Beginning July 1, Dr. Anand R. Marri will become dean of Teachers College. He recently served as dean and professor (on research leave) of the Warner Graduate School of Education and Human Development at the University of Rochester in New York. Ball State announced the hire on January 7.
He chatted with Ball State Marketing and Communications about his career and desire to lead Teachers College. Here are highlights of that conversation.
What caught your eye about Ball State?
My career has been focused on promoting the common good. I am looking forward to working at a public institution with the same focus. That’s the No. 1 thing.
Ball State is an economic escalator school, serving populations that traditionally were not afforded the opportunity to attend higher education institutions. Over 30 percent of Ball State students are first generation students. Over 50 percent of students who receive financial aid are Pell Grant students, like myself. That’s what drove me to apply for the position.
When did you know education was your life mission?
My sophomore year at Bowdoin College. Bowdoin is a liberal arts school. They encourage you to study as many subjects as possible. So, as an elective, I took Education 101, taught by Professor Penny Martin. I felt at home. It felt right.
The first question she asked us was “Who is Lamar Alexander?” I raised my hand and said, “He’s the secretary of education.” I was not the best student at Bowdoin. I was struck that I was the only one who raised my hand.
Why does that memory stand out?
Bowdoin is an elite and highly competitive academic institution. Here’s this kid on financial aid from India by way of Queens. It stands out that I knew it. From there on, Professor Martin took me under her wing. I made a connection with someone I respected. She changed the course of my career.
(Marri earned a bachelors in government and legal studies from Bowdoin College; a master’s in social studies education from Stanford University; and a doctorate in curriculum and instruction from University of Wisconsin-Madison.)
Tell us about your first teaching job.
I could have taught in well-to-do suburbs in the Bay Area. But I purposefully taught social studies and English as a Second Language in low-income high schools in San Jose, California. It was the hardest job I ever had — getting kids thinking about life beyond high school and helping them gain the skills necessary to become active and engaged democratic citizens. Teaching isn’t easy. Especially after lunch periods. That’s the hardest thing I have done professionally.
What do you think of the partnership with Muncie Community Schools?
It’s one of the things that made Ball State very attractive to me. As a university, your responsibility isn’t just the students on campus but also the community you serve. You can’t separate the town from the university. It has to be a concerted effort.
How do we improve the lives of kids in Muncie and beyond? It’s all about making sure they have the same access to high quality education as kids who have more resources. We are trying to move the needle on improving the lives of 6,000-plus students. It’s really exciting. It’s for the greater good.
What do you do away from work?
We have three young girls. My wife is a researcher at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her research focuses on improving community colleges. She travels a lot, so there are a lot of childcare duties that go back and forth. My wife and I are also training for our first marathon this fall. We are sending in lottery applications for the New York City Marathon. If not, we are signing up for the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon in November. I’m also a big fan of the New York Yankees and the New York Jets.