Mullins overcomes obstacles on way to degree


The normal journey to a college degree takes four years, but a series of events caused Kimberly Denise Marshall Mullins to earn her Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts and Sciences three decades after she graduated high school.

kim hatHer story is one of determination, dedication and strength. It began after high school when she attended Mountain Empire Community College and then transferred to what was then Clinch Valley College in the 1980s. She also met and married Roderick Mullins and the couple started a family.

She worked at her family’s jewelry store for several years repairing jewelry and completing other tasks, but she kept her college dreams in mind. When the jewelry store closed, she began work as a Standards of Learning aid with Wise County Public Schools, and later as a special education paraprofessional.

“It made me strongly think about going back to school,” she said. “I was very indecisive, but Roderick told me that if I didn’t do it now I would never do it.”

She returned as a part time student to what was now UVa-Wise. She stayed part time until the couple’s son, Andrew, graduated high school. She gladly became a full time student, but another obstacle popped up.

Mullins was diagnosed with breast cancer in the spring semester of 2010. It was a very aggressive form of cancer, but she opted on surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatment. College would have to wait again as the Wise resident and her family worked together to get her through the health crisis.

As she took some time to recover and heal, Mullins spoke with Professor Jewell Askins in the education department. Askins and Mullins chatted about the education program and elementary education in particular.

“It sounded like a great idea,” Mullins said. “The following spring I did a class observation and I loved it. I hope to teach upper elementary math, and I want to get an endorsement in middle school sciences.”

It has been a long 30 years, but Mullins has earned her degree she will receive on Commencement this Saturday.

“My husband has been very supportive of me,” she said. “And if I have inspired others with my story, then it was all for the good.”