It's not Michael Mulvaney's job to map out his students' lives.
As their teacher and mentor, however, he helps them explore the many directions available to them and provides the tools and equipment they'll need for the trip.
After all, it's not been too many years since he made the journey himself, and the memory remains fresh in his mind.
A native of Collison, Ill. -- a small Vermilion County farm-based community located between Champaign and Danville -- Mulvaney is one of eight children born of parents who "felt education was important."
"We were first-generation college students," he said, "but our parents recognized the value of education. All eight of us received our undergraduate degrees."
Mulvaney's parents also were supportive of their children finding their individual niches in their own way.
"I started at Decatur's Millikin University," he continued. "The size of that school seemed to fit me, and my experience there allowed me, as an undeclared major, to see what was available out there."
He was a double-major in sports management and sociology and was a student-athlete on the track and field team. But, perhaps even more importantly, he gained knowledge via peer-to-peer interaction -- hearing and seeing his fellow students as they discussed their lives, experiences and contemporary, as well as historical, issues.
“I believe that knowledge is a critical piece of a student's education," Mulvaney said. "Talking aloud -- the sharing of ideas and thoughts -- is a part of the personal development that occurs as individuals prepare to take on their roles as responsible members of society."
And that, he adds, will be one part of the message he'll be advocating as he serves as Eastern Illinois University's 2013-2014 Faculty Laureate, an honor presented to him by the institution's Council on Academic Affairs. In addition to his duties as a full-time faculty member in the Department of Recreation Administration, Mulvaney will spend the coming year as the university's official spokesperson on the importance of a general/liberal education.
His first opportunity will take place at 9 a.m. Friday, Aug. 16, when he delivers the keynote address at this year's convocation, a welcoming ceremony for incoming students. There, he plans to introduce three major thoughts to his audience.
"First, I want them to reflect on their own experience and life journey," Mulvaney said. "I encourage them to think about, and embrace, who they are and where they want to be."
Then, he added, "I'd like to encourage these students to truly engage themselves in the many opportunities they'll have here at EIU. This is their chance, their time, and they'll only get out what they put in to this educational experience. They need to take advantage of it. It's not too often a person gets an opportunity to immerse him or herself into an experience like this."
And finally -- "Have fun during the journey," he said. "I've noticed that somehow, the fun one can and should have in life is frequently lost."
Mulvaney, who lives near Tuscola with his wife, Megan, and their Labrador retriever, Atticus, received his master's degree in sports administration/physical education from Eastern. He then took a job with the Decatur Park District before receiving his doctorate in recreation, sport and tourism from the University of Illinois.
Mulvaney joined the faculty at Eastern in 2006 and while his area of research centers on management issues within public park and recreation agencies, his course load includes a junior-level general education course, "World Leisure," open to students of all academic disciplines.