From the Court to the Classroom, Student Athlete Returns as Professor

Mark Peaden
Dr. Mark Peaden instructing kids in the field Dr. Mark Peaden desert Dr. Mark Peaden with turtle Dr. Mark Peaden in fieldwork Dr. Mark Peaden holding a snake

A member of Rogers State University’s men’s basketball team has returned to campus, this time as a member of faculty. A 2010 graduate from RSU, Dr. Mark Peaden was hired this fall as an Assistant Professor of Biology. A walk-on forward from Owasso, Peaden was a member of the inaugural recruiting class for men’s basketball in 2007.

RSU will celebrate homecoming this Saturday, February 15. Gameday celebration will include family-friendly activities held at the Claremore Expo Center where the basketball games will be played. All pre-game activities are free and open to the public.

“It was the allure of playing college basketball that drew me to RSU,” said Peaden. “I wasn’t ready to give up the sport. Chasing basketball as a young college student forever changed my life.”

Peaden is a 2005 graduate of Owasso High School. He was named to the Green Country all-star team as a senior and helped the Rams reach the state tournament in 2004-05. Following high school, Peaden enrolled at Oklahoma State University and served as assistant coach for the Stillwater High School boy’s basketball team.

“Transferring to a small regional university opened up so many opportunities. I was immediately placed into a close-knit family setting with teammates from all over the country. It was a front row seat to many diverse backgrounds. Being a part of the first-ever team and building a program gave me an incredible sense of pride about being a Hillcat.”

Basketball brought Peaden to Claremore, but his captivation in the classroom led him to become a field biologist. He credits the mentoring of Dr. Keith Martin for his success within and beyond the classroom.

“I teach in the same tradition that I was exposed to as a student,” said Dean of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Biology Dr. Keith Martin. “My goal is to get students out of the classroom and in the field as much as possible. Walking through fields, hiking in the mud and crawling through caves has a way of instilling a love of biology into students.”

While an RSU undergraduate, Peaden formulated and completed an empirically-driven research project studying the benthic macro invertebrate population of Oklahoma streams and rivers near industrial parks. Peaden spent the five years immediately following his time at RSU traveling the country as field biologist. During this time he worked in 37 states living out of his truck and studying all kinds of wildlife on grant funded research projects.

He went on to earn his Ph.D. in ecology from the University of California, Davis where he conducted postdoctoral research running the Mojave Desert Tortoise head-starting research program in the Mojave Desert.

“Mark is the type of professor you want in your program,” said Martin. “U.C. Davis has a brand of biology that considers the impact of ecology and conservation on a global scale. His exposure to this level of research greatly enriches the classroom environment for our students at RSU.”

Peaden is happy to be back in Claremore and excited by the men’s basketball performance this season.

“Claremore is a completely different place than when I was a student. I am encouraged to see so much development and enthusiasm for the city. I’ve enjoyed attending the young professionals gatherings, riding my bike to work, and attending home games at the Expo Center.”

Peaden supports the Hillcats as a Hillcat Club member and attends home games. The RSU men’s basketball team has had a monumental season as a first year member of the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association. In his 10th season as head coach of the men’s team, Justin Barkley secured his 200th win earlier this season leading the program to a 200-92 record. Barkley and the Hillcats have had at least 16 wins in every season with at least 20 wins in the first six seasons and never a losing record.

RSU is a NCAA Division II program and member of the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association. The homecoming games take place during conference competition this Saturday, Feb. 15 as the Hillcats face off against Washburn University. The women’s team tips off at 2 p.m. with the men’s game following at 4 p.m. The games will feature senior day recognition for both men’s and women’s basketball teams. The 2020 RSU Homecoming King and Queen will be crowned during halftime of the men’s game.