According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there are more than 18 million people with disabilities in today’s workforce.
Carli Mullen is one of them.
She knows firsthand the challenges that people with disabilities can face in the workplace and at school. For her, October’s National Disability Employee Awareness Month (NDEAM) is an opportunity to emphasize the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion and bring awareness to the barriers faced by people with disabilities. She also hopes that by sharing her story, she can encourage those who might be facing similar challenges.
“Throughout my life, I’ve dealt with several ‘invisible’ diagnoses. I’m [also] legally blind and have cerebral palsy,” she says. “I’ve had to continuously beat the odds.”
Resiliency has been a theme in Carli’s life—specifically in her educational journey. After working at WGU for several years as a withdrawal recovery specialist, she decided to go back to school in 2020 to pursue her MBA.
“Throughout my time as an employee, I’ve worked with many students and found myself inspired by their stories. In the midst of the global pandemic, I decided I was ready to take on my lifetime goal of getting my MBA,” she says. “The pandemic was a huge reminder that we shouldn’t waste time and go after our dreams, so I enrolled at WGU.”
A year into her program, Carli beat the odds again.
“In 2021, I had my fifth surgery because of endometriosis. I was very concerned that I’d fall behind and not be able to catch up as a result. My Program Mentor was a huge reason I didn’t give up on school. He has always been extremely supportive and understanding during my enrollment at WGU,” she says.
In addition to her Program Mentor, Carli credits WGU’s commitment to access, opportunity, and advancement as another reason she was able to continue school.
“WGU adds diversity, equity, and inclusion in many ways. One way is by expanding accessibility for education,” she adds. “I’m not always comfortable in settings with a lot of people. WGU allows me to do school in settings that are comfortable for me. I can also adjust my schedule as needed.”
In honor of NDEAM, Carli offers this advice:
“Never be afraid to share your story. You never know the impact it can have on someone else. Keep in mind that some things aren’t visible on the outside. Always be kind, because you never know what someone is going through."