“The door is always open, chocolate is always available, and the President’s Office isn’t as scary as one thinks,” says a smiling Michelle Mulhern. As if to demonstrate, a sporty ceramic pig on a motorcycle sits on the table next to the new chief of staff, brimming with candy. Shelves on one wall of her office in the President’s Office overflow with photos.
Behind Mulhern, there’s a large exercise ball — the kind she can sit on while she’s working at her desk, that is, if she hasn’t switched the computer station into standing mode. The energetic Mulhern currently juggles three balls: her former executive director role (in which she worked closely with Dr. Gershen for nine years) plus her new roles – which officially began January 1 – as chief of staff and secretary to the Board of Trustees.
Mulhern, who holds a Master of Public Administration degree from Kent State University and a bachelor’s in organizational management from Malone University, has worked in higher education for more than 20 years, joining the NEOMED staff in 2006. She has worked side-by-side with President Gershen for nine years and began serving as interim chief of staff following the departure of Carolyn Lanier at the beginning of the 2018-19 academic year. Born in Parma, Mulhern lives in Walton Hills with her husband, Rick.
What are the duties of the chief of staff, and for you as you combine your former role with it?
Right now, my priorities for the beginning of 2019 are to move forward and to assist with leading the strategic plan process, implementing the key initiatives and the actions steps associated with each. I’m also serving as a staff person to the Board of Trustees for the presidential search for NEOMED’s next president, the person who will succeed President Gershen after he retires September 30.
A key priority for me is ensuring that the president is on track to make the best use of his time to benefit the University and its mission. Whether it be on student issues or the financial issues related to the state of Ohio’s budget and the University’s budget, I think those are critical initiatives that will take up a good amount of time going forward.
What I truly enjoy about my job is that no two days are alike. It’s a surprise each and every day. I come in with a plan, and it can totally go by the wayside. I like that; I like the unexpected.
What’s special to you about NEOMED?
I love the mission of the University. I love the dedication by everyone who’s involved in the University: the faculty, staff, and students. I love the collaborative aspect of the University, and how well it works with other universities. The collaboration with Peg's Foundation [focused on mental health] has definitely been meaningful to me. I have a brother with mental health issues, so that warms my heart.
I’ve had great mentors here at NEOMED, especially Rich Lewis and Dr. Gershen, who have encouraged higher education and professional development.
What else keeps you busy?
I’m on several boards – including Embracing Futures, P.A.L.S. for Healing and the National Association of Presidential Assistants in Higher Education, as well as the advisory board for NEOMED’s Student-Run Free Clinic – so I attend those meetings on behalf of NEOMED.
I don’t have a lot of spare time, since I’m also working on a doctorate in public health from Kent State. When I’m not doing homework or working here in the office, I do enjoy reading – nothing academic! I enjoy gardening. I also volunteer for several non-profits and various animal rescues throughout Northeast Ohio with my husband.