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Frank Calicura, his wife, and three children as the family welcomes him home from deployment

Navy Submariner Obtains MS-MBA

It can be hard to apply to colleges when you are deployed on a submarine more than 500 feet below sea level in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Frank Calicura, a Lieutenant in the United States Navy, endured that challenge in 2022 when he began pursuing options to obtain his graduate degree. The swift response he received from the University of Tennessee impressed Calicura.

He submitted his application for the dual-degree MS-MBA program offered by the Tickle College of Engineering in collaboration with the Haslam College of Business on a Tuesday. By the next morning, he heard back from an administrator to arrange an interview.

“A lot of the other programs I dealt with had four-, six- or eight-week lead times, and with me being on a submarine going to sea a lot, that made it pretty difficult to set up interviews,” Calicura said. “I ended up doing an interview with Stanford over the phone standing on a pier in Guam and an interview with Harvard in a hotel room in Japan because I was deployed.”

Calicura, 33, ultimately chose UT and graduated from the two-year program this spring with an MS in electrical engineering and an MBA.

Frank Calicura and his wife

A Northern California native, Calicura enlisted in the Navy right out of high school in 2009. He was a nuclear-trained electrician for seven years and was selected to the Seaman to Admiral-21 program that allows active-duty enlisted sailors to earn a college degree and become commissioned officers. Calicura received his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at SUNY Maritime College in New York.

Once he graduated, he was commissioned as a submarine officer and stationed on the USS Alexandria (SSN 757), a fast attack submarine assigned to Submarine Squadron 11 in San Diego, California. He did two Western Pacific deployments lasting about six-to-eight months.

Towards the end of the tour, Calicura was named Junior Officer of the Year for Submarine Squadron 11 and selected for the Fleet Scholars Education Program to pursue his masters.

“The University of Tennessee was a good fit because my concentration in undergrad was power production and distribution. Part of the reason I chose the program from Tickle was because it has power systems as well as control,” Calicura said. “Some of the research that I was able to see from my peers within the program, the PhD candidates, and the professors was pretty groundbreaking, and I think a lot of it has potential to really influence the way that the grid is shaped in the future.”

Calicura family sitting in Neyland Stadium watching a University of Tennessee football game

During his time at UT, Calicura, his wife, and their three children made Knoxville their home. They attended several UT sporting events and fell in love with the area.

Calicura and his family have been stationed in Charleston, South Carolina twice; Norfolk, Virginia; Newport, Rhode Island; Groton, Connecticut; New York City; and San Diego.

The day after Calicura graduated from UT, the family packed up and moved to Connecticut, where Calicura will spend six months at Navy department head school to reacclimate to submarine duty.

Calicura will be taking what he learned at UT back with him to his fleet to share with other Naval officers. He has five more years in the Navy until he’s eligible for retirement. Although he’s not sure if he will retire immediately at the 20-year mark, he knows it’s coming.

“I enjoy being a submarine officer, but I’m married with three kids so that is very hard on the family,” he said. “Having these degrees from UT definitely makes me more marketable as a job candidate now whenever I do decide to retire.


Rhiannon Potkey (865-974-0683,