Profile By: Samantha Miller
Mary Mudd has inarguably been one of the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s (UNO) strongest leaders. Beginning her career here in 1969, Mary developed a passion for the University and its students. She served UNO as Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, and she is responsible for two major projects: Project Achieve and campus housing. Her work with and for students at the University is inspirational, and her leadership has extended into the Omaha community. Mary works as a real estate agent today and has been instrumental in the creation of projects to increase homeownership among minority families. UNO would not be what it is today without Mary.
Mary Mudd was born in the 1940s, during a time of transition. The world was changing around her; the United States was in the midst of mounting racial tension that would lead to the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s, and women were still fighting for their equality in terms of education and employment. She grew up in public housing on Atlanta’s west side, across the street from Atlanta University Center, which was the largest coeducational consortium of historically African American educational institutions in the country at the time. Every morning on her way to elementary school, Mary walked through Mars Brown campus. Growing up next to the University Center and its activities, Mary always knew she would go to college: “I didn’t know where I would go, but I knew I’d go somewhere. I grew up across the street from
After graduating from high school, Mary received a scholarship to attend TSU. Although Mary left for TSU with dreams of earning a degree in music, she soon realized that her passion was in education: “I took piano lessons growing up and I do love music, but I hated practicing. I wanted to be with people. With a music major, everyone spends their time locked up in little private practice rooms all over campus, but everyone is alone. I couldn’t do that” (Interview).
Mary changed her major to education, subsequently losing her full-ride scholarship to TSU. Her parents still supported her choice, and they all worked together to come up with the extra money needed to pay for Mary’s tuition. She recalls, “I just realized it was the right thing to do. And as long as I had a way of paying
Wellcome Bryant, a very well-known educator in the Omaha Public Schools system and an activist working for the Burroughs Corporation, visited Atlanta University. Burroughs Corp. had received a federal grant to open the Women’s Job Corp. Center in Omaha, Nebraska. The Center was a vocational program geared toward young women, ages 16–21, to prepare them for future careers. Bryant was working with the Center and Omaha Public Schools to recruit minorities from southern Black institutions to work for either the public schools or the Women’s Job Corp.
On June 30, 1969, the Women’s Job Corp. closed its doors, mainly due to opposition from local businessmen working in the downtown area. As this opportunity ended for Mary, another emerged. She was hired by UNO in September of that year as a counselor and instructor for undecided and undeclared students. Not even ten years later, in 1977, she became the Director of New Student Orientation, a position that she held until 1981.
Mary has been an integral part of the University over the years. Among her greatest accomplishments at UNO, the two facets of her work of which she is most proud, are bringing Project Achieve to the University and getting student housing on campus.
Project Achieve is a student support service aimed at first generation college students. Mary wrote the grant that obtained the funding for this program, and it has been successfully renewed every four years since 1993. Mary reflected, “One of the things I’m really, really proud about is that I was able to write a grant—the first federal grant in this area that was awarded—for Project Achieve. The goal of the project was to support students who didn’t have anyone at home to say, ‘Did you get your application turned in?’ ‘Did you file for financial aid?’—things parents who
After 32 years of service to the University, Mary retired in 2003. She is presently employed as a real estate agent for CBSHome in Omaha, but the teacher inside has never retired:
“I see real-estate, or being a realtor, as being a service to the community because everything I do, I see as education. I work with a lot of young home buyers, scared to death, afraid to make wrong decisions. I use that moment to teach about home ownership and what they need to do to be prepared. It’s nice to make money, but I see it as an opportunity to educate the public in a different venue, which now just happens to be houses. I won’t be a millionaire, but it’ll supplement my retirement,” Mary said as she smiled (Interview).
From an early age, Dr. Karen Falconer Al-Hindi has negotiated her own space. Intrigued by the relationships between people and places, Falconer Al-Hindi’s natural interest in geography has allowedAREAS OF INTREST: Education