Professor Higbee joined EMU's history faculty in 1994 and is an active member of the EMU and Ypsilanti communities. He is passionate about learning and teaching history, and seeks to engage all his students – both those who profess a hatred of history and those who love it – in exploring the meanings of the past.
Higbee regularly teaches both halves of the American history survey course (HIST 123 and 124), as well as courses in African American history: HIST 315 (History of Black Americans), HIST 319 (History of the Civil Rights Movement) and HIST 531 (Studies in Black History), as well as on American Constitutional History (HIST 465 and 565).
Since 2005, Higbee has been using a nationally recognized innovative teaching method, Reacting to the Past, in selected courses. The method involves elaborately designed role-playing games in which students assume historical roles from a famous moment in history, and then pursue the goals of their assigned character – in collaboration with some classmates and in opposition to others. The Reacting method teaches skills in research, writing, public speaking, and teamwork; it has a proven record of engaging undergraduate students in ways that are not common for American university students.
In 2009, Higbee accepted the request of EMU Provost Jack Kay to create a Reacting to the Past game on Frederick Douglass and slavery in American history. This task took a decade, but in June 2019, it was published by W.W. Norton in its RTTP series, as Frederick Douglass, Slavery, and the Constitution, 1845, with coauthor James Stewart. Even before publication, however, the game was used in countless classrooms across the country. Mark’s only disappointment with the Douglass game is that Jack Kay did not live long enough to see its success.