Sandra Cisneros didn’t know at first if she wanted to attend the University of Maryland earlier this year.
The freshman marketing major was weighing her options when Victor Mullins, the associate dean of undergraduate studies at the business school, reached out to her. He let her know he wanted her to accept the college’s offer and asked what scholarship amount would help her commit. He eventually helped her receive the scholarship she asked for.
“Just that connection made me really have Dean Mullins in my heart because I got accepted to a bunch of schools, but no one emailed me or tried contacting me,” Cisneros said. “It was only Dean Mullins.”
Mullins announced last week he would be leaving the business school at the end of November. Students were left saddened that a key cornerstone of the business school for the past 15 years will be gone.
Mullins will become the senior associate dean for diversity and inclusion at the New York University’s business school. Joseph Bailey, the business school’s assistant dean for specialty undergraduate programs and an associate research professor, will serve as Mullins’ interim replacement starting Dec. 1.
“I didn’t set out to move. I love the community here. I love Maryland. I love everything about what I’m doing,” Mullins said. “It’s just that this opportunity presented itself, and I couldn’t refuse it.”
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Dylan Kapustensky, a junior finance and management major, was taken off guard by the announcement and said it came out of nowhere.
Kapustensky is the president of Phi Chi Theta, a professional business fraternity. During the fraternity’s rush events for the past two years, Mullins has given a talk about implicit bias before recruitment to set the tone and ensure biases and stereotypes are kept out of the process.
At the beginning of Dylan Lee’s college career, he was nervous to attend business school events, but he said Mullins always brought an inspiring energy and enthusiasm.
“That’s something I carried through the [COVID-19] pandemic and something I really hold to this day; keeping that positive mindset and bringing energy to anywhere I go as well. I really have him to thank for that as well,” Lee, a senior finance and economics major, said.
Lee is currently a teaching assistant for Mullins’ business school course. He sees the experience as a way to pass on the lessons he learned from the associate dean.
On social media, Mullins would frequently post “We win Wednesdays,” in which he would encourage people to comment their big or small successes that week. After students commented, Mullins would reply and tell some where they could receive free gifts such as business school bags and T-shirts.
“It’s a way for you to gas yourself up, hype up your friends for little accomplishments,” Kapustensky said.
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Mullins said he never wanted to be the type of dean students don’t know or only see when they’re in trouble. Students “keep him alive” and make him excited to go to work each day, he said.
“I wanted to be the person that was walking the students to campus, getting to know them, helping them build themselves, helping them organize their clubs. I wanted to be involved in the life of college,” Mullins said. “So, I was always a different kind of dean.”
Mullins believes he has created a culture of trust in the business school.
“The element of this ecosystem of trust and relationship building; you can’t pay for that. That is priceless,” Mullins said.
In his tenure, Mullins launched three new minors, founded various organizations to expand opportunities for minorities and underrepresented students and partnered with the dean to launch the Interdisciplinary Business Honors Living Learning program.
Mullins also helped found the Smith Business Academy, an excellence building program for African American and Latinx businessmen.
Mullins’ efforts led to a surge of the percentage of Black and Latinx students in the business school, from 12 percent to 16 percent, Konana said in his email announcing Mullins’ departure.
Lee said the school can’t replace Mullins and exactly what he does, but they can continue to uplift the values of diversity and positivity.
“Hopefully, they can find a replacement that’s going to be as active in the community,” Kapustensky said. “As a business major, I think that’s what separates us in terms of our school.”
Although Mullins will miss the business school and his connections with students, he is at peace with leaving the business school this year.
“I think my season here has come to a conclusion,” Mullins said. “It’s time for me to move onto something else.”
Staff Writer Marijke Friedman contributed to this story.