Debra has spent two decades studying how people form relationships with each other. She earned a BS in psychology/biology in 1997 from Nebraska Wesleyan University. She received both an MA (1999) and PhD (2002) in social/health psychology with an emphasis in quantitative methods from Stony Brook University. After completing a three-year postdoctoral fellowship at George Mason University, she moved to the Claremont Colleges, where she served 13 years as a Professor of Psychology in the Department of Humanities, Social Sciences, and the Arts at Harvey Mudd College (HMC). She has published over 30 academic articles and chapters, and has edited two academic books. She has won multiple awards at both local and national levels for her teaching; her favorite courses to teach are Psychology of Collaboration, Intellectual Virtues, and I’m Right; You’re Wrong.
In addition to her strengths in research and teaching, Mashek has broad experience in university administration and systems change. After receiving tenure in 2011, Mashek served three years as HMC’s Associate Dean for Faculty Development. Later, at the behest of the Deans of the seven Claremont Colleges, she directed grant-funded efforts to better leverage the colleges’ collective potential on the academic front. Based on the successes of that project, Mashek was charged with launching the new Office of Consortial Academic Collaboration, which serves five undergraduate colleges and two graduate institutions. As the principal of Cogit8 Consulting, she works with clients to cultivate the collaborative capacity of individuals, teams, and organizations. She is an experienced administrator who practices shared leadership to ensure team members are able and eager to contribute their talents and expertise to their work.
Mashek describes herself as a heterodox enthusiast who values, seeks out, and creates open inquiry and viewpoint diversity both professionally and personally. Although she was reluctant to leave her tenured professorship at a top liberal arts school, Mashek is powerfully drawn to the mission of Heterodox Academy. The polarization on campuses leaves her worried about the very foundations of the academic enterprise. She became the first Executive Director of Heterodox Academy in January 2018.