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Molinaroli College of Engineering and Computing

  • alum Jeff Mulliken

Inspiring the next generation of civil engineers

Travel throughout South Carolina and alum Jeff Mulliken has likely been involved in the preparation or construction of transportation infrastructure projects. Working in the civil engineering field for nearly 35 years, Mulliken’s contributions have been through his work, leadership and mentorship.

But his civil engineering career, service and mentorship to the College of Engineering and Computing almost never happened. 

Born in Columbia and raised in North Augusta, South Carolina, Mulliken started as an electrical engineering major at Georgia Tech. But after his sophomore year, he transferred to the University of South Carolina and switched his major to civil and environmental engineering. These decisions led him to former Professor Dimitris Karabalis and his grad student, current Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor Dimitris Rizos.

“They both invested time and energy into helping me. I was not on campus long before working with them and that’s when it became clear what I wanted to do with my career,” Mulliken says.

Karabalis encouraged Mulliken to take his graduate-level course, Dynamics of Structures, as an undergraduate. This course would be helpful as Mulliken later earned his master’s (‘94) and Ph.D. (’11) in civil engineering from USC. 

“I had to get special approval from Dean [Wilfred] Humphreys, and he helped me navigate the challenging schedule and course load. That course served as a springboard for me when I graduated to pursue my master’s and work with Dr. Karabalis and Rizos,” Mulliken says.   

Mulliken also credits Karabalis and Rizos with helping him develop a professional-oriented mindset. He left USC confident his work ethic and soft and technical skills were above his peers. 

“I didn’t feel that others had the business or technical maturity I received,” Mulliken says. “Dr. Karabalis and others helped me to participate in the workforce from day one and not be behind the learning curve.”

Mulliken began his professional career in 1990 as a senior engineer for Westinghouse Savannah River Company. He has risen in the ranks of civil engineering with titles such as assistant vice president, South Carolina operations manager for the LPA Group; senior engineer for STV, and his current position as partner with Carolina Transportation Engineers and Associates. Mulliken’s satisfaction in his work comes from solving challenging problems for clients and seeing his work come to fruition. 

“I can drive across the state and Southeast and see projects my colleagues and I designed. And I remember the challenges and how we used our full resources to develop solutions,” Mulliken says. “I take pride and satisfaction in our work and that hasn't stopped in my career.”

Last year, the South Carolina Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers awarded Mulliken the LeTellier Cup, presented for outstanding lifetime contribution to the profession of civil engineering.

“It's easy to look at the previous recipients and feel unworthy. They not only have the respect of the community, but they’re people I think the world of in terms of influence and what they mean to our profession,” Mulliken says. “I wanted to emulate them; then I received the award and it’s humbling. I just try to make a difference in the world and with other people.”

Jeff Mulliken
Jeff Mulliken holds the Le Tellier Cup, which he received last year from the South Carolina Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers.  

Throughout his career, Mulliken has been passionate about helping people become successful. For example, he works with the future leaders program with the American Council of Engineering Companies of South Carolina. In this role, he invests in young professionals and helps them grow in the civil engineering industry. 

“If somebody was organizationally over me, their success often depended on my work. Further along in my career, my focus became helping my colleagues and those below me in the organization chart become successful,” Mulliken says.

Mulliken was an adjunct instructor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) from 2014 to 2019. CEE Chair Juan Caicedo often invites Mulliken to return and speak with current students, which is one of his ways to give back to the school that helped him. His goal is to encourage future engineers to be extraordinary and a resource for others to help them succeed.  

“I enjoy speaking to students and having someone tell me they remembered something I said that influenced them. It’s satisfying serving others and helping our profession flourish,” Mulliken says. 

Mulliken is passionate about helping others become successful and will do anything he can to support them. Many people helped him before and during his career, and he is making a difference in the next generation of civil and environmental engineers.   

“You can change the world and impact others for the good. I've wanted to do this from day one, and it has been one of the most rewarding things I've done, Mulliken says. “Working with students and young professionals will always be a joy and passion for me.” 

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