Kaylee Pullin, Softball

Letter to College President Shows What Matters to Students

Kathy DeanNews

Kaylee Pullin knows excellence. As second baseman on the University of Mobile softball team, she also knows the value of hard work. And, she knows how important it is to let the people in your life know they are important to you.

So, she wrote an email to University of Mobile President Lonnie Burnett.

“Hello Dr. Burnett. I know this has been a crazy time, but I just wanted to share with you about the people you have on your staff…” Kaylee wrote.

While the University of Mobile is known for faculty who mentor and build relationships with students, many of which last well beyond graduation, few students actually email the university president to share what that really means in their lives.

We wanted to know why Kaylee did.

1. You sent an email to Dr. Lonnie Burnett, president of the University of Mobile, about three of your professors in particular and how they have been so supportive of you as a student-athlete. Before we get to that, tell us why you chose to enroll at UM.

I was blessed to receive a scholarship from the University of Mobile to further my academic and softball career. Mobile has felt like home since the first time I walked onto campus. The small environment is very welcoming and comfortable to me. I have always wanted to be away from home and experience new places, and Mobile turned into my second home. The university has always emphasized how safe it is, which allows for students to walk around campus at night or ENO in the trees by the softball field without any threat. The university has always had a successful softball team, and I wanted to take part in keeping the tradition alive.

The biggest thing that had me hooked on UM was Taylor Lee Ledbetter (head strength and conditioning coach) and her weight training program. I knew TL would push me to become a better person and athlete, and she has definitely lived up to that. I don’t always enjoy her workouts, but she pushes to give it our all, and that’s why I respect her.

2. It’s been said that student-athletes are some of the hardest-working students on a college campus. In your email, you mentioned that student-athletes have special challenges, which is why it is important to have professors who understand that. What do you love about being a student-athlete, and what are some of the challenges?

My freshman year, Coach (Alison) Cook sat us down in the locker room and told us she wanted us to have a 3.5 GPA or higher. Coach has always emphasized that school comes first. Some of the biggest challenges as a student-athlete are time management and working around schedules. With 20-plus girls on a team and different class schedules, it’s especially hard trying to manage class schedules and practice schedules. Many of the sports on campus have workouts with TL; this last year the softball team worked out at 6 a.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays and conditioned at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Both TL and Coach Cook have always worked with us to ensure we were able to prioritize school first and fit in practice afterwards. As far as my professors, they understand that classes will be missed because of games, and they have always worked to ensure we have enough time to complete the assignments. They have always made sure we understand the material missed and encouraged us to come into their office whenever we need help.

With all these challenges, there are many things to love about being an athlete for the university. Playing for the university is probably one of the best decisions I have ever made. These girls and this program have developed me into the person I am today. The fire and passion we have for the game can be felt on and off the field. I love wearing “Mobile” across my chest because we know and believe that we don’t play for ourselves – we play for the team. When the fans come to a softball game, they know they are in for a show. From the beats and cheers in the dugout, to the ESPN moments (all trips and falls included), and comeback moments, there is always something interesting going on. The student body has always been supportive of all sports. Many of our students watched us during both trips to the national tournament, and many have travelled to our away games just to show support. There have been times where I have looked up into the crowd and seen staff of the university watching our games. One professor in particular, Dr. (Robert) Olsen (assistant professor of Christian Studies), will always figure out which softball players he has in his class and make it a point to come to every game that he can. It is the passion and intensity that Coach Cook shares for the game that truly makes me love the sport. As a team, we all believe and know how great our program is and how much we can achieve. That is why I love being a part of the University of Mobile softball team.

3. The professors you praised are Drs. Julie Biskner, associate professor of political science, and assistant professors of psychology Aimee Var and Kelley Wilson. How have they lived out the “Know and Be Known” motto of UM in your life?

These professors have done a tremendous job throughout my years here helping students become successful. They constantly push students outside of their comfort zone and to try new things. Dr. B is my advisor, and she helped me explore my options for internships, and constantly tells me and my classmates about new opportunities. Dr. Wilson pushed me outside of my comfort zone for a research paper that I actually enjoyed designing and writing about – eventually. Dr. Var always had my attention during her abnormal psychology class by making me question people’s everyday behavior and trying to decide on what is actually normal.

These teachers have always done an exceptional job responding to my emails and questions when I truly just need help. They have listened to my problems and shown me solutions that I wouldn’t find on my own. When we switched to online classes because of Covid-19, they made the transition as easy as possible. They posted video lectures explaining the lessons and even extended deadlines when I just needed more time for assignments.  They were available for feedback on my assignments and let their students know they were there to talk during the stressful times.

They helped me find my passion and purpose for my future. These teachers have allowed me to develop in the classroom and push myself to become a better person.

4. At UM, we talk about following your calling. Why did you decide to major in Criminology and minor in Psychology, and what is your calling?

Growing up, I have always seen my dad in a law enforcement uniform of some kind. My father rose through the ranks of the Alabama State Troopers and became the chief of highway patrol and subsequently was appointed as assistant director by then-Gov. Bentley. This has instilled in me a passion to serve my community through a law enforcement agency. I knew by majoring in criminology and minoring in psychology I would be able to understand the “why” behind a criminal’s actions.

This past fall semester, I was able to intern with Commander Levy of the Mobile Police Department’s Cyber-Division and Sergeant Pat McKean and his staff at the Mobile Police Department K-9 unit. This was one of the best opportunities I have ever been a part of. Commander Levy also teaches at UM, and his unit was able to show me the internal cyber portion of investigations. Sergeant McKean showed me what it really takes to handle a K-9 and how much work you must put into those animals. This instilled my passion to serve even deeper.

When I graduate, I plan on enrolling in a police academy and eventually becoming a K-9 officer or crime scene technician. Overall, I want to help serve and protect my community in the best way possible while forming relationships and impacting the lives around me.

5. Anything else you’d like to mention?

 This university has become a part of my life that I will forever cherish. The level of support each team shows for one another truly instills a family feeling. The staff at the university has always shown love and support for their student-athletes and, if it wasn’t for them, we would not be as successful of a program. There are many administrators and staff who know the softball team by name and that, to me, is truly what matters most. Many parents worry about sending their children off to college, but at the University of Mobile, students are “adopted” into this family environment. I am blessed to have met my best friends at this school and many more people who feel like family. I will forever be grateful for what the University of Mobile has given me.