Editor’s Note — This is part of a student conversation series highlighted as part of Black History Month on the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Medium page. The series will feature students who are making impacts on campus and hope to maintain that momentum in future careers.
This week, we’re talking with Passmore Mudundulu, a marketing major and jumper with the Huskers’ track and field squad who is leveraging his communication skills to make an impact via volunteering across Lincoln.
You talk about being energized just talking to other people from a young age. Can you speak to that a bit more and how it may have helped you pick your major?
The path for me deciding to go into marketing and sales was not a straightforward one. I had a lot of interests in high school and my freshman year of college. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to work in a field that involved talking to people. Ever since I was younger, I have always enjoyed talking and this was very much reflected in the calls home my mom would receive from teachers about me talking too much in class.
My freshman year of college is when I truly decided that sales was the right path for me. I loved the idea of working in a field centered around building relationships and talking to lots of new people every day. This led me to join the Center for Sales Excellence program in the College of Business. I’ve met a lot of great mentors and leaders in that program.
You have a job lined up with General Mills after you graduate. What will you be doing there? Is there anything during your time at Nebraska that you feel has helped prepare you for post-grad life?
Starting in July, I will be moving to Minneapolis to begin my sales position for General Mills. At General Mills, I am working closely with restaurants, hospitals and other institutions to promote and sell General Mills products. I will get the chance to work on new product rollouts and make an impact on one of the most philanthropic companies in the country.
The biggest help for me in preparing for post-grad life has been Blake Runnalls, a professor in the Center for Sales Excellence and the Nebraska Life Skills in the Athletics Department. Runnalls teaches a sales practicum class that is focused on teaching students how to be effective salespeople and develop their professional development skills to search for jobs. It was through his teachings on being effective on LinkedIn that ultimately led to me being offered an internship position at General Mills.
In addition, the Life Skills department has played a crucial role in building athletes with the necessary skills and habits to be proficient professionals after their sport is done. Kate Frazier, Stacey Burling and Tom Lemke were key members in the Life Skills department that prepared me for post-grad life through resume workshops, career planning meetings, and networking events they hosted. With the help of the Sales Center and Life Skills department, I have been able to find a job for post-grad and feel confident about life after sports.
Talk about what you do as a member of the N-Volved.
N-Volved is centered around student-athletes coming together and dialoguing across differences. Being a member of the leadership team for N-Volved is really an amazing opportunity because I get to help facilitate the great conversations that are sparked in our meetings. Some of our meeting topics include political tensions, gun control and cultural diversity. We like to preface each meeting by just inviting everyone to be open and honest and stress the importance of listening to understand and not just respond when we hear something we don’t agree with.
I truly love being a part of this group because the dialoguing skills that I have been able to develop in N-Volved carry over into so many other relationships in my life. I believe it is an essential skill for people to be able to discuss the beliefs that they feel passionate about from a place of understanding and love. Especially at a time when opinions have become polarizing. Inclusion doesn’t look like only respecting people who believe the exact same beliefs as you but rather positioning your heart with a desire of understanding and respect for those who have different beliefs than our own. This has been by far my favorite lesson that I have learned in N-Volved, and I am so happy to be a leader in the group.
Outside of track and field and academics, you’re also passionate about giving back. Why is that so important to you and are there any favorite memories from time you’ve spent in the community?
It is so important to give back to the community to me because I often think about all the people that have poured into me and it is a blessing to now be able to pay it forward to others. Growing up, my family was far from rich and often was on the receiving end of the products from food banks. I have had the chance to learn from so many great teachers and local leaders being a member of the F Street Rec Center and other after-school programs. I would not be where I am today without the help of others, and I want to make sure to help others the same way I was helped.
One of my favorite memories from working in the community is earlier this year when I was a volunteer for a multi-week Special Olympics minicamp for disabled elementary school students. During the camp, each of the athletes was assigned an athlete that they would work with for the following weeks. I was working with a kid named Glenn and he has easily been my favorite memory in college so far. It was great to work with him and build a relationship with him each week. I had never really worked with special needs students before, so it was such a great opportunity to build a genuine relationship with Glenn centered around our shared love for sports.
Is there anything you hope to accomplish in your lifetime?
It is difficult to simplify what I hope to accomplish in life, but I think ultimately, I hope to leave something that lasts longer than me. One of the best things you can do in life is help another person and when all is said and done, I can be remembered for my impact on others rather than the titles I hold or things I buy.
What or who inspires you?
My mom has always been my source of inspiration for all that I do. My family immigrated to the United States when I was 3 years old and left everything that they knew to give my siblings and me a better life in America. Our story, like most immigrant stories, is a challenging path. When I was in the 3rd grade my mom had a difficult choice to make. My dad wanted to return to Africa and begin teaching there, but my mom wanted to stay in the United States so that my four siblings and I could finish school here. To do this, she had to get on a student visa and return to college just to keep my family and me in this country. Many of our close family friends told her she should just go back to Africa with my dad, but she decided to take the hard path and raise five kids by herself while returning to school in America.
Her work ethic and sacrifice have always been a source of inspiration for me, and it has led me to truly value the education that I’ve attained. My mom always emphasized the power of an education. She not only went back to school to get her associate degree, but she also got her bachelor’s, master’s and now she will be finishing her doctorate this spring. I have always gotten comments about my attitude toward hard work, but I’ve always felt my ability to work hard was nothing compared to what my mom has been able to accomplish. She is the reason why I do what I do, and I am blessed to have her as a role model in my life.
What is your advice to other students looking to make an impact on campus or in the community?
My advice to students looking to make an impact in the community is it doesn’t take a lot to change someone’s day. I think sometimes students can get into this mental trap of thinking about making an impact in their community by organizing some grand community service project, but it’s as simple as dropping off an extra item of food you have to Husker Pantry. Or as telling a stranger you like their outfit. So often we underestimate our own abilities to enact change or help others.
Stacey Burling in Nebraska Athletics once told me, “Your story matters.” For so long I felt that I couldn’t inspire anyone because I didn’t compete in a very popular sport or just because I always felt like you must have this groundbreaking, tear-inducing story. But the reality is, everyone has gone through struggles, and everyone learns and grows through their trials and tribulations. When I came to realize this, it made me form the desire to hear other people’s stories and hear what they have gone through to make them who they are today. That’s the reason why I value getting more involved in the community and getting to know the people that are in my community. In short, making an impact in your community is as easy as giving a stranger a compliment.