Mark Byrnes grew up in Murfreesboro and graduated from Riverdale High School before completing a B.S. in political science from MTSU in 1983. He went on to earn a Diploma in International and Comparative Politics from the London School of Economics (1987), and an M.A. and Ph.D. (1991) in political science from Vanderbilt University. A specialist in American government and politics, he joined the MTSU Department of Political Science in 1991 and has published books on NASA, James K. Polk, and Tennessee politics. Byrnes served as Dean of the College of Liberal Arts from 2010 to 2016 and as Associate Dean of the College from 2006-2010. He was appointed MTSU Provost in 2017 after serving as interim since 2016. As Provost, Byrnes oversees teaching, research and creative activity, and public service at MTSU through its academic programs, more than 900 full-time faculty members, and 400 staff in Academic Affairs.
Byrnes was elected to two terms (2004-2012) on the Rutherford County Board of Education. During that time, he served as chairman for four years and vice chairman for three.
Byrnes has also served as president of the Tennessee Political Science Association and of the MTSU chapters of the American Association of University Professors and the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi.