1/c Lukasik: Plotting a different course

This week, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy Class of 2014 is preparing for commencement. Coast Guard Compass will be featuring four academy cadets throughout the week, each with their own inspiring story. Today we feature the story of Cadet 1st Class Jessica Lukasik, recipient of a Fulbright grant.

Cadet Jessica Lukasik talks to Rear Adm. Sandra Stosz about how she earned the 2014 Fulbright Scholarship. U.S. Coast Guard photos by Petty Officer 3rd Class Richard Brahm.

Cadet Jessica Lukasik talks to Rear Adm. Sandra Stosz about how she earned the 2014 Fulbright Scholarship. U.S. Coast Guard photos by Petty Officer 3rd Class Richard Brahm.

Written by Petty Officer 2nd Class Cory J. Mendenhall.

Trees, hedges and all manner of flowering plants are in bloom at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. This dramatic change in scenery signifies one thing to academy staff, faculty, and cadets: Commencement is near. As many graduating cadets are gearing up to disperse into the fleet as newly-commissioned ensigns, Cadet 1st Class Jessica Lukasik will embark on a unique journey after commencement.

“It will be about two years before I join the fleet like the rest of my classmates,” said Lukasik, who was recently awarded the prestigious Fulbright grant to earn her master’s degree at the University of Mauritius, located on a small island 1,200 miles off the coast of Africa.

Cadet Jessica Lukasik poses for a photo with Rear Adm. Sandra Stosz, the superintendent of the Coast Guard Academy, Kurt Colella, dean of academics, and Alina Zapalska, professor of economics, at the academy. U.S. Coast Guard photos by Petty Officer 3rd Class Richard Brahm.

Cadet Jessica Lukasik poses for a photo with Rear Adm. Sandra Stosz, the superintendent of the Coast Guard Academy, Kurt Colella, dean of academics, and Alina Zapalska, professor of economics, at the academy. U.S. Coast Guard photos by Petty Officer 3rd Class Richard Brahm.

The Fulbright program awards highly-competitive, merit-based grants to top-performing students, enabling them to study and conduct research internationally. Receiving this grant speaks to Lukasik’s character and intellect and reflects well on the academy which has fostered her academic development.

Lukasik has been preparing herself while in the Academy honors program for the past four years, and spent a year working on her Fulbright application. She was awarded the grant based on her research proposal and the graduate program which she will pursue. She will be studying the interactions between fisheries and the growing tourism industry in Mauritius and developing a sustainable marine spatial plan for the island nation.

“I’ve always loved going abroad,” said Lukasik. “I hope to one day serve as a Coast Guard security liaison, ideally in Africa.”

Lukasik has spent the last four years as a cadet, sharpening her skills in the three Academy-revered tenets of academics, athletics and military training. These three pillars of Academy life ensure cadets are well trained and, oftentimes, very busy.

“The Academy has taught me that there are definite limits on what any one human being can accomplish in a day, a week, a semester or a year,” said Lukasik. “But often those limits are higher than you might expect.”

In addition to Lukasik’s stellar academic performance, she is also an accomplished triathlete and marathoner.

“I came into the academy with a predisposition to want to do everything,” said Lukasik. “Every sport, club, class, leadership role, opportunity and activity was presented to me. I wanted to fill up my plate with all of it.”

While attempting to balance three clubs, competing in triathlons, training for marathons and taking on extra research and coursework, Lukasik learned a valuable lesson.

“In the middle of my marathon, I wound up with stress fractures and had to be taken off the course,” said Lukasik. “It taught me a very valuable, albeit painful lesson: sometimes less is more.”

Cutting back on activities helped Lukasik better focus and during her first class summer, she served as the Echo Company executive officer, overseeing the training of incoming swabs.

Cadet 1st Class Jessica Lukasik. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Richard Brahm.

Cadet 1st Class Jessica Lukasik. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Richard Brahm.

“It was immense amount of pressure,” remembered Lukasik. “Training the next class of Coast Guard leaders is a huge task. I was very excited to be there to help guide the new second class cadets as they successfully completed that task, as well as watch the swabs grow. It was a ton of fun and incredibly rewarding.”

Lukasik will miss her time at the academy, but looks forward to the many opportunities on the horizon. She leaves a few words for those coming up through the ranks and those who may be considering attending the Academy.

“These four years at the academy are truly a blessing,” said Lukasik. “It’s the only time you’ll ever live next door to all of your closest friends all at once. Come in ready to learn and ready to work hard, but also be ready to have fun and savor every moment.”

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