Conversations with Leaders: Andrae Marak
Dr. Andrae Marak studies borders. With an emphasis on North America, he traces the flow of licit and illicit goods, peoples, and ideas from one nation to another. He also studies indigenous populations, especially those whose ancestral homelands transcend borders. His work with the Tohono O'odham Nation—a native group in the U.S. Southwest and Northwestern Mexico—has brought him to the Arizona reservation on more than one occasion.
“As a non-indigenous person who studies and writes about indigenous peoples, there is nothing more important than being present to listen to what indigenous people have to say about their own histories and their own lives,” Marak said. “I learn so much that is new every time that I am there.”
As Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Governors State University, Marak applies the same hands-on ethos to student learning that he employs in his own research.
“Ideally, we want students to be co-creators of knowledge,” he said. “By allowing them to engage in research, work alongside faculty members, and essentially ‘get their hands dirty’ in their fields of study, we’re opening the door for students to learn in the most meaningful ways possible.”
Since joining Governors State University in 2012, Marak has played a central role in a number of important initiatives, including the university’s transformation from an upper-division and graduate university to a four-year regional comprehensive institution. He has taken a leadership role in developing the lower division curriculum for GSU’s already existing programs, spearheaded the creation and launch of a series of new undergraduate liberal arts majors and minors, and worked to forge new pathways for high achieving students—all the while insuring that high-impact practices are embedded in them.
In February, he adds Dean of Graduate Studies to his already full roster.
“I’m really looking forward to this opportunity to learn from our excellent faculty and their students about what our current and future students need to be successful in their graduate fields of study and in their future careers,” Marak said. “Our graduate programs are some of the best in the region and the nation. I hope that my leadership can contribute to maintaining GSU’s history of graduate excellence.”
In addition to his administrative and scholarly work, his passion for teaching keeps him—occasionally—still in the classroom. A military veteran—he served nine years in the U.S. Army Reserve and Wisconsin and New York Army National Guards—Marak, in partnership with colleague Dr. Rosemary Johnsen, cowrote a 2017 NEH grant that allowed the pair to work in-depth with student veterans at GSU, an experience that brought enrichment to both students and professors.
"The exchange of knowledge that takes place when we engage students where they are and open the door for their valuable experiences to be brought into the classroom," he said, "is what distinguishes rote learning from the kind of high-impact education that transforms institutions and lives."