The fourth of five siblings to graduate from Morgan Park Academy, Andrea Mackevicius Marks ’86 is Chief Analytics Officer for the pharmacy benefits provider Catamaran, after earning her undergraduate degree at Loyola University Chicago and a Master’s at DePaul University.
What was your time at MPA like?
I remember my high school years at MPA very fondly. The aspects that stand out the most are the connections I made with both the students and the faculty. MPA felt like a small, tight-knit community, where there was a mutual respect for every person, regardless of interests, class standing, race, or religious beliefs. In fact, I would say that the school was very progressive in terms of supporting the uniqueness of each individual to create a very open culture ripe for learning. The experience at MPA made me appreciate people’s differences, an attitude I have proudly carried with me since then.
What are some of the most important things you learned?
High school is such a formative time, and there are a few key life skills that I learned during my time at MPA. The first is confidence. The innate culture at MPA was that your opinions counted. Your thinking was challenged, and you were pushed to support your beliefs, which in the end, built confidence in the ability to reason through problems.
The second most important thing was that it was OK to take risks, or try something new. Only in a small school with a rich commitment to offering opportunities to the student body are you able to participate in such a wide variety of sports and clubs. You don’t have to be the star athlete to run track — I should know. The opportunity to explore so many interests at a young age was so valuable, helping me become a well-rounded citizen and always open to new experiences.
What line of business are you in now? How did MPA prepare you?
I have spent the past 24 years in the healthcare industry on a path to measure and improve the care that is delivered. Currently, I serve as the Chief Analytics Officer at Catamaran. Catamaran is a large pharmacy benefits provider which, in simple terms, helps people get their medications while ensuring they reach the highest clinical quality outcomes. The role of a CAO is vast, covering the management of big data, targeting high-value, actionable opportunities to improve health, and then measuring the value of the business and its offerings. It’s a balance of business strategy, technology and research, requiring a tremendous amount of critical thinking.
The small class discussions that were core to the curriculum at MPA were part of the educational foundation which led to the development of my critical thinking skills. The approach the teachers took in the classroom taught me to think for myself; to really think about answers and, more important, how to formulate better questions.
This foundational skill is something that until I entered the business world, I didn’t realize was a unique skill. Critical thinking is what led me to constantly ask the important strategic questions, develop and test hypotheses, and in the end create improved outcomes.
With four siblings ahead of and behind you — Anthony Mackevicius ’81, Diana Mackevicius Sorfleet ’82, Natalia Mackevicius ’84, and Melisa Mackevicius Leonard ’88 — what did the MPA experience mean for your family?
For my family, education always came first. My grandfather, being an immigrant from Lithuania, used to say that any material thing can be taken away from you, but whatever you learn is yours to keep. For my parents, MPA was an investment in that philosophy, where creating well-rounded and educated people was the key to success.
Additionally, with MPA being a small private school, it was a microcosm of the world. My family always believed that you learn more in a diverse environment, and in the ’80s, it was rare to find such an environment. MPA was an island of diversity, and it helped each of us embrace diverse views in our respective fields.
What was it like for you to all attend the same small school?
There were never more than two of us at MPA at a time, but being fourth out of five to graduate from MPA meant that other students were somewhat familiar with my family. Yet that familiarity never overshadowed me as an individual. Both the students and teachers all strived to get to know me, instead of projecting characteristics of my siblings on me. It was always interesting to hear stories of my brother and oldest sister who walked the halls of MPA just a few years before me, and it was always comforting to see my other two sisters pass by in the halls. We were each two years apart, and the school was large enough that we didn’t interact much during school, but we would often walk home together and catch up on all the goings on.
Who and what do you remember most fondly?
My most fond memory is actually a medley of memories and feelings. I never felt that there was a strong segregation of cliques at the school; it was easy to feel accepted by everyone, and therefore I have memories of so many individual personalities. The school spirit was strong, which truly unified the students, and going to the games to support our teams was just what we did. I remember the individualized attention from small classes, like my Spanish 5 class, which had only four people in it. I remember hanging out in the student lounge and then racing up the east steps to the third floor, and almost always losing the race on the last flight. There are too many individual memories to mention, but the collection brings back a feeling of inclusiveness.