As an immigrant, Dr. Khalil Habib first came into contact with Western culture through his liberal education. He soon discovered that he had an instinctive love of ideas, especially those which pushed him to think beyond what was familiar. What drew Habib to Salve Regina was the fact that this small, Catholic university has a distinctive core curriculum that includes the classic works that helped him become more self-aware. "I get paid to teach the books that I enjoy, but I love to watch the lasting friendships that develop as students read them together and understand their meaning," he says.
Habib notes that, at first, his students are mostly shocked to see that there is something to learn from these classic works, but then many of them say that these were books they chose to keep and revisit after the semester ended. Habib assigns his students primary texts to read and critically analyze. "I teach three or four books completely in opposition to one another - the Bible, 'St. Augustine's Confessions,' Bertrand Russell's essay 'Why I am not a Christian' and Nietzsche's 'The Antichrist,'" he says. "I teach each one as though it's absolutely true which brings some drama to the classroom."
Recently Habib was invited to co-chair a conference at West Point on relations between the West and Islam. Most of the students that attended the conference were from the nation's most prestigious universities and the whole conversation required an understanding of the Bible and the Koran. When reviewing the conference roster, the Salve Regina student who accompanied Habib initially said, "I can't play ball with these students." Afterward, however, as the only student who'd had exposure to the readings through Salve Regina's core curriculum, he had changed his mind and exclaimed, "I'm at the best school in the country."
Habib believes that "in business, in politics, in so many professions, you need to be able to reason and maintain a cool, detached analysis to be persuasive and make sound judgments. Philosophy is nothing more than a critical set of skills - but of course it also has an ethical and political dimension and academic rigor."