BY ALEXIS GRAMATES
Students sit in Academic Commons, powering through the mounds of homework and projects that are due before the semester ends, and they think to themselves, “will I be able to make it?”
Dr. Darrell Mullins has been through the same college process not once, but three times. Some students may know him from the communications department, and some may know him from his appearances in local theatre.
Before becoming a professor, Mullins saw himself being an interpreter for the United Nations. He received his Bachelor of Arts in Spanish, Master of Arts in speech communication and his PhD in interpersonal/public communication. Aside from earning these three degrees, his biggest achievement has been being married to his best friend for 32 years, raising four amazing children and having one grandson.
What is the best advice you ever received?
“Follow your instincts. I think so often we end up following a plan that seems ‘logical’ rather than a plan for which we feel passion.”
What is the worst advice you ever received?
“When I was a freshman, I really struggled in my bio lab class. I had always considered myself a good student, so of course I went to the professor seeking advice. He was an older gentleman and I remember him looking at me over his eye glasses and saying ‘Young man, college isn’t for everyone.’
I was devastated. He was, in essence, advising me to forget about going to college. I wish, instead, he had said, ‘Think about if this is where you need to be right now.’ Even though his advice nearly killed my self-esteem, I ended up working harder and getting a B in the class. So, I guess the bad advice ended up motivating me in some way.”
What is your biggest fear in higher education?
“Not being able to get through to my students. I want to motivate and excite them, and sometimes it’s hard.”
What obstacles have you overcome in your life?
“I have struggled with depression and anxiety over the years, and I’m happy to say I’ve survived it. More recently, I have started the journey of coping with the loss of my wife.
It’s only been a few weeks, so I can’t say for sure that I’ve overcome it—but I am feeling good about being back at work and doing what I love. I will admit, though, it’s a daily struggle to stay focused and be able to concentrate.”
What advice can you give students during college?
“Ask for help—often! I know professors can seem a little intimidating at times, but we really do want to help you be successful, so if you are not doing well, ask us for help. At the same time, be prepared to hear things you won’t want to hear.
Sometimes I have to tell a student ‘I know you tried hard and I know you’re going through a lot, but that doesn’t mean that you are not held accountable for what you produce.’”
What advice do you have for those who are struggling in making a career decision?
“Stay open to possibilities. I honestly believe, with a few exceptions, that your undergraduate degree and ultimate career may seem to have little to do with one another. I think employers are looking for people who are critical thinkers who can express themselves orally and in writing.
As such, it’s not surprising to find, as a hypothetical example, that an art history major is a sales manager for a national corporation. So many degree paths prepare us to think and evaluate—that’s the true value of a college education in my opinion.”
What advice can you give students after graduation?
“Your first job probably won’t be your last. Be patient—be willing to do the grunt work to prove to an employer that you are worthy of more enjoyable work. Also, be financially smart—start saving now, you won’t regret it.”