Dr. Maria Markham (‘02, ‘03) is a two-time graduate of Henderson State University where she received a B.B.A. in marketing and an MBA. She later earned a Ph.D. in business with a specialization in organizational leadership from North Central University.
Markham is currently director of the Arkansas Division of Higher Education. She and her husband, Jeff Haigwood, are parents to six children.
Why did you choose Henderson?
So many reasons! My dad graduated from HSU. He was the first in my family to go to college and he had a wonderful experience. I am from southwest Arkansas, so Henderson was close … but not too close to home. I was fortunate enough to receive a presidential scholarship, so HSU was also a practical option. While in high school, I had a couple of opportunities to attend athletic camps at HSU, so I was comfortable navigating the campus. I visited Henderson as a senior and knew that it was the place for me. I liked being in a small pond where I would have opportunities to be involved in a variety of student activities.
Who were your favorite professors?
I really enjoyed my political science classes with Dr. James. He was so knowledgeable and engaging. I also really like Ken Green in the business department. His classes really shaped my philosophies on organizational leadership. I don’t think we ever had a textbook in either of their classes, but I remember more from those lectures than the hours I spent studying theory.
How did Henderson prepare you for your career?
Henderson completely changed the trajectory of my career. I had no intentions of working in higher education, but Dr. Charles Dunn greatly influenced my early professional moves. His mentorship piqued my interest in campus leadership. My weird combination of business interest and higher education experience set me up for an unconventional path in institutional, and then state leadership.
What is your favorite memory of Henderson?
Do I really have to choose just one? The Pine Tree Speech and Alma Mater Henderson still give me chills and provoke tears every time.
When was the last time you were on Henderson’s campus?
I come to campus a lot, but I think the last time was in the spring to give my husband a tour. He is working on his Masters of Art in Teaching and wanted to see his new school.
What other job do you think you’d be really good at?
I would be a great trophy wife. That doesn’t seem likely, being married to a teacher, so my second choice is campus leadership. I love what I do, but there is a shelf-life for political appointees. When my time comes to move on, I plan to return to a college campus.
How do you relax after a hard day?
I hang out with my family. I have a whole herd of kids. We play hard.
What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives?
My bucket list is long, but go to Mal Pais, Costa Rica. Trust me. Just go.
What’s the hardest lesson you learned?
I grow more in failure than in success. Ouch.
What are three interesting facts about you?
1. Avocados are trash. Fight me.
2. I can’t be trusted in Hobby Lobby.
3. I’m addicted to roller coasters.
If your life was a book, what would its title be?
Have the Audacity
If you could make one rule that everyone had to follow, what would it be?
Build on your strengths and stop thinking about your weaknesses. Do you.