18 Years After Leaving Texas A&M To Join Marines, Student Veteran To Be Student Voice For Graduation Ceremony

Iraq combat veteran Steve Mullen will deliver a commencement speech during spring ceremonies this weekend. (Texas A&M College of Agriculture & Life Sciences)

Iraq combat veteran Steve Mullen will deliver a commencement speech during spring ceremonies this weekend. (Texas A&M College of Agriculture & Life Sciences)

By Kendra Davis, Texas A&M University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Highlights

  • Steve Mullen withdrew from Texas A&M in 2000 to join the Marines
  • The Iraq War veteran returned to Texas A&M more than a decade later to complete a degree in university studies-leadership from the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences
  • He will deliver the student expression of appreciation during ceremonies this Friday

A Texas A&M University College of Agriculture & Life Sciences student and combat veteran has been selected by representatives from the Student Government Association and the Office of the Provost to deliver the student expression of appreciation  at the 9 a.m. commencement ceremony Friday, Aug. 10, at Reed Arena.

Almost twenty years ago, Steve Mullen, originally class of 2002, began his time here at Texas A&M as a history major and member of the Corps of Cadets with plans to join the military following graduation. However, Mullen, currently class of 2018, will be graduating as a university studies-leadership major with years of combat and work experience under his belt.

“About twenty years ago, I was beginning my first year here at freshman orientation in the Corps of Cadets,” Mullen said. “The summer of 2000, I decided to withdraw from the University and enlist in the Marine Corps. One year later, the Sept. 11 attacks occurred, and I deployed in support of operations 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 Texas 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,” Mullen said. “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 10 years traveling 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 Texas A&M without receiving his diploma and 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,” Mullen said. “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,” Mullen said. “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.”

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,” Dooley said. “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. Col. Gerald Smith, director of the center, believes that Mullen is the perfect candidate to be the student voice at this summer’s graduation ceremony.

“Steve is a true leader who exemplifies our Aggie core values every day,” Smith said. “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 20 or so years, Mullen finds it hard to believe that he will be giving a speech at graduation. He 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,” Mullen said. “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.

Graduation ceremonies will take place on Texas A&M’s campus Friday, Aug. 10, at 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. in Reed Arena.

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Media contact: Kendra Davis, Kendra.davis@ag.tamu.edu.


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