From the Gaza Strip to the Rio Grande Valley.
That was the six-year journey that brought Dr. Murad Abusalim to Texas Southmost College in 2008, where his joy for teaching has become a passion.
“I didn’t realize how much I love this profession,” Dr. Abusalim said. “Once I started teaching at Texas Tech, I found out I really enjoy it. As I moved on and came down to the Valley to work with our students, it became my passion. I really enjoy interacting with the students. I don’t feel as if I’m working. It’s something joyful that I’m doing, and for that, I’m grateful.”
Dr. Abusalim arrived in the U.S. in 2002 after earning a Fulbright Scholarship and attended Texas Tech University. Upon completion of his doctorate, he gained teaching experience at TTU and later took advantage of an opportunity to teach at TSC.
His first assignment at the College was to develop and create an architecture program, which has remained the only program of its kind south of San Antonio.
“When I started this task, I didn’t know there was no other program south of San Antonio that provided an architecture degree,” Dr. Abusalim said. “Since the creation of the program, we’ve been working diligently to continue to improve, assess and evaluate the program, including the courses that we offer.”
One of the components that Dr. Abusalim has strived to include in the architecture program is that of social responsibility through community engagement by providing service learning opportunities for students within the architecture courses.
While living and working in the Gaza Strip as a professional designer/architect for the Ministry of Youth and Sports at the Palestinian National Authority, Dr. Abusalim collaborated with international donors, including the United Nations Development Program and the Swedish government.
This experience helped him forge relationships with several organizations and institutions in Brownsville and throughout the county such as the City of Brownsville, Brownsville Wellness Coalition, Community Development Corporation of Brownsville and the City of Harlingen, among others.
“TSC has adopted community engagement as one of our major goals and it has provided me an opportunity to be in a position where I can reach out and build partnerships with other organizations around the Valley,” explained Dr. Abusalim. “Our students are involved and engaged in these projects. It has also made it encouraging for us to continue on a path in which we integrate service learning and community engagement activities throughout the year. This has given me a different level of satisfaction, as well as learning experience, and the opportunity to work with other organizations to improve our communities.”
Dr. Abusalim has integrated those partnerships into the classroom. For example, his architecture students collaborated with the Brownsville Wellness Coalition in the Fall 2015 semester to design and build a Mobile Market trailer to benefit residents in low-income food deserts located around Brownsville.
Food deserts are usually located in impoverished areas that lack fresh fruits, vegetables and other healthy whole foods due to the lack of access to grocery stores, farmers’ markets or healthy food providers, according to the USDA.
The community project was completed and unveiled on Dec. 10 at Market Square in Brownsville.
“We try to identify projects that will fit the scope and skill of our courses because we need to meet our learning outcomes we have set for our program,” explained Dr. Abusalim. “Because we are involved with such projects, sometimes we push the boundaries. The great thing is that our students always perform and exceed the expectations.”
“That’s why I’m always very proud to send our students off to other colleges,” he concluded. “I know that they’ve accumulated the talent and skills they need to succeed, such as team work, collaboration, integration, working with the community, social responsibility and how to communicate with different audiences.”
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