The career-specific “aha” moment for Zia Salim came when, while in community college, he took a geography class on the recommendation of his sister. He thoroughly enjoyed it, but just to make sure his interest was no fluke, he took another class in the subject. And then another.
Once he was sure geography was his passion, Salim transferred to Cal State Fullerton, where he earned a bachelor’s and an M.A. in the field, with a minor in anthropology. He then received his doctorate in geography through the joint doctoral program between University of California, Santa Barbara and San Diego State University.
“I was fortunate enough to come back to the department where I developed my passion for geography, hopefully to inspire students,” says the assistant professor of geography. Among his areas of specialization: gated communities, homelessness, urban revitalization, migration, parks and recreational programs, and public art.
His father taught civil engineering when Salim was growing up, so he and his family would spend nine months out of the year in Saudi Arabia and three months in the U.S. As an urban and social geographer, Salim revels in Southern California’s diversity and confluence of cultures. “The students that I interacted with when I was a student here also make this place really special. There are a lot of different experiences and backgrounds here — I’d like to help the next generation of geographers come out of our students.”