Professor Faculty Spotlight Q&A
Professor Ulluminair Salim is a full-time faculty member in the Honors College and teaches courses that bring science and society into conversation. Her commitment to public health stems from her personal experience as a family caregiver and her scientific study of the social and structural determinants of health. Check out the question-and-answer below to learn more about Professor Salim.
1) What is your educational/research background?
After developing a four-year plan for nearly every undergraduate major possible, ranging from computer science and horticulture to American studies and architecture, I ultimately pursued a bachelor's degree in social welfare at UC Berkeley. As an undergrad, I helped my mother to care for my grandmother until her final day of life. My mother had several strokes after my grandmother's passing, which created a sense of urgency for me to finish my degree and secure employment. For one year following undergrad, I worked as a residential treatment counselor for adults with co-occurring substance use disorders and mental health issues. As a 22-year-old, I didn't have the tools, training, or emotional bandwidth to hold the space for such acute suffering.
Following my short-lived foray into the mental health field, I began to explore complementary and alternative healing, volunteering as a Reiki energy practitioner at the Charlotte Maxwell Complementary Clinic (CMCC) for women with advanced cancer diagnoses in the San Francisco Bay Area. Through multiple lives and many circuitous journeys, I confronted the social and structural determinants of health and the impact of trauma on disenfranchised communities.
I eventually decided to matriculate into the Master of Public Health program at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. During my education, I observed a deep chasm between the Johns Hopkins University and the predominately poor African American community residing in East Baltimore. Given the paucity of social theory and qualitative research methods to make sense of epidemiological patterns of inequality, I finally pursued doctoral training in sociology at UC San Francisco.
I am committed to lifelong learning and aspire to deepen my artistic practices, which may manifest in a master of fine arts degree!
2) What is your favorite area of study/research?
Intersectionality piques my intellectual curiosity! I am especially intrigued by seeming contradictions and divergences such as the peculiar coupling of morals and markets (i.e. businesses that donate a portion of their profits to charity and leverage their social responsibility to sell products). Any topic or pairing of topics that seem incongruent are those that move me.
3) How many years have you been working in the Honors College?
At the time of this writing, I have been a full-time faculty member at the Honors College for three months. It's been a wonderful experience thus far.
4) What are all of the classes you teach in the Honors College?
Course development is one of my favorite pastimes! I have four courses in the works including a course investigating survival, imagination, and the politics of risk in the (global) south, which I call Beasts and Burdens, Narrative (in) Medicine, Humanitarianism, Philanthropy, and The Transnational Circulation of Affect, and The Interface Between Disability and Technology.
5) What is your favorite class that you teach at the Honors College?
A course that I developed especially for the Honors College, Science, Art, and Justice: A Social Autopsy is dear to me for multiple reasons. First, the idea for the course emerged while I was following my interests in science/society down the symbolic rabbit hole, chancing upon public information artist Heather Dewey Hagborg. Her artistry sits at the boundary between scientific discovery and scientific scrutiny, which is a brilliant way to inspire social commentary about the promise and perils of science, particularly in its role in (criminal) justice. Another artist/collective whose work inspired this course is the Ink of Innocence Project, which uses DNA from wrongfully-convicted prisoners to create exoneration ink. Activists then use this DNA-infused ink to print letters to legislators and create posters to raise awareness about wrongful convictions and access to DNA technologies. Being able to connect my interest in science, art, and justice, and their intersections, has been both a privilege and indulgence.
Second, Social Autopsy has created a community of student scholars who are able to grapple with ambiguity, embrace multiple ways of thinking and being in the world, and practice compassion while examining complex social problems. To see my students connect with each other and make connections across course topics has been a profound gift for me as an educator.
Third, Social Autopsy has served as a powerful platform to intervene upon contentious social problems that influence our sense of personhood and wellbeing. At its most expansive, the course privileges alternative knowledges, including students' lived experiences, to shift conceptions of whose knowledge counts in academic spaces. For these reasons--listening to my higher voice as a creator and educator; embracing intersectionality in my course conception, design, and implementation; and creating an opportunity for my students to connect with their own narrative experiences and those of their classmates--I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to teach this course at the Honors College.
6) What is one lesson you want all of your students to take away from studying your
I aspire for my students to leave my classroom feeling more empowered, more socially responsible/aware, and more open-minded and curious about others' lived experiences. Moreover, my hope for my students is that they recognize their own unique gifts and leverage those gifts to create more compassion in the world. Most important, I want my students to ask critical questions, unleash their creativity, and harness diversity in the confrontation and amelioration of suffering.
7) What makes Honors students unique?
Honors students are resilient! While undergraduate education is rife with work, family, health concerns, and the general struggles of "life," honors college students persevere in the face of adversity. They share the same struggles as their peers; yet, they continue to hold fast to a purpose greater than their current challenges. This sense of commitment and care are the cornerstone of success. I anticipate that Honors students will become global leaders in their respective fields and carry with them the unique perspectives that they have cultivated during their tenure here.
8) What activities do you like to do for fun when you're not teaching in the Honors
Artistry brings me great joy! I'm developing a social justice art series using paint, sculpture, and mixed media to illuminate some of the social and environmental challenges facing humanity today. I am a hippie at heart and look forward to cultivating a garden, dancing more often, learning new languages, writing and reading novels--by the beach of course!
9) Are there any other insights about you that you would like to add?
I recently attended a conference hosted by the Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education, its theme "Radicalizing Contemplative Education: Compassion, Intersectionality, and Justice in Challenging Times." During this conference, I confronted the many traumas that we carry, transfer, and reproduce in our bodies and psyches, and I realized the necessity of contemplative tools to intervene upon injustice(s) from a place of compassion. I invite the Honors College community and beyond to reflect about the ways in which we might use our privilege, in whichever form, to ensure justice and equality for others.