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Perseverance Pays Off for This Navy Officer

Perseverance Pays Off for This Navy Officer
Jim Norman

Service to others is a value instilled in every Canterbury student from the moment they set foot on campus, and Lieutenant Commander Kimberly (Muirhead) Lujan ’09 has certainly taken that to heart—she is serving her country. Preparing to travel to Muscat, Oman, with her family to become the Naval Liaison Officer for the United States Embassy there, Kim took the time to come to the hilltop and speak to students as a “Saint Beyond the Hill.”

Standing at the front of Maguire Auditorium in her crisp white uniform, Kim shared how her accomplishments as a United States Naval Academy graduate and Navy Officer did not always come easy for her. It required a lot of dedication, perseverance, and even some failure. “You have to expect that, somewhere along the way, you are going to fail,” she said. “I have failed multiple times. The most important thing about failure is to be able to take it as a lesson and an opportunity. How do you come back from it? Take a look at yourself and then try again from a different angle. I did that many times—and it worked. 

Did it ever. She earned a B.S. in International Relations and Affairs from the Naval Academy in 2013; has spent nine-plus years in the Navy, most recently as a Foreign Area Officer; received two Navy Achievement Medals; learned two languages, Farsi and Dari; and served as an instructor for a Basic Division Officers course. She credits much of her success to the values and lessons she learned at Canterbury, where she was on the varsity soccer, swim, and tennis teams all four years; was involved in the theater program; and served as Spirit Club president and Student Council member.

“The Naval Academy was hard work, but I feel like I thrived,” she recalled. “The structure I had at Canterbury—the study hall, time-managing rigorous classes and sports, having a social life, the different clubs—all really helped carry me through.”

Kim shared that her time at Canterbury once again came into play during deployments as an officer on the USS Boxer LHD4 ship and the USS Kidd destroyer. “Living on a ship can be challenging. You are with the same people for six to nine months,” she said. “Doesn’t that sound similar to living here at Canterbury? One of the biggest things I learned while being on campus here is how you manage those different personalities—and your own personality.”

Perseverance has been crucial for Kim in achieving what she has in the Navy, especially since, as she explained, things did not always come as easily to her as others. “I am a slow learner, but when I get it, I get it good, and I am able to pass and succeed,” she said. “One of the lessons to remember as you are going through school is that it is okay if you are struggling. Please ask for help, be honest with yourself, and know that everybody has a different learning style and speed. Do not shy away from the extra help that teachers are offering.”

With her deployment experience and fluency in the Farsi and Dari languages, Kim is ready for her next adventure with husband Preston and daughter Lucy at the U.S. Embassy in Oman. “As the Naval Liaison Officer, I have an opportunity to help shape and define and create something for the Navy in my own niche area, so I am really excited about that,” she said.

And Kim was effusive in expressing gratitude to her alma mater. “Pay attention to the skills, the relationships, and the community you are building while you are at Canterbury,” she told the captivated audience. “I can say from experience that what I learned here, I have carried with me through literally everything. I am here today because of Canterbury.”