Drury professor builds and flies airplanes

To many people, studying economics conjures thoughts of studying the theories of John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich Hayek and analyzing spreadsheets of data looking for correlations. In one word: boring.

It is anything but boring says long-time Drury Economics Professor Steve Mullins, “You can’t talk about any news of the day without it having important economic ramifications,” Mullins said. “We are all faced with finite resources. Economics helps us design institutions, government policies and markets that help us make the most of resources and not let them go to waste.”

Mullins, who marks his 30th year as a faculty member in Drury’s Breech School of Business this academic year, doesn’t spend all of his time crunching data and studying theory. His father, who died in 1991, was a World War II fighter pilot. After his father’s death, Mullins, who had always wanted to earn his pilot’s license, made learning to fly a priority. However, he wasn’t satisfied with just flying aircraft; he wanted to build them, too.

Dr. Mullins in his aircraft

“I built my first aircraft from a kit. It took me about 3-to-4 months to build it in my garage and its maiden flight was in October of 1993,” Mullins said.

He’s logged over 2,000 hours mostly in experimental aircraft, and his current plane has aerobatic ability. He does perform a few basic aerobatics…with great caution. “I take the aircraft up to two mistakes high. You need enough altitude so that you can make two mistakes and still recover. I like to roll inverted (fly upside down),” Mullins said.

Besides his usual economics courses, Mullins also teaches a class called The Economics of Poverty and Discrimination in which he and his students examine the causes of poverty and income inequality. One goal of that course is to help his students develop a sense of empathy for the less fortunate. “If my students get through that class with one thought ‘There but for the Grace of God go I,’ then, that’s success,” Mullins said.

Besides a couple of guest teaching spots in England and at Texas Lutheran, Mullins has spent his entire career at Drury. He says the students are the same as when he started teaching three decades ago: inquisitive, hard working and energetic. Among his achievements at Drury for which he is most proud is taking economics students to conferences and watching them present their research.

The Oklahoma State graduate says that one of the reasons he’s stayed at Drury so long is due to his colleagues, “Coming from a big state school, I never really rubbed elbows with anyone outside of economics or accounting, but during my first month at Drury I met people with drastically different worldviews and opinions. My experience as a Drury faculty member has been more educational than my entire graduate school program.”