Service is important to Erin Mulka. The UW Tacoma student spent eight years in the Coast Guard Reserves. During that time she was deployed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and Kuwait. Mulka left the reserves in 2012 and enrolled at Centralia College.
The 29-year-old currently works as the veteran navigator on campus, under the auspices of the Washington Department of Veterans Affairs’ Vet Corps program. In this role Mulka helps connect student veterans and their families to resources. “I find that student veterans are very determined,” she said. “They want to get to the next step.”
Mulka transferred to UW Tacoma in 2014 and began working on a bachelor’s in social welfare with a minor in criminal justice. “Growing up, I wanted to be a police officer and deter the poor choices of individuals,” she said. “I’ve grown up and realized it’s not about catching bad individuals. Often times it’s the situations people are in that are bad and I want to help them avoid getting into trouble.”
Mulka lives in Rochester, Washington. The trip from her front door to the Cragle parking lot is 50 miles—one way. “My dream job will be within walking distance or there will be telecommuting options,” she said. As for her career path, Mulka has an idea: “I definitely want to continue to work with veterans,” she said.
Mulka made the most of her long commutes, which include braving the congestion on I-5 through Joint Base Lewis-McChord. She stuck around and got involved on campus, serving as a student senator and as a leader of the Student Veteran Organization. She was nominated for the inaugural Husky 100, which recognizes students who have made the most of their time at UW. While one might commiserate with her on her daily slog through military-base traffic, there’s no question the campus is better off for it.
John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or firstname.lastname@example.org