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U.S. Coast Guard Academy becomes the first federal service academy to go Google

Posted by Brad Robinson, Information Security Manager

I’m proud to announce that my alma mater, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, is the first service academy to move to Google Apps. Founded in the late 1800’s, the Academy is one of the oldest federal service academies. Its small campus on the banks of the Thames River, flanked by Connecticut College and the Groton Submarine Navy Base, is home to 1,100 students — called “cadets.” The Academy trains these bright young people, more than a third of whom are women, for positions of leadership in the Coast Guard.

Last January, all of the cadets migrated to Google Apps. The cadets have been really pleased with the new tools they use for email, coursework, collaboration with other cadets on a range of projects and even video chat with their families and friends.

The Academy started piloting Google Apps in early 2010 with 100 staff members from various departments. That spring, a faulty electrical transformer on campus knocked out power to the Academy for well over a week. Worse, it was the week of commencement, and they were quite literally powerless to do anything about it. The Academy had a catastrophic loss of email during that span when the on-premise email servers reached capacity. The only people who didn’t lose any email was the pilot group on Google Apps.

Between academics, military training and extracurricular activities, the life of a cadet can be pretty demanding. These “mobile warriors” are always on the go and need to access their email, class work and other information whether they’re on or off campus. Google Apps has helped the Academy meet the cadets’ needs for mobility.

The cadets are also using these tools to improve collaboration on team projects. One group of four cadets created a Google Site for their capstone project designing a mini gas turbine engine. They could simultaneously edit spreadsheets, use video chat to share ideas, and even work together with students and professors from other universities to gather input. The cadets are a driving force of change across the campus. Today, nearly half the faculty and staff have converted to Google Apps and that number continues to climb.

As a former cadet, I congratulate the Academy on this milestone. I could not be more pleased that the work we do at Google is helping current cadets.