Old Dominion University's national search for a first-of-its-kind leader fully focused on the institution's maritime efforts has resulted in the selection of Elspeth McMahon as Associate Vice President for Maritime Initiatives effective July 10, 2022. This new position was created as a result of the deliberations of a task force assembled by ODU and co-led by John "Dubby" Wynne and Nancy Grden to identify areas in which the University could help catalyze economic development in Hampton Roads.
Subsequently, ODU and the Hampton Roads Maritime Collaborative for Growth & Innovation (HRMC) commissioned a report, "A Pathway for Maritime Innovation in Hampton Roads," which was prepared by TEConomy Partners. The report identified major economic areas to leverage and expand the region's innovation and workforce support for the maritime industry. President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D. unveiled the report and ODU's national search for ODU's Associate Vice President for Maritime Initiatives in Fall 2021.
With Elspeth's recent selection, President Hemphill shared, "I am pleased to welcome Elspeth to the Commonwealth of Virginia, Hampton Roads, and Monarch Nation. She has a strong educational background and direct international experience that will be so critical in our on-going efforts to increase our impact in the region and across the state, as well as gain national and international recognition for our long-standing contributions to maritime."
Earlier this month, following approval of the Board of Visitors, ODU announced the forthcoming establishment of ODU's School of Supply Chain, Logistics, and Maritime Operations, a key step in elevating maritime as a signature strength, as well as responding to industry needs for supply chain and logistics training and research. In the critical role of Associate Vice President for Maritime Initiatives, Elspeth will coordinate ODU's extensive and varied programs, outreach, and services that engage with the region's maritime enterprises to increase engagement and better serve the needs of external stakeholders in growing the maritime sector, including port logistics and supply chain; shipbuilding and repair; naval sustainment; offshore wind energy; and coastal resilience.
Elspeth has a diverse maritime background, including experience as a Licensed Merchant Mariner, Assistant Professor of Marine Transportation at SUNY Maritime College, and Commander in the United States Navy Reserve. She is highly skilled in leadership, management, and industry outreach backed by nearly two decades of direct experience and extensive education and training in the field of marine transportation. She holds an active United States Coast Guard (USCG) Chief Mate License and is currently completing a doctoral degree in Nautical Sciences at the University of Antwerp and Antwerp Maritime Academy in Belgium.
As an innovative leader in the field, Elspeth is directly involved in the future of maritime technology as a member of the Belgian Shipowners' Association Autonomous Ship Think Tank and also a member of the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science, and Technology. She strives to grow and excel both at sea and ashore. In being selected for this important position, she shared, "The maritime industry invisibly touches everything we see. In an era of rapid technological advancement, it is essential that we are at the forefront of where this industry is headed. ODU recognizes its potential to be positioned as a leader in all things maritime. By continuing to collaborate with external stakeholders, embracing technology and innovation, and advocating for entrepreneurship, we can create a diverse and dynamic maritime workforce that can strengthen and shape the future of the maritime economy in Hampton Roads. I am proud to be a part of this journey."
The national search was chaired by Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center (VMASC) Executive Director and Associate Vice President Eric Weisel, Ph.D., as well as Nancy Grden, with support from Julie Tea of Storbeck Search. In addition to sharing his appreciation for members of the Search Committee, as well as campus community members and local industry representatives, Dr. Weisel said, "Elspeth's selection is yet another signal that ODU's research and service mission are on a trajectory to reach unprecedented heights in the months and years to come."
Vice President for Research Morris Foster, Ph.D., who oversees ODU's research enterprise, including VMASC, said, "I look forward to Elspeth's many contributions as she joins the Office of Research team and works diligently with members of the campus community and the broader region in establishing ODU as the nation's top R1 university for maritime workforce development and innovation."