Kevin Mullet earned his first college credits in 1983 while a U.S. Navy photographer aboard the USS Saratoga. Over the next four decades, five universities — online and brick-and-mortar, and three changes in majors, he continued his education and will receive his Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociocultural and Linguistic Anthropology with a minor in Journalism and Mass Communication this month from The University of New Mexico.
During those years, Mullet also met and married his wife, they had two children, and he worked for 30 years in information technology and as a photographer. But he found something lacking.
“Some of my over 200 undergraduate hours were achieved burning the midnight oil when I had jobs that held little or no work/life balance. Many of the hours I attempted, I just fell flat on my face, trying to do too much, too well, too late. Over the course of those decades, I acquired an education in my own neurodivergence and gradually learned how I learn best, not just how a syllabus or course objectives dictate that I learn,” Mullet said.
Mullet noted that he was born in 1961, the year the Berlin wall was built, an event many of his UNM classmates know about only from history textbooks. The decades have given him perspective and insight into his pursuit of education at UNM.
“For quite a while now, I've been the oldest person in the room in all of my classes, and probably older than the combined ages of any two or three of my classmates,” Mullet observed. “I say this not to spotlight my age, but to spotlight my perspective. I choose topics for projects, or which courses to take, not exclusively to check off items on a degree plan list, to please an authority figure, or to increase my value as an income-earner, but to further complete the jigsaw puzzle that represents the person I want to be. I had no idea what transitional justice was before I took the course, and it certainly checked no box on my degree plan, but I thought it might help provide insight into an Undergraduate Anthropology Honors program research project I was writing. That course changed the course of my life, and now I want to spend the rest of my career pursuing transitional justice.”
Mullet wants to explore the intersection of transitional justice and computing, Artificial Intelligence, and the use of data, and plans to attend graduate school at UNM — probably either a Ph.D. program in Political Science or Sociocultural and Linguistic Anthropology.
"Some of my over 200 undergraduate hours were achieved burning the midnight oil when I had jobs that held little or no work/life balance. Many of the hours I attempted, I just fell flat on my face, trying to do too much, too well, too late. Over the course of those decades, I acquired an education in my own neurodivergence and gradually learned how I learn best, not just how a syllabus or course objectives dictate that I learn." – Kevin Mullet, BA, Sociocultural & Linguistic Anthropology
His past careers influenced his options.
“I had a moment of realization while working at a Fortune 100 company, and I saw that for the most part, each urgent goal was a copy and paste of a previous urgent goal. A great deal of thought never seemed to go into essential reasons why we made the choices we did. This led me to believe that perhaps a greater understanding of the choices we make relevant to technology and to each other was to be found in a broad social science such as Political Science or Sociocultural and Linguistic Anthropology.
Mullet isn’t the only person in his family pursuing an education and new paths. His wife Dianna, “having reached a pinnacle of her career in Information Technology, re-invented herself, earned a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology, and is now a tenured professor and department chair at Navajo Technical University.”
The couple’s oldest son will graduate in the spring from UNM and their youngest son Richie has applied to UNM and will begin in the fall.
“Dianna has been a wellspring of focus inspiration as well as academic advice,” Mullet said, adding, “My oldest son Alec, who is currently student teaching and about to enter his last semester before becoming a high-school English teacher, has a breathtaking ability to break down any project into its constituent parts and work through them well in advance of a deadline. He is 39 years my junior, but I don't hesitate to seek his counsel on whether 25 slides that start with France and 19th-century Indochina is perhaps too much to fit into a 10-minute presentation on the 1973 treaty that ended the U.S.-Vietnam war. My youngest son Richie is learning well about how he learns in a way I wish I had learned when I was in high school in the 1970s. His interest in what I learn each semester and his unvarnished commentary on what I write or otherwise create have kept me in touch with a healthy amount of humility.”
Mullet had some recommendations for other students starting out at UNM.
“There are three benefits that students have at UNM that are magnificent, cheap or free, and I regret not taking advantage of two of the three until fairly late in my UNM undergraduate career…”
The Student Health and Counseling Center: “As busy as you are as a student, the doctor that's easy to get to is far better than the doctor you have to make time to see on the other side of town…”
La Posada: “It's cheap, it's all-you-can-eat, there's a wide variety of food to choose from that changes each day, and it's delicious. If I get accepted into grad school, one of the first things I'm getting with my financial aid is a meal plan. Strictly speaking, this isn't just a student benefit, it's open to all, so bring your friends and family…”
Lobo-Fit at Johnson Center: “What was I thinking all those semesters I went here and didn't just walk into Johnson Center, swipe my student ID, and have a huge, world-class fitness center available to me?”
He also noted, “If you suspect you are neurodivergent, be persistent in trying to find someone qualified to give you a diagnosis. You won't be able to get accommodation without a professional diagnosis, and not everyone willing to test you as an adult has appropriate experience and training.”