After 40+ years in the world of academia, beginning as a graduate assistant teacher and retiring as a Chief Academic Officer (CAO), Charlie Cullum brings a unique perspective to the clients he mentors for SCORE. The reality is his positions in higher education have provided him with a skill set that transfers nicely to his role as a chapter volunteer. Having had the responsibility for introducing new educational programs within a university, ensuring rigid requirements are met, cost analysis is complete, quality is up to the academic standards, and the needs of the customers (students taking the course and future employers hiring those students) are being served is very relatable to the steps involved in starting a small business. Business planning is key to a successful start-up, and it is that strategic mindset Charlie brings to the table as a mentor.

Additionally, it turns out his work with faculty over the years parallels his efforts with SCORE clients. Another responsibility of a CAO is to conduct end-of-year reviews with faculty to determine their progress toward tenure and offer guidance and direction to help them successfully navigate their way. Similarly, listening and formulating plans with clients in a kind, compassionate, and encouraging way is important to their forward progress and has been instrumental in his success as a mentor.

During his short tenure with SCORE, Charlie has had the opportunity to co-mentor numerous clients with Jim Schwalje and believes their strengths are very complementary. Their client evaluations would confirm that fact; among 8 reviews they registered all fives for returning to their mentors. A recent client stated, “My first meeting with my mentors was amazing! They immediately understood where I needed help and had the skills and life experience to provide solid guidance and answers to my questions. I had a great first meeting and appreciate their interest and focus on my issues. When they extended the offer of meeting again and corresponding over email, it felt like I hit the jackpot!”

Charlie has also served as a co-mentor with Charlie Espenlaub, for whom he has tremendous respect as a mentor and from whom he has learned so much. He reflected on one particular client they have recurring contact with. She is in the process of retaining ownership of a business from another family member. Because there are lots of details involved in the transfer, the process is slow. This “ideal” client checks in regularly, update her progress, and eagerly accepts advice for the next steps. Because the business transfer is not yet complete, Charlie and Charlie are waiting until next year to nominate her for a SCORE Small Business Achievement award.

But it is not just mentoring where Charlie excels and his experiences in academics can be applied. As a member of the Volunteer Recruiting team, along with Salah Abdelhamid, Steve Crumrine, Mercedes Diaz, David Houseman, Maria Smith, and Eva Wylie, Charlie is representing SCORE in the community. He is actively seeking out volunteers from underrepresented groups. Diversity and inclusion have been important throughout his career in education. Whether it be hiring faculty, attracting students, or now recruiting volunteers, Charlie believes it is important to encourage building a diverse mentor pool and build a welcoming climate of acceptance. He also enjoys the energy of live events and making new connections!

It is probably not surprising to learn that Charlie is a longtime Rotarian, belonging to the Paoli-Malvern-Berwyn club. This year he is chairing the Charities Committee after serving many years as a member helping raise funds for designated community recipients. He credits a presentation to the Rotary Club by chapter volunteer George Mitchell, for first introducing him to SCORE and piquing his interest in the organization. Although Charlie has not seen George in recent years he is grateful for that introduction and reached out to SCORE following his retirement.

When not volunteering, Charlie likes to play golf. His game has improved greatly since he has more time to hit the links and he hopes the chapter will consider organizing a member outing soon. As for his future with SCORE, he will not rule out a leadership role although he has a lot more to learn before then.

Congratulations Charlie Cullum on your selection as this quarter’s Volunteer Spotlight for going above and beyond on behalf of our chapter!

Charles Cullum: Bringing an academic perspective to mentoring