A Lifelong Journey of Leadership
Amanda Mullenax has filled many roles - veteran, mother, wife, commercial development asset manager, sales professional, and massage therapist. In April of this year, she was able to add college graduate to this list.
Graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Leadership from Bellevue University was “seeing the fruition of a lifelong dream,” Mullenax said. “I have something that I wanted enough to not give up on. I didn't allow anyone to tell me that I couldn't do it, or that I was wasting my time. It is something that no one can take from me and I can use it to help others. It is a gift that I gave myself and I am so proud of where I am now.”
The Path to Bellevue University
Bellevue University is the sixth school in Mullenax’s college journey. Originally from Columbus, Ohio, she joined the Navy at 17 years old and decided to have a baby at 21. She was a single mother for many years, before meeting her husband and moving to Texas with the family. “Between my country, my son and my husband, I never put myself first,” she said. “I would go to school for a while and then something would happen, and I put others' needs and dreams before my own.”
A continual learner, before coming to Bellevue University, Mullenax acquired a medical license in massage therapy and a certification in commercial real estate, and completed military technical training and an associate’s degree from Tarrant County College in Fort Worth, Texas.
After completing her associate’s degree, Mullenax did thorough research before choosing the right school with the right degree. “I have always been drawn to opportunities to help others see their value and develop their potential,” she said. “I wasn't quite sure if there was a degree that offered that, but I truly feel it is my calling. The hunt was on for something to foster that calling, while finding a school that was more interested in the student achieving success than making them feel like a number.”
A coworker mentioned Bellevue University to Mullenax, and she began researching the University, along with a few other schools. She interviewed graduates of these schools, and became more confident that she could be successful with a fully online educational experience.
After finding the leadership program, she spoke with an admissions counselor who connected her with the head of the program, Dr. David Byers. “He graciously answered all of my questions and gave me more information than I could think to request,” she said. “Honestly, if it weren't for him, I probably still would be searching for that ‘right fit’ and not have a degree to speak of.”
Finding the Balance
Throughout her journey, Mullenax has found a way to commit to her education while juggling family and work. “For the first 11 years of my son's life, I was a single mom with two, sometimes three jobs,” she said. “I found a way to take one class at a time just so I would keep moving forward. Sometimes life is not about the journey. Sometimes you have to focus on the individual steps.” During this time, she completed school work after her son went to bed during the week.
After meeting her husband and relocating to Texas, Mullenax took up to three classes at a time and dedicated every day of the week to some level of school work. “On nights when I went to school, I didn't study and spent my time with my family,” she said. “On the other nights, I did school work and fell asleep with my head on my desk. On the weekends, I spent the first half of each day working on school work.”
While completing her Bellevue University degree, Mullenax reserved weeknights for research, and weekends for writing and resetting for the next week. “Throughout it all, I always took Friday nights off to give myself time to see friends or feel normal,” she said. “I also took every Sunday evening off to make a nice meal for my family and enjoy time with them.”
Ultimately, reaching your goals is possible by setting a schedule and allowing yourself some leisure time, Mullanax said. “In the end, it's all about discipline and balance,” she said. “If you find a cadence, stick with it. It's better than trying to find a new pattern every week and starting over. Don't forget to schedule time off for fun and giving back to the people who want nothing more than to share life with you.”
Sharing a Milestone
Though it was not planned, Mullenax ultimately completed her degree at the same time her son, Sullivan, completed his. “We thought he would be done well before me!” she said. “When we laid out his final year of school, it became evident that we were going to be finishing together.”
Mullenax said completing their last year together was exciting and motivating. “We challenged each other to keep studying and to dig deeper for answers,” she said. “We shared a study space, and realized that neither of us can have complete silence during research time. He would debate leadership topics and historical examples with me, and I would help him study for tests. We would give each other silence when needed and help the other realize when a break was needed. He has so much dedication and ambition that I couldn't have asked for a better person to reach the end of this journey with. He has been my hero more than once, and his dedication to his degree was another opportunity to feel inspired by him.”
Mullenax said she thought she would feel disappointed, having taken a longer educational journey, but was pleasantly surprised. “I can tell you that, looking back, I wouldn't change it for the world,” she said. “I learned more than school has taught me about relationships, myself and having a true support system. He's a role model for me as much as he is for others. I am truly honored to have obtained my degree with my son.”
Completion is Just the Beginning
With her degree in hand, Mullenax looks forward to further helping those around her. “I have spent my life building relationships and fostering the growth of life around me,” she said. “There have been times when younger women or individuals who were in a role that could develop into my own have asked me for tips, tricks or mentorship opportunities. When I was in their shoes, I did the same thing, hoping for someone to pull me up or develop me to a greater potential.”
She now feels she has the tools in place to better do that. “I already see how my degree is helping me to give that to others,” she said. “Desire to help is one thing. Tools to help is another. I have both now and I use my desire and the tools that BU has given me to help others find their path.”
Mullenax is excited to pay forward the support she received at Bellevue University. “Bellevue University was the right fit for me because it helped to fulfill a goal that will lead me to the successful realization of my calling,” she said. “Dr. Byers was excited to share in my vision, offered to support me in realizing my dream of a leadership degree, and never let me feel like I made anything less than the ideal choice for myself.”