Meet Mark Jbeily

Meet Mark JbeilyStudying Arabic in Morocco, interning at the White House Office of Cabinet Affairs, writing an honors thesis on preventive war, and serving as the student leader of UT’s Naval ROTC program: Mark Jbeily has an impressive résumé for a UT senior who hasn’t yet reached his 23rd birthday. And in December, he became one of only 40 Americans per year to win the prestigious Marshall Scholarship, which funds a master’s degree at the University of Oxford. Jbeily spoke with the Alcalde about bridging the humanities and the military, The West Wing, and his favorite queso.

On his plans for Oxford and the Navy:

“The research I hope to pursue is about how we structure the government to deal with national security challenges. We’re dealing with a system that was designed to fight the Cold War, but the threats we face now are not Cold War threats, so we need to adapt. Then I’ll go to flight school and hopefully learn how to fly jets.”

On how he first got interested in diplomacy:

“In high school I watched The West Wing, and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff was someone I looked up to. I know it sounds silly because he’s a fictional character, but I admired his air of quiet, humble competence.”

On his favorite classes:

“One of my favorite courses was Admiral [Bobby] Inman’s course, Perspectives on American Foreign Policy. In class we’d learn how the Department of Defense structure works, how orders come down and policy is made, and then I’d go to ROTC and see a memorandum covering exactly what we just talked about in class.”

On family traditions:

“My parents came here from Lebanon in 1980. It was the height of the civil war there and they had to move around to stay out of the hot spots. They came to Austin when my dad [Kamil Jbeily, PhD ’87, now executive director of UT’s Science Education Center] won a scholarship to get his PhD here, so education is a big deal in my family.”

On his Tex-Mex habit:

“My girlfriend and I are on a quest to find the best queso in Austin. We have a rating scale that goes from zero to three and a Google Doc. A score of zero is ‘never eat again,’ a one is ‘if you just want cheese, go for it,’ a two is ‘pretty good,’ and a three means ‘eat this immediately.’ El Arroyo is one of our favorites.”

Photo by Anna Donlan.


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