Dr. Halil Ibrahim Salih, professor of political science, has not just helped students at Texas Wesleyan, but has given them the opportunity to travel all over the world.
Because of his passion to help students travel internationally and desire for students to learn, Salih, who has been teaching at Wesleyan since 1968, was given the President’s GEM Award in 2014.
Salih is very involved with the Model Arab League, which helps students learn about the politics and history of the Arab world, as well as diplomacy and public speaking; he coaches Wesleyan’s MAL team. In December 2014, he was one of only five faculty from the U.S. selected as part of the 2014 Saudi Arabia Malone Fellowship delegation.
“I was selected to go to United Arab Emirates and Oman in 1995 as an alumni fellow,” said Salih, who earned his doctorate degree in international studies from The American University in Washington, D. C.. “They periodically give you an opportunity to apply to go to another country. Most of the dates conflicted with my teaching in the fall and spring. And I couldn’t just leave my students for two weeks. So when they came up with the idea of professors going to Saudi Arabia it happened to be at Christmas vacation. This was ideal, so I applied.”
The fellowship is designed to educate students about the Saudi Arabian government, culture, and their business practices, Salih said. This is something that Salih hopes all his students can experience, which is why he coaches Wesleyan’s MAL team, which he started.
Shortly after coming to Wesleyan, Salih approached the administration about sending him and students to the Model United Nations. The school was very receptive and supported his ideas.
“I went to St. Louis. I observed the Model United Nations, I liked it, I took notes on what I had to do prepare our students for the Model United Nations,” he said. “We won many awards at St. Louis with the Model United Nations. It was very, very popular.”
The annual trip to St. Louis to participate in the MUN became very expensive and the team was unable to go during a recession, Salih said. But he still wanted his students to compete, so he looked for other options.
“I had friends at different institutions in Texas that encouraged me to participate in the Model Arab League,” he said. “It was less expensive and it was local, perfect for what we needed. So I have been participating in the model for about 30 years now.”
Salih carefully selects students to participate on the team. The students must be ready to put in hard work and make the university proud of their participation, Salih said.
“Model Arab League is a really tremendous experience for our students to learn about the Arab world and to participate in the debates,” Salih said. “I am happy we have more students participating this year than ever before.”
Wesleyan hosted MAL competitions in 2007 and 2008.
“To this day they are talking about me volunteering to bring them back to the Texas Wesleyan campus,” Salih said. “Unfortunately we don’t have the room and all the resources to invite them back. Maybe in the future.”
As head coach for the team, Salih said he always wants the best for his students. He sets high goals and expectations for each of them. In 2014, the team won the Overall Honorable Mention Delegation Award at the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations’ MAL competition.
“The hope I have for my students this year is to have them achieve maximum recognition and that the national office will continue to take notice of us,” he said. “They take notice of your achievements and they reward you by picking you to go to a country.”
One Wesleyan student was recently chosen by the national MAL office. Abbey Borghee, a junior political science major with pre-law emphasis, was selected to attend a fellowship in Qatar in December 2014.
“It was because of his encouragement for me to join the model Arab League team that I was even in a spot to be nominated for a fellowship to Qatar,” Borghee said. “Dr. Salih wants his students to take every opportunity to explore our global society.
“Dr. Salih is truly an example of what a professor should be. He challenged his students to think critically, while also going the extra mile to make sure all questions are answered. There have been countless times Dr. Salih would spend outs with me discussing class topics I wanted to better understand. He has a wealth of knowledge that students from all majors can benefit from.”
Salih didn’t just impact Borghee; Tyler Mendez, a senior political science major with pre-law emphasis, has taken classes with Salih since he was a freshman and is also on the Model Arab League team.
Mendez, who is also the Student Government Assocation president, describes Salih in four words, “Scary. High Expectations. Inspiring.”
“He first coached me for the Model Arab league my sophomore year and I remember in front of the group, he told me that I was the weakest link,” Mendez said. “I honestly think that him saying that pushed me. I wanted to prove him wrong.”
Mendez ended up receiving an award at that competition.
“He has always been one of my one of my favorite professors at Wesleyan,” Mendez said. “He is very inspiring and he is the type of professor that you want. That’s passionate about what they are teaching, wanting students to participate, and wanting them to think outside of the information that he is giving you. He wants you to use your experiences, your outside knowledge, and the knowledge he is giving us and relate it to the real world.”
Salih has made a big impact on Mendez and his experiences traveling. Salih was the supervisor and professor over the first trip Mendez made abroad, to China. Mendez said he had previously had his mind set on going to France.
“I was in American government at the time and told him in class, ‘Dr. Salih, I’m going to France!’” Mendez said.
Salih quickly replied, “No you’re not, you’re going to China with me!”
“Going on that trip was the best decision I have ever made,” Mendez said. “I got to know Dr. Salih, not only on a professional level, but hearing about his personal experiences and his travels. That trip was a game changer.”
“Without him, I don’t know where I’d be right now. He’s pushed me in so many different ways, it’s just crazy to think about how much influence he has on me and where I’d be without him.”