During his long naval career, Adm. Michael “Mike” Mullen mentored and promoted numerous officers from diverse backgrounds, helping them reach the highest ranks in the military.
In recognition of his work, Mullen, a 1968 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, a new scholarship at the Anne Arundel Community College has been dedicated in his name. The scholarship, the Adm. Mullen Initiative, will be funded through the Pallas Foundation, a global nonprofit that fosters the development of emerging leaders in global and national security, particularly those from underrepresented backgrounds.
“We are honored that the Pallas Foundation selected AACC as its first community college to launch the Adm. Mullen Initiative to help prepare more national security leaders for public service and career success,” AACC President Dawn Lindsay said. “Both organizations are national leaders, so it is a natural fit that will create opportunities for more students.”
Applicants must be current full- or part-time AACC students and have completed a minimum of nine credits at the community college pursuing a degree in homeland security management, have earned a GPA of 2.5 or better and be a U.S. citizen and Maryland resident. Two students will be eligible to receive up to $5,000 for tuition, fees, books and supplies for study. Applications are accepted through March. 1. Additional details can be found at aacc.edu/costs-and-paying/credit-costs-and-payment/financial-aid-and-scholarships/aacc-institutional-scholarships/.
Mullen will be directly involved in mentoring the two students receiving the scholarship for the 2023-2024 academic year.
“We are honored to partner with Adm. Mullen on this initiative. His career-long commitment to underrepresented communities perfectly matches the mission of the Pallas Foundation,” said Sally Donnelly, co-chair of the Pallas Foundation.
After leaving the academy in 1968, Mullen returned in 1975 after his promotion to lieutenant and serving as an anti-submarine warfare officer.
The following year, he served as a company officer to 150 midshipmen while on assignment as a member of the academy’s admissions board — the first to start considering and accepting women to join the academy.
“I had grown up in the ‘60s and ‘70s, so I was very familiar with the issues and challenges that we had back then,” he said. “Since the mid-70s, I’ve been as active as I could be with respect to supporting the integration of women in the Navy.”
His promotion to the 28th chief of naval operations from 2005 to 2007 allowed him to focus on recruiting and promoting qualified women and minorities. He identified three priorities: sustaining combat readiness, building a fleet for the future and developing 21st Century leaders. Readiness meant maintaining a responsive force for both ships and personnel with a wide range of operational capabilities.
This work later built the foundation he needed to become the 17th chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff for President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama from 2007 to 2011.
“I know a lot about what it takes to get promoted,” he said. “I know what jobs you have to have and getting individuals into those jobs or something that I’ve worked pretty hard on over the course of my career.”
In his time as chairman, he put women and individuals of color into key jobs because they were qualified and has seen them get promoted into higher positions involving military operations, citing current Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin as an example.
“He was the best ground commander I had in Iraq when we were fighting that war,” Mullen said. “I brought him into the staff to look at him closely. He subsequently went on to make four stars (the highest rank to earn in the military) and obviously, after he retired, President Biden found enough in him to bring him back as his Secretary of Defense.”
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In 2008, Mullen was involved in helping Obama eliminate the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy adopted in 1993 by the Clinton Administration that prevented LGBTQ individuals enlisted in the military from publicly defining their sexual orientation.
“When Obama was on the road campaigning in 2008, he said something to the effect of, ‘If I win we’re going to change this policy’ and that got my attention because now I’m chairman,” he said. “So that same year, I put a small group together to go start to look at [the policy] and try to understand all the implications of it. We did that basically over the course of two years.”
Mullen endorsed the president’s plan in 2010 before members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“I believe then and I believe now that President Obama, or no president [in general], could not have done this without military support. We were in two wars. It [was] a pretty tough time to be making these kinds of changes,” he said.
After retiring from service in 2011, Mullen shifted to an instructor role, teaching at Princeton for six years in the International School. Mullen has completed his fourth year advising and teaching seniors a leadership course called “Steering the Naval Service Through Ethical Shoals” at the Naval Academy.
“It’s an opportunity to engage young people and it’s not just for them because I get a lot out of it as well,” he said. “I try to get them to think about framing their future based on a framework of values and principles. We talk about difficult situations that I’ve been through over the course of my career and I’d say that it has given me an opportunity to study some of this stuff that I actually did my whole life as opposed to just doing it and trying to figure it out on the fly.
“I’m big on education, and I think if you gave me one thing to create an opportunity for someone in the future, It would be to put them in a good education environment. I think community colleges are underutilized in the country. I know what a good school AACC is, but when all this came together the opportunity to both mentor and possibly provide a scholarship raise funds to provide a scholarship for underprivileged kids it all sort of came together.”