Dean Karen Markel: From Coast to Coast
Dean Karen Markel was born and raised in Buffalo, New York where she says is home to some of the friendliest people in the world and an easy living atmosphere. It instilled within her the love of snow and small city life, though there are close to a million people who reside in the Nickel city. Markel spent a lot of time travelling up to Toronto with her family where she experienced first-class theater and art productions whereas in Buffalo she focused more on sports entertainment. The world class city exposure in Toronto along with frequently seeing the international tourism traffic of Niagara Falls helped her understand that the world is a big place which is a concept she thanks her parents for instilling. Markel calls Anchorage her home away from home as it has the colder weather, friendly people, and the small town feel.
Though education was very important to both of her parents, Markel’s father had a rule that his children couldn’t go to college south of the Mason-Dixon line, west of the Mississippi, or in New York City. Markel chose to complete her Bachelor of Science at Washington University in St. Louis…just west of the Mississippi. It was a great school with a wide variety of programs and allowed her to experience living in a new place away from home. Markel chose to major in Business Administration and Management for a practical degree she had the freedom to apply wherever her path took her.
She worked in Chicago for four years before deciding it was time to continue her education. She wanted to be closer to home and her family so she moved back eastward to SUNY at Buffalo to complete her Master’s degree in Sociology. She was particularly interested in work-family balance throughout her studies.
Once she had achieved her MA, Markel followed a mentor to Michigan State University to work with her and to begin progress on her Doctorate of Philosophy in Social Sciences with an emphasis on Human Resource Management and Labor Relations.
While pursuing her education, Markel had also met and married her husband who finished law school and moved with her to Detroit. They began and raised their family there, which felt like a bigger version of Buffalo and was full of friends who felt like family, but after 17 years at the same institution Markel was ready to make the transition to a position with greater responsibility.
It was at this time that the opportunity to move to the University of Alaska Anchorage arose and it was too exciting of an adventure to pass up. Markel chose UAA because it felt like a school that was really young and also in a young state so it had tons of potential and tremendous opportunity for expansion. Aside from the university itself, Anchorage reminded her of home upon her first visit in the sense that it had the small town feel, an incredible range of winter activity, and great people. She looked forward to exposing her kids to living somewhere new and instilling in them the same understanding of the scope of the world that her parents had emphasized during her childhood.
Now that she’s here, Dean Markel is just as excited about the College of Business and Public Policy as she was when she arrived over a year ago. Anchorage has that easy living feel with just about everything to offer, like her hometown, which offers so much opportunity for our students to learn, network, and excel in hands-on ways they might not experience anywhere else. The students and faculty are so engaged both professionally, in terms of student projects or research, as well as by bringing local community members in to work together toward the best education possible to prepare students to excel in their careers after they’ve graduated.
What is your personal motto?
The glass is half full.
What is a skill you’d love to learn?
What is your favorite movie genre and why?
Suspense – the element of surprise.
What was your first impression of Alaska?
More beautiful in person.
What is your favorite outdoor winter/summer activity?
Summer would be walking or hiking outside.
Winter is skiing.
Where would you say is the best Alaskan view?
There are so many to choose from, but the first to come to mind is the Homer spit.
Who is someone that’s influenced your career? How?
My grandmother – she was somebody that didn’t even finish high school but taught me that if you put your mind to something you can do anything.
What are some causes you care about and why?
I care about food and housing insecurity. People should feel secure in our country of wealth.