonomous ships, port logistics, pollution monitoring, and reliability. There is no question MMA’s focus on leadership and character, combined with strong technical competence, is what our nation needs as we embrace new and sustainable energy resources.
What’s something most people don’t know about you?
I like to restore ship models and I’m learning to play the electric guitar. I thought I was doing a pretty good job restoring ship models until I saw the phenomenal models here on campus.
My music is getting better, but my kids have advised me to stick to my day job.
Photo: Billy R. Sims