Written by Kendra Davis
A Texas A&M University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences student and combat veteran has been selected by representatives from the Student Government Association and the Office of the Provost to deliver a speech at the commencement ceremony August 10.
Twenty years ago, Steve Mullen, originally class of 2002, began his time here at A&M as a history major and member of the Corps of Cadets with plans to join the military following graduation. However, today Mullen, class of 2018, will be graduating as a university studies-leadership major with years of combat and work experience under his belt.
“Twenty years ago, I was beginning my first year here at freshman orientation in the Corps of Cadets,” said Mullen. “The summer of 2000, I decided to withdraw from the university and enlist in the Marine Corps. One year later the September 11th attacks occurred, and I deployed in support of operations in in Afghanistan, went to Iraq for the invasion and then back to Iraq once more before getting out.”
After completing four years in the infantry, Mullen came back to A&M to finish his degree and get his Aggie ring but found the transition from military to student life to be more difficult than anticipated.
“I went from being in a fire fight in Iraq to sitting in class two months later,” said Mullen. “My mind was not in it at all, so I left and didn’t even bother withdrawing from the university. I moved to Dallas and found a job as a project manager with an oil and gas company where I worked for ten years travelling all over the world and making a six-figure salary.”
Despite Mullen’s success within the oil and gas industry, he never felt satisfied knowing that he left A&M without receiving, not only his diploma, but the piece of Aggie gold that he had longed for his whole life.
“Not having my degree wasn’t impeding me professionally, but it was just something that I personally wanted,” said Mullen. “It bothered me that I didn’t have my ring, especially after seeing my dad’s, uncle’s and sister’s. That’s all I ever knew and is something that I’ve wanted my whole life.”
With the help of faculty in the Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications Department, and the College of Agriculture’s Associate Dean for Academic Operations, Dr. Kim Dooley, Mullen was able to get back in the groove of being a full-time student.
“I felt that there was a community within the ALEC department, not just with the students but even with the professors,” said Mullen. “I made a real connection with Dr. Jen Strong and Kim Dooley. They made me feel welcome and gave me strong bonds within the department.”
Dr. Dooley had the privilege of working with Mullen with the Townsend Leadership Fellows on their international field trip to the Hacienda Santa Clara in Mexico, where Mullen exemplified strong leadership styles and qualities.
“Steve impressed me with his servant leadership style and was always first to help others in the group, serving as a mentor and encourager,” said Dooley. “His selfless service in the armed forces has given him the maturity and self-determination to come back and finish his degree. I am very proud of him and the impact he has had and will have in the future.”
Mullen has continued to put his leadership and selfless service to good use by working at the Veteran Resource and Support Center. Colonel Gerald Smith, director of the Veteran and Resource Support Center, believes that Mullen is the perfect candidate to deliver the speech as the Student Voice at this summer’s graduation ceremony.
“Steve is a true leader who exemplifies our Aggie core values every day,” said Smith. “As a student worker in the Veteran Resource and Support Center, his dedication to excellence and selfless service has enhanced the services that Texas A&M now provides to our student veterans.”
Looking back on the past twenty years, Mullen finds it hard to believe that he will be giving a speech at graduation but has used his many trials and tribulations as building blocks on his path to success.
“Never in a million years did I think I’d be giving a commencement speech,” said Mullen. “I am significantly older than most of the people that are going to be graduating with me, but I think it goes to show that you can accomplish anything, even when things get thrown your way. If you have the determination and the will to keep moving forward, you can.”
After graduation, Mullen plans to return to the workforce to pursue a career in management consulting or project management.
Graduations will take place on Texas A&M’s campus at 9am and 2pm in Reed Arena. More information regarding which college will graduate at each ceremony can be found at https://graduation.tamu.edu/Home/Texas-A-M-University-College-Station#0-Summer2018