Aggie Mother Following Her Daughter’s Footsteps
Following a family member’s footsteps by attending Texas A&M University is a normal occurrence within Aggie culture. Being a second-generation Aggie to your own daughter is not. This was the case with Heather Dulas, who became convinced that she should attend Texas A&M for her doctoral program during her daughter’s freshman year as an Aggie.
“I thought, maybe I better ask my daughter if I’m even welcome over here. Is that cool with her if I move over from Kerrville and go to school? She’s like, well, why would you apply anywhere else,” Dulas said.
Dulas earned an undergraduate degree in both elementary education and special education as well as a master’s in education with an emphasis on autism spectrum disorders. When the time came for her to decide where to pursue her Ph.D., choosing Texas A&M was simple.
Dulas was a first-generation college graduate and had been a single mother since her daughter Bailey was 4 years old. Because of this, Dulas wanted to serve as a good role model for Bailey, especially around life’s harder lessons, like never giving up on your dreams.
“I wanted to show her that even though my educational journey took a lot longer than I had initially planned, it is definitely possible to go all the way in school and to pursue your dreams,” Dulas said.
Bailey knew that she wanted to attend Texas A&M since the eighth grade after just one tour of the campus. That decision would require the family to relocate from Minnesota to Texas to gain residency and get acclimated to their newly adopted state.
“From having moved from another state and attending two other universities, I really see what a gift it is to be an Aggie. It is universally recognized,” Dulas said. “I’ve been on vacation with my daughter where her same ring shows up across an airplane or across a room, and all of a sudden she’s got this magical connection to other people. I’m like, this is cool. I get to do that someday.”
Before pursuing her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology at A&M, Dulas worked as a teacher for 21 years and found her calling as well as the type of research she wanted to do.
“I was watching new teachers and noticed they were often tentative or nervous towards special populations,” Dulas said. “I thought, maybe I can have some influence on making this a more comfortable experience while helping to benefit the next generation of teachers.”
After Dulas saw the impact that Texas A&M had on Bailey, she decided to take the leap and apply for admission to the Ph.D. program.
“I decided I would either get into A&M or continue educating high school students,” Dulas said.
Dulas was accepted into the Ph.D. program at Texas A&M where she connected with her faculty advisors, Dr. Lisa Bowman-Perrott and Dr. Carly Gilson. Dulas never thought that these relationships would lead to her involvement with some of the leading-edge research being done at the university.
“I was moved forward into a future that I really couldn’t have even imagined for myself – getting to work with Aggie ACHIEVE from the ground up. I’m getting really rich, hands-on experiences in the precise environment that I want to work in after I hold that doctorate.”
Dulas also set a goal of getting her Aggie ring before completing her Ph.D. However, due to certain circumstances Dulas thought her Aggie ring would have to wait until after she returned to the workforce.
“I found out about the Aggie Ring Scholarship when I was completing my Texas A&M Application for Financial Aid. I chose to apply for it because my daughter and I were both attending A&M as graduate students at the same time,” Dulas said.
Dulas later received a letter in the mail stating that she was the recipient of the Tom C. “Ike” Morris ’33 Endowed Aggie Ring Scholarship. Her goal of graduating with a ring became a reality.
Tom C. “Ike” Morris ‘33, the oldest known Aggie, was a World War II veteran and passed away in 2019 at the age of 109. Three years prior to his passing, he established an Aggie Ring Scholarship that pays for at least one student’s Aggie Ring each year.
“When I opened that letter, I couldn’t believe it, and I had to make sure that it was really going to the right spot, but I feel immensely grateful,” Dulas said. “I didn’t know Mr. Morris or his family, but I think it’s important to recognize where this came from, because it’s an amazing gift.”
When asked what the Aggie ring meant, Dulas said it made her feel connected to all of the Aggies that had come before her and all of the ones that would come after her. Even though her extended family is 1,200 miles away, she feels surrounded by family everyday with the community she has at the university.
For anyone on the fence about attending Texas A&M, Dulas recommends that they take part in one of the traditions such as midnight yell or attending one of the football games. Dulas believes that until you see the campus and experience the culture firsthand, you won’t get a real grasp of the type of family that the university represents.
“I can guarantee you that from my experience of attending other schools along my educational journey, that there is nothing like the spirit that you’ll find at Texas A&M,” Dulas said.
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