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UW Crest with engineering background
October 31, 2022

John Mulligan: 2022 Distinguished Achievement Award recipient

Written By: Staff

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John Mulligan

John Mulligan BSEE ‘88 (MBA ‘96, University of Minnesota)
COO, Target Corp.

We are honoring John as an exemplary corporate leader and expert in large-scale merchandising operations and finance and global supply chain planning and design.

How did you choose UW-Madison?

I was very interested in engineering, especially the opportunity to solve problems and create new tools. I also loved the campus visits, especially the Memorial Union in the spring. Both my sister and brother-in-law attended, which made the decision easier!

Why did you choose engineering?

I like solving problems. I was interested in computers, and I had a Texas Instruments computer I programmed in BASIC. ECE gave me the opportunity to develop my skills and learn the importance of collaborating with my classmates, professors and colleagues.

As a student, how did you spend your free time?

I attended football games, and I worked at the Space Science and Engineering Center on the Hubble Space Telescope and DXS, which flew on the shuttle. I also was on the Wisconsin alumni student board.

How did your experience in the College of Engineering shape your career path?

It taught me the value of critical thinking and problem solving; they are key no matter what you do. Further, you have to learn the math and the theory, but you have to communicate in order to influence outcomes. You learn that in group settings in class.

Which class made the greatest impact on you?

We had a senior class on microprocessors that had an eight-week design project. My partner and I built a prototype control system for a Space Science and Engineering Center project, and it was great to go from white paper to building a working prototype. That experience helped me understand the importance of building a tangible product and finding ways to improve it.

What advice would you give students today?

Have fun, learn the technical aspects, and also how to communicate and influence, since you will have to get others on board with your ideas.

Who has played the greatest role in your achievements?

Always the team; without a great team, nothing happens.

Any hobbies?

My family and spending time at the lake. When I can, I enjoy reading a good book.