USF leads nation in producing Fulbright Scholars

In the 1980s, Matt Mularkey jumped out of military planes. These days, he’s a Fulbright Award winner.

The Largo native, St. Petersburg resident and University of South Florida professor was informed on Feb. 6 that he won a Fulbright Scholarship for the 2019-20 academic year. That only enhances USF’s reputation as a research institution.

USF led all the research institutions in the nation with 12 Fulbright Scholars (Florida State is second with nine) in the 2018-19 Matt Mullarkey is a Fulbright Award recipient set to research smart-city design in Ireland. academic year. Mullarkey’s selection makes him the 10th USF Muma College of Business faculty member to earn a Fulbright Scholarship over the last four years.

“I could not be prouder of our amazing faculty here at the Muma College of Business,” says Dean Moez Limayem. “They contribute in so many ways, not only to the body of knowledge here at the college but also to the betterment of our local, national and global communities.”

Mullarkey, 56, hopes to break ground with his research on smart-city design in Ireland when the scholarship begins next January. He’ll spend five months partnering with researchers at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth; the Irish Innovation Value Institute, LERO Ireland and the Dublin City Council’s Smart Docklands team.

We’ll get to what the research is about in a minute. But to fully understand how all this came about, you need to know one thing about Mullarkey. He’s always been the adventurous type. A West Point graduate, Mullarkey spent about a decade as an Army Airborne Ranger. He was deployed mostly in the Pacific Rim.

“I don’t think anyone could have planned my career,’’ Mullarkey says. “I certainly couldn’t have imagined all the twists and turns. Basically, I guess you could say it’s just been a series of very fortuitous events.’’

After leaving the Army, Mullarkey went to work as an engineer for Michelin Tires. He spent most of the 1990s with the company and quickly worked his way into upper management. Soon, he was in charge of distribution in the United States, Canada, and Europe. In the 2000s, Mullarkey’s career path took another turn. He worked on optimizing operations and business practices in the medical supply field.

In 2010, Mullarkey decided to leave the corporate world, move back to Florida and become an entrepreneur. By chance, he soon met some USF officials who convinced him he was a perfect candidate for their Ph.D. program and he enrolled.

“I completed that in 2014 and USF never let me go,’’ Mullarkey says with a laugh.

Mullarkey teaches research methods and systems analysis and is the director of the Doctor of Business Administration program at Muma College of Business. 

Mullarkey’s Fulbright Scholar Core Faculty Grant is titled “Developing Information Systems Design Principles for Smart-City Districts’’.

So what exactly is a smart city?

“The idea of a smart city is somewhat a misnomer,’’ Mullarkey says. “There is no one specific definition. It’s basically finding ways that we can be more intelligent in the way we live and work in a city. Almost every individual now has at least one device where they’re connected. Cities are connected in so many ways, from things like street lights to public transportation. All of those things can be connected to help people to live in better, more productive and healthy ways.’’

Or maybe you could say a smart city is one where just about everyone is connected to just about everything.

Mullarkey’s research will focus on Dublin City Docklands, which is a district of Dublin. That may be the ideal location for this research because Dublin is considered one of the world leaders in smart-city design. A 2014 story in National Geographic about Dublin ran with the headline: “An Unexpected Capital of the Internet of Things’’ and said Ireland’s capital was “leapfrogging the competition in the race to a smart city’’.

“For me, the Fulbright is coming at a great time,’’ Mullarkey says. “They have had a little time to see what works and what doesn’t over there.’’

Mullarkey wants to return back to Tampa Bay to help the region thrive. Mullarkey says the Tampa Bay Area has made great strides in smart-city design and he sees many similarities between Dublin City Docklands and places such as Ybor City, Downtown St. Petersburg, and Downtown Sarasota.

“It’s not a question of who’s ahead or behind,’’ Mullarkey says. “Yes, Docklands started earlier. But Tampa Bay also has some good things in place. Tampa Bay has become an unsung hero in business-to-business technology and Dublin is strong in that area as well.

“There are many parallels between Dublin and Tampa Bay. In both Dublin and Tampa Bay, you have to serve other markets to truly be successful. Both places are surrounded by water. The only real difference is that they’re separated by an ocean. I hope I can shorten the distance of that ocean, so-to-speak, and bring back what I learn to help make Tampa Bay even greater than it already is.’’

Read more about USF's top ranking for Fulbright Scholars at the University of South Florida website.

Learn more about past USF Fulbright Scholars at the USF Muma College of Business website.

Read more about Fulbright Scholars at the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Read more articles by Patrick Yasinskas.

Pat Yasinskas is a freelance writer based in Tampa. He has been an award-winning sportswriter at ESPN.com, The Charlotte Observer, and The Tampa Tribune. He also currently freelances for Street & Smith's NFL and College Football preview yearbooks, and several other websites.
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