CHDS ELP, PELP Alum First Woman Appointed U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Superintendent

It didn’t take Rear Adm. Joanna Nunan (US. Coast Guard, Ret.) long after her retirement from a 35-year career in the Coast Guard to find her next challenge. 

Just seven months after her retirement ceremony in April 2022, the Center for Homeland Defense and Security alum (Executive Leaders Program 1201, Pacific Executive Leaders Program 1101) was appointed in November 2022 as the 14th superintendent of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, NY, the first woman to take over the prestigious post. 

Nunan said she actually heard in March that the previous Merchant Marine Academy superintendent was retiring and the former Coast Guard Academy supervisor and trustee said she knew she still wanted to be in public service, so she expressed her interest. 

Rear Adm. Joanna Nunan

According to Nunan, the Merchant Marine Academy charged with educating and graduating leaders committed to serve the U.S. national security, marine transportation, and economic needs as licensed Merchant Marine Officers and commissioned officers in the Armed Forces “really encompasses everything that mattered to me in my career,” including preparing the nation’s leaders and its “infrastructure of readiness.” 

“It’s [the Merchant Marine Academy] such a unique place,” Nunan said. “It’s all about talent management. We’re really creating leaders for our nation. And I truly love wearing the uniform.” 

Maritime Administrator Ann Phillips said, “Rear Admiral Nunan is uniquely prepared to lead and strengthen USMMA on every front. She understands both the critical role USMMA plays in our economic and national security and the organizational transformations that are essential to ensuring USMMA prepares students in a safe and respectful environment to excel in a maritime industry undergoing rapid change.” 

Nunan graduated from CHDS ELP and PELP about a decade ago, and also attended PELP sessions while stationed in Hawaii, and said she has recommended the programs to many people over the years since then. She noted the link between the Coast Guard and homeland security, and said her experience at CHDS “solidified in my mind that I am a homeland security professional.” 

During her more than three decades in the Coast Guard, the 1987 Coast Guard Academy graduate rose through the ranks to top leadership positions including Deputy for Personnel Readiness, in which she oversaw the Coast Guard’s entire personnel enterprise including the recruitment, training, support, and retention of all active duty, reserve, and civilian personnel. 

Rear Adm. Joanna Nunan at her Assumption of Command Ceremony, December 8, 2022

Nunan also served as Assistant Commandant for Human Resources where she helped lead efforts to expand diversity and inclusion in the Coast Guard, including policy changes aimed at improving retention of women in the service, and she served on the Coast Guard’s Sexual Assault Prevention, Response, and Recovery Committee. 

She also served earlier in her career as military advisor to U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and military assistant to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta. 

Nunan served nearly a decade at sea during her Coast Guard career, including commanding two buoy tenders, and also served as Commander of the Ninth Coast Guard District and as Commander of Coast Guard Sector Honolulu. She obtained three Coast Guard merchant mariner licenses, including Master of vessels under 1,600 gross tons and Third Mate on vessels of unlimited tonnage.

INQUIRIES: Heather Hollingsworth Issvoran, Communications and Recruitment |, 831-402-4672 (PST)

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