While Mark Shevy has been a professor of mass communication and media production at NMU since 2007, people still don't agree on his name. Students in his classes usually call him “Dr. Shevy" or "Professor Shevy.” But he has been told that more people may know him as “Zumba Mark” because he enthusiastically instructs the trademark fitness classes that combine cardio with Latin-inspired dance. Students in Radio X and Marquette Ending Hunger—two organizations he advises—just call him “Mark.” Now Shevy has added a new title before his name: department head.
“There has never been a greater need for the research and education that we provide in Communication and Media Studies,” he said. “There is need for media literacy courses, which help people think critically about information and how mobile phones, social media and other media impact our personal lives and society at large. At a time when segments of society are becoming more divided and polarized, we are providing courses and activities devoted to building relationships and public discourse that help people with different points of view foster respect and mutually agreeable paths forward.
“In a world of proliferating misinformation and fake news, there is a great need for journalists who know how to investigate facts, find the truth, and present it an accurate, meaningful way. Humanity needs to do a better job of coming together to understand and address environmental issues, health and wellbeing, and crisis situations. These concerns are at the heart of the CAMS Department. I'm privileged and honored to work with faculty and staff who bring diverse perspectives and areas of expertise, yet are united in their deep concern for students and a desire to help build a better world for everyone.”
If Shevy's name is not familiar, his face might be recognizable. He was among several faculty members singing and dancing to the Journey hit “Don't Stop Believin'” in a video recorded at NMU's 2023 spring commencement and shared widely on social media.
As NMU's 2022 Adviser of the Year for Marquette Ending Hunger, Shevy contacted Shania Kids Can (SKC) about doing a fundraiser for the charity, which was created by singer Shania Twain. Shevy had read her biography and learned that she grew up in poverty in a small Ontario mining town.
“I have facilitated a few activities between the charity and NMU students,” said Shevy. “Last fall, one of my classes was able to video chat with some of the SKC leadership about promoting the charity through social media, which was a highlight of the semester. The students then designed and evaluated their own attempt to increase awareness of SKC among college students. I love being able to construct activities in which students learn something important while also helping others in a real-world way.”
Shevy started college as a biology major, but switched to telecommunications after volunteering at a student radio station. He went on to graduate from Michigan State University.
“I started becoming really interested in how psychology related to media production choices, particularly in music,” Shevy said. “I've always loved music and there's a lot happening psychologically when I'm deciding what kind of music to put with what kinds of images and what kind of message. In my master's program at Colorado State University, I started bringing those together. The degree was in technical communication and journalism. But within that scope, I was able to ask: ‘What role can music play and what psychological effects does it have?'”
While pursuing a doctorate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Shevy took courses that helped him better understand how music affects people. In one study, he compared the meanings that American students versus German students associate with musical genres. The combination of art and science is something that always excited Shevy. He thinks it might be because his mother was an NMU art major and his father was an NMU math major. His new position as department head is another way he's able to blend those two topics together.
“I think of the importance of communication when I think of this quote by Helen Keller: ‘Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much,'” said Shevy. “When we start working together, we can change the world. But, how do we work together? Well, we do it by forming relationships, we do that by sharing information and experiences, and we do that with communication. It's really the life force that allows us to accomplish what it is we want to accomplish.”
Shevy said he is excited to continue helping the CAMS Department grow in new ways to meet student interests and societal and industry needs. He and his colleagues have talked about expanding course offerings and looking into what it would take to start a master's degree.
“We've been strengthening our relationships with WNMU on campus and commercial TV and radio stations for student internships and employment. We have also begun upgrades to our media production studios and have hired a new instructor with expertise in audio production. We're partnering with NMU's Division of Extended Learning and Community Engagement to provide new audio production courses that will equip students with the most current professional practices with industry-standard equipment."
Shevy's love for music permeates his hobbies as well. That is one of his main reasons he got involved with Zumba. He had started taking fitness courses at the YMCA, and the Zumba instructor invited him to one of her classes.
“Dancing in the midst of other people made me really uncomfortable, and usually I was the only male in a class, which also was uncomfortable. Zumba allowed me to combine fitness and musical enjoyment while also growing my ability to be comfortable with myself and connect with a wider diversity of people.”
When it was suggested that Shevy become an instructor, he took it as a challenge to go beyond his comfort zone again. After seeing how his classes at NMU Rec Sports and the YMCA improved people's physical, mental and social wellbeing, Shevy decided to dedicate himself to dance fitness. He has been known as “Zumba Mark” ever since.
“In a way, teaching Zumba classes and becoming the department head really let me bust out the leadership and management skills I relied on as a former Air Force captain and put them to use again. It also ties in to a memory of when I was graduating from high school. I remember sitting in the car with my dad. He turned to me and asked, ‘So what do you want to do with your life?' I told him that I want to make people happy and he said, ‘Oh, the real world will straighten that out,' meaning that it's hopeless. After teaching Zumba though, I'll overhear people saying, ‘I feel so good, I'm so happy, I'm so glad I did this' as they're walking out. Whenever I hear that I think, ‘I'm living my dream.' This is just a side thing, but it makes my life very rich.”
Shevy is a loving husband to wife, Cheri Shevy, whom he calls “the world's best veterinarian.” In May, the couple were two of only three people invited to meet Shania Twain backstage before her concert in Madison, Wis.
“She was kind and down to earth,” he said. “When I thanked her for helping kids in need, she became serious and with heartfelt sincerity agreed that it's such an important thing.”
By the time they entered the arena to join the audience, Twain was already singing, and Shevy described the roar of more than 10,000 screaming fans as a “surrealistic juxtaposition to the quiet moment that we'd just left. I'm thankful to have shared that memorable moment with Cheri.”
Prepared by Ian McCullough and Kristi Evans