Columbus resident Mia Mullin, at left, earned an Associate Degree Nursing degree at East Mississippi Community College nearly 20 years after completing her Practical Nursing studies at the college. She is pictured here with EMCC Director of Nursing Programs/Associate Dean of Health Sciences Dr. Tonsha Emerson, who was Mullin’s Practical Nursing instructor in 2001.

December 9, 2020

Columbus resident Mia Mullin is a 2001 graduate of East Mississippi Community College’s Practical Nursing program who returned to her alma mater to earn an Associate Degree Nursing degree nearly 20 years later.

“It has been a journey,” said Mullin, who was among the Class of 2020 Associate Degree Nursing students who participated in a Nov. 24 pinning ceremony on EMCC’s Golden Triangle campus.

When EMCC Director of Nursing Programs/Associate Dean of Health Sciences Dr. Tonsha Emerson began work at EMCC as a Practical Nursing instructor in January of 2001, Mullin was among the first group of students she taught at the college.

“In a sense we have come full circle because she was in my very first class and now she has graduated from our Associate Degree Nursing program under my leadership,” Emerson said. “She was a good student who was very determined to succeed.”

Mullin first enrolled in the Practical Nursing program in the late 1990s, but was unable to complete the program. A single mother of four at the time, Mullin knew she needed to return to school, but was reluctant to attempt to take nursing courses again.

“I thought to myself, ‘What else am I going to do to make money and take care of my kids?’” Mullin said.

Mullin reenrolled in the Practical Nursing program. She not only graduated, but did so with honors while serving as the EMCC representative for HOSA, or Health Occupations Students of America.

“It was rough,” Mullin said. “I had a sick baby who was in the hospital at the time, but I knew what I had to do to get it done. I was focused and driven when I came back. I knew that if I didn’t get it done this time, I wasn’t coming back.”

Emerson recalls one instance from 2001 when she was reading material from a book during class when Mullin raised her hand.

“She very respectfully said, ‘Mrs. Emerson, we can read the book. Can you present the information in another way to help us better understand it?’”

A novice nursing instructor at the time, Emerson began researching teaching methods and focused on active learning strategies. She began providing case studies to supplement the book material and implemented group activities for the students to work on.

“Mia has always had a special place in my heart because she challenged me, whether she knew it or not, to step outside the box and provide various learning opportunities for these students,” Emerson said.

Mullin has worked fulltime in the nursing field since January of 2002 when she passed her state licensing exam, often working more than one job. She knew she wanted to return to school and earn her associate’s degree in order to become a registered nurse.

Her intent was to return to school once her fifth child turned 5, but the timing never seemed right.

“My children are grown now and my youngest child just turned 16 and is staying with his dad, so the timing just seemed right,” Mullin said of her decision to return to EMCC to further her studies. “I knew if I didn’t get it done this time I would be an LPN the rest of my life.”

Now she has set her sights on earning a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing.

“I would like to do that within three years and try out travel nursing,” Mullin said. “Now that my children are grown, I would like to see places and do things I was not able to do when they were younger.”