Director Maria Markham began service to the Arkansas Department of Higher Education in August 2016, but her history with higher education in Arkansas spans almost two decades. She has worked in almost every facet of higher education at both a community college and a university; from a work study student, grant director, full-time faculty, adjunct, division chair, chief academic officer, and now, an agency leader.
Markham’s primary responsibility is oversight of staff whose jobs are to carry out the policy directives of the Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board (AHECB) and to develop funding recommendations for the state’s 11 public universities and 22 public two-year colleges as well as several other post-secondary entities. In addition, the agency is responsible for distributing approximately $180 million annually from state revenues and lottery funds intended to ease the financial burden of students seeking an education beyond high school.
In addition to her work at ADHE, Markham also is a member of the Governor’s Cabinet, the Arkansas Workforce Cabinet, the Blue Ribbon Commission for Data Analytics, the Arkansas Career Education and Workforce Development Board, the Arkansas 529 board, the Arkansas Economic Development Council Division of Science and Technology board, Executive member of the State Higher Education Executive Organization, and serves on several other state boards and task forces. In 2019, Markham was appointed by Governor Asa Hutchinson to represent Arkansas as a commissioner for the Education Commission of the States (ECS). As commissioner, Markham will approve amendments to bylaws and provide strategic information to ECS staff regarding state education policy issues.
Markham is a double alumnae of Henderson State University where she received a BBA in Marketing and an MBA. She later received her Ph.D. in Business with a specialization in Organizational Leadership from NorthCentral University. Markham was named as one of Arkansas’s (2016) 40 Under 40 most Intriguing Business and Political Leaders and (2017) 200 Deal Makers by Arkansas Business.
Maria is the mother of five children, Charlie (12), Alyssa (11), Ava (8), Kate (8), and Benjamin (5) and the wife of Jeff Haigwood. Their family lives in Searcy.