Meet Presidential Fellow Mark Palmer ‘20
Palmer joined the President’s office staff this summer.
August 13, 2020—Mark Palmer ’20 was speechless when he received a call from President Dennis Murray asking him to serve as Marist’s Presidential Fellow.
The Los Angeles native was quarantining at home with his family when the offer came. “How could I say no to such a great opportunity? Very few people have held this positon and I knew I would have big shoes to fill, but the challenges currently facing higher education with COVID-19 drew me to the opportunity.”
Palmer is the fourth Presidential Fellow at Marist. He follows Tina Opie, Edward Summers ‘04/’06M and Freddimir Garcia ‘09/’14MBA. Opie is an Associate Professor at Babson College; Summers is the founder and CEO of the nonprofit The Thinkubator; and Garcia is Regional Director of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement for Westchester Medical Center Health Network. “It is an honor to be a Presidential Fellow,” said Palmer. “My predecessors have gone on to great success and I hope to continue that trend.”
Palmer started his new job in early July and he’s deeply impressed with his colleagues in Greystone. “The President’s Office is always busy. There are not a lot of moments to pause; it’s a very fast pace here,” he noted. “Anything that arrives in the Office of the President is taken seriously. The level of detail the staff deals with is incredible. I appreciate having colleagues who are so detail-oriented.”
The admiration goes both ways. “Mark was a student in my Honors seminar, and I was immediately impressed with his intellect and leadership qualities,” said President Murray. “For this reason, I thought he’d be a great fit for the Presidential Fellow program, which I started in the Office of the President almost two decades ago. This program allows talented young professionals of color to serve on Marist’s Cabinet and learn about higher education administration and policy-making at the highest levels. I’m very proud that previous Presidential Fellows have gone on to senior leadership roles at Marist and other organizations, and I’m sure Mark will be no exception.”
For Palmer, President Murray’s leadership seminar was a high point of his time at Marist. “In the seminar, we reviewed case briefs and discussed types of leadership. Students in the class were exploring leadership in different ways—both in the Marist community and in the Poughkeepsie community,” said Palmer. “For me, now it’s about practicing some of those principles in my new role here at Marist. I feel like I have a strong grasp of President Murray’s perspective on leadership.”
First Generation College Student
Palmer credits his mother for instilling ambition in him from an early age. While still a student at Verbum Dei High School, Palmer was a member of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Youth Council. He knew college was part of his life plan, too. “Before my father passed away, one of his last words to me was to ‘pursue a college degree and be more successful than I was.’ My mom made sure I stayed the course and she is extremely proud that I have a BA, and she is looking forward to me earning a Master’s degree.”
“As an African American male from South Los Angeles, I understood the importance of a college degree at a young age,” said Palmer. “Being a first generation college graduate is part of re-setting my family’s trajectory,” he explained.
As a student, Palmer took advantage of all Marist had to offer. He was very active outside the classroom, serving as the Vice President of the Marist Democrats and as an advisory board member for Center for Multicultural Affairs, and also being involved with both the Student Government Association and the Greek Council. He also—somehow—found time to be a member of the Zeta Psi fraternity.
The summer before his senior year, Palmer was selected for the College’s prestigious Tarver Internship Program. Tarver Interns live on campus for the summer but work with regional nonprofit organizations. Palmer interned with Marist’s Upward Bound Program, which serves low-income high school students.
The experience was a defining one for him. “I enjoyed working with Upward Bound Program students because I faced some of the challenges they were going through. Those students wanted to succeed and they taught me a lot throughout the summer program,” he explained. In his role as an intern, Palmer mentored students, focused on building leadership skills, and secured guest speakers.
Palmer giving a presentation about his Tarver Internship experience in 2019.
A Problem Solver
Graduating with a degree in political science (with a minor in criminal justice), Palmer has big aspirations. “I’d like to be involved in politics and education policy. Eventually, I would like to run for office. I feel it’s my calling to help others and to help people who do not have a voice in society. One of the ways to effect change is to participate politically—civic engagement is critically important.”
Palmer recalled one of his Marist professors saying that political science majors enjoy problem solving and he sees that as a key element of his new position. “I know I’ll be able to be a problem solver in my role as Presidential Fellow,” he said. “Every day at Marist people are working to solve problems. As Marist reopens during COVID-19, I have the opportunity to grow and learn under a stellar President and staff.”