Eric Mullen, Grand Rapids Community College’s associate dean for enrollment, financial aid, and management, was recently listed on the Grand Rapid’s Business Journal’s “40 Under 40”, a list honoring the region’s top young business leaders.
Mullen said that he has no idea who nominated him for the “40 under 40. “I was stunned at first that I was nominated,” he said. “Once the nominations were made we had to fill out an application. We were said to be the largest group ever that was being chosen from for the top 40.”
Mullen started working at GRCC in 1997 as the head of Student Life, right after he graduated from Aquinas with his undergraduate degree in sociology. “I just finished my undergrad, and I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life,” Mullen said. “While I was here it kind of dawned on me that this was a really good gig, and a really fun atmosphere. I kind of decided that this was what I wanted to do.”
In 1998 he took a job at Aquinas College as the student activities director, but Mullen said, “There was something about GRCC that was calling me back.” So in 2002 he returned to GRCC. Since getting his undergraduate degree at Aquinas, he also received his masters in higher education leadership from Grand Valley State University, and is currently working on his Ph.D. from Western Michigan University in higher education leadership.
When asked what he thinks personal stepping-stones were that got him where he was today, Mullen said, “I have always had an interest area in leadership. If you are a student who is interested in leadership, you never really reach that point where you are satisfied and feel like you have reached your full potential. You become a life-long learner. I always knew I wanted to be a teacher, but later I discovered I was more interested in the whole person development. It is you understanding your potential and meeting it.”
He said his biggest frustration in his job is simply that there is a “lack of resources.” When asked what the best part of his job is, Mullen said, “Since GRCC is much more horizontal, we get to work with our students on a much more personal level. Our main focus is always how can we improve things for our students.”
Mullen offers this advice to college students: “Figure out what you love, and go after it. What makes you excited, what makes you get out of bed everyday and what makes you passionate? In our world today you do not choose your career anymore, you mostly identify your portfolio skills and you figure out how to navigate yourself into the market that way. Be ready for change, and embrace it.”