Missouri State University

Malikah Marrus

  • Assistant professor
  • Bachelor’s in history, 1992, Fisk University
  • Master’s in social work, 2003, University of Houston

Social work instructor brings years of experience to classroom

This is Malikah Marrus’ first job as a professor after years of experience working in her field — and she’s already being nominated as a great teacher.

In previous jobs, Malikah Marrus helped attorneys who were representing children in abuse and neglect cases. She has also done a lot of work on how to rehabilitate young people who have committed crimes. Her research has played a role in courtrooms and influenced lawmakers who make public policy. She has plans for research now that she has come to Missouri State, and you might get to help: “We will look for students to assist.”

You are being profiled because students say you’re a great teacher. What do you think makes a teacher great?

A great teacher is someone who inspires students to want to learn more and to push themselves past the boundaries they thought existed for them. I think teachers can be considered successful if their students not only learn in class, but can apply knowledge to real-life situations and get good outcomes.

Some of the topics in social work classes may be tied to strong opinions. How do you foster an intelligent, open discussion?

We do talk about things like prayer in schools, the death penalty, health-care reform, poverty, immigrants, same-sex marriage and other “hot topics.” I lay ground rules when we start so the classroom’s a safe haven. There’s no right or wrong answer. There’s no name-calling and no personal attacks, and you have to argue your points based on facts. After that, everybody’s decisions are really respected. These discussions then lead students to pick up a newspaper, watch the news or otherwise learn about what’s going on.

Why should social work students choose Missouri State?

We have fantastic faculty, and many of them are licensed social workers so they have been in the workplace and know the best ways to educate new leaders in their fields. Also, our social work program is focused on families — we are one of the only programs in the country with that focus. And local social-work agencies have good relationships with each other and the University, which helps students network and get internships.

You also say the state of Missouri is great for students who are interested in juvenile delinquency. Why is that?

Missouri happens to be one of the most interesting states in terms of juvenile delinquency. There’s this “Missouri model” that some other states try to emulate. When a juvenile delinquent is taken out of his or her home, Missouri keeps the child closer to home so social workers can keep the child’s family involved in counseling and rehabilitation efforts. To me, being in Missouri meant I could really get involved in research and then best prepare students to work in the treatment and prevention of juvenile delinquency.

How are MSU social work students prepared for the real world?

A: Students are required to do work at an agency as part of their studies — so they are learning to be a social worker by actually doing the work.

What other advantages does Missouri State offer that other schools do not?

The University has a public affairs mission that helps students learn how to be connected with the world outside of campus. For at least four or five years you will be here, but there’s a whole world outside and the University wants you to know your one little footstep actually can and does make a difference.

You moved to Springfield from Texas within the last few years. What would you tell students who might be moving here from other places?

Springfield has a small-town feeling, even though it’s Missouri’s third-largest city. You get some of the benefits of a city, like arts, but not the drawbacks of a city, like traffic. Also, Springfield is not overwhelming for students away from home for the first time — they can go away to college but still be in a very safe environment.

You have focused part of your career research on juvenile delinquents. What can young people do to reduce crime among their peers?

I would tell high school and college students that if you see somebody about to do something stupid, stop him or her. It’s hard, because you don’t want to be the kid that tries to act like a mom or dad, but you can show others that there is something better. Just suggest something else to do that’s more positive but still fun, like playing basketball or video games.

What are your favorite places on campus?

The student union, because I love to people-watch and it’s always hopping. JQH Arena, because I am a big sports fan and I love the energy students bring to the basketball games. And last, my classroom because the days students “get it” are the best days possible.