Faculty Q&A: Don Haider Markel

Name: Don Haider Markel

Undergraduate Major: Political Science

Why did you become a professor?

I never imagined myself as a teacher or mentor, because I started with the notion that I love conducting research and writing. I don’t write well enough to make a living from that, so with the help of some great mentors, I saw that the academy was a way I could make a living doing things I had a passion for.

Why should someone study your subject?

Political Science allows you to study virtually anything you are interested in, using a variety of methodological approaches, and employing theories from nearly every discipline; it’s wide open.

Before graduating, every student should:

spend real time talking to their professors in office hours and the like. It’s easy to think you did your job by going to class, but you can learn so much talking to a professor one on one and letting the conversation flow beyond the restrictions of a class session.

What is your favorite place on campus?

Potter’s Lake (pond) has always been my favorite place, but I’m from Minnesota so tree and water make the scene for me.

My proudest accomplishment is:

Academically it was working on the Prop. 8 legal case from California, which sought to overturn the ballot measure that banned same-sex marriage. That case established a foundation for the academic literature and arguments that led to the legalization of same-sex marriage nationwide in 2015. I thought it was a lost cause when I started with the legal team, but my own published research helped provide some of the key arguments that helped to achieve the initial federal court ruling that overturned Prop. 8.