South Carolina native Jeff Mulliken initially left the state for his undergraduate engineering studies. But after two years, the life-long University of South Carolina fan returned to his home state. Mulliken earned his bachelor’s (’89), master’s (’94) and Ph.D. (’11) in civil engineering from the College of Engineering and Computing (CEC). Now, he wants to give back to the school that provided him with a foundation for a successful career.
With an initial $5,000 investment, Mulliken recently established a Civil and Environmental Engineering Discretionary Fund for Department Priorities. The fund will provide direct access to money for department needs not easily funded through other methods, such as purchasing new equipment or travel costs.
Join Dr. Mulliken and make a gift to the Mulliken Civil Engineering Fund to support the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department.
“Our duty of giving back is really important to me. I have a duty and responsibility as a practicing engineer to give back to the university that helped me achieve,” Mulliken says. “It's an interesting dynamic because as we support the university, we're improving and safeguarding our community.”
Born in Columbia and raised in North Augusta, South Carolina, Mulliken started as an electrical engineering major at Georgia Tech before transferring. At the CEC, he discovered that civil and environmental engineering, smaller class sizes and the personal relationships with professors were the best fit for him. In addition, his wife Salena earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UofSC. Their son, Joshua, also earned his bachelor’s degree in computer information systems from the CEC in 2020. In many ways, Mulliken has come full circle by establishing the discretionary fund.
“I've been an adjunct professor here and worked very closely with the staff, so I knew there was a need. I was just trying to figure out the best way to help Dr. [Juan] Caicedo and how he could have access to the funds when needed,” Mulliken says. “I love the university and the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, and I really wanted to do everything I could to help.”
Mulliken currently works as a business unit leader for STV Inc., an engineering and construction management firm. While he intends to maintain a base amount for the fund and continue to support it at some level, he also hopes that his actions can motivate other alumni to participate and grow the fund to provide for tangible needs. Mulliken has talked to several alumni who care as much for the success of the department and want to help, but don’t know how.
“I thought that if I could plant the seed and continue to fund it, then others would also support it. They could also work directly with Dr. Caicedo and discuss how the funds can be used to address an immediate need,” Mulliken says. “A lot of times there's a need but no mechanism to address it. I don't know exactly how much we're going to put in each year, but the objective is to get other alums engaged and communicating the needs to the engineering community.”
Mulliken added that the fund will provide tangible solutions to help improve the department and offer an even better experience than his time as an undergraduate and graduate student.
“Several of my colleagues are directly involved with the students, and we care about them immensely. We see the effects of our involvement here from just being personally engaged,” Mulliken says. “But there's many things we can do to improve the experience. Gamecock engineers are making a huge impact in our community, but we can always do better. For me, this is a small part of helping with that improvement.”
Mulliken has worked in engineering for more than 30 years and continuously heard from others in the industry who are impressed with CEC graduates. The discretionary fund will help provide the needs and resources for the Civil and Environment Engineering Department while ensuring students are receiving a quality education.
“What they're learning on campus is translating incredibly well into our marketplace. If I recommend a student or alum from the CEC, I do it without reservation because I know they will do exceedingly well,” Mulliken says. “There's a long list of students I've had and business colleagues that went to Carolina that are doing incredible work, and I want to continue to ensure their continued success.”