Dr. Eimad Houry, professor and chair of the political science department, began his journey to Mercer University in a corner of the world farther away than the origins of many Mercer professors.
Houry was born in Kuwait, where he lived with his parent for four years. Due to Lebanon’s nationality laws, he inherited his parents’ Lebanese nationality, and they moved to Lebanon when he was five. From the age of ten until the age of sixteen he lived in Dubai, where he attended high school.
Houry completed his bachelor’s degree at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Fla. and received his master’s and doctorate degrees from Florida State University. He was completing his Ph.D. in 1991 when he began applying for positions at colleges and universities in the Southeast. Mercer was the first university to call him back.
“I had two other offers, but I decided to go to Mercer because…from the outside it looked the least impressive,” Houry said.
When Houry accepted the position, the political science department was somewhat scant; his addition brought the total of professors in the department up to three. International and comparative courses in the curriculum had not been taught for five years. Houry said the age difference between himself and the youngest person in the department at the time was 37 years.
Houry chose Mercer not only because of the opportunities he felt it would provide him, but also because it was the closest university to Tallahassee, where his wife still lived and worked as a pharmacist.
Mercer asked Houry to become chair of the department by his second year as an assistant professor. “I said, ‘Sure, but what does that mean?’” Houry laughed. “It was a wonderful opportunity because that was the impetus for change.”
Houry intended to gradually implement plans he had for ultimately strengthening and improving the department. In 1997, he overhauled the curriculum and installed the track-based system that political science majors are familiar with today, a move he sees as an improvement over the system in which students were only required to take any eight classes for the major.
He also expanded the international affairs portion of the department and introduced the international affairs concentration, a move that he cites as the thing he is most proud of doing as a professor.
In keeping with his interest in international affairs, Houry said his favorite class to teach is his Middle Eastern Politics course. “It’s not just a job or a course; it’s kind of a mission or a passion of mine,” he said. He sees the course as an opportunity to correct many misnomers and misunderstandings about the Arab world.
“Unfortunately, no one else in the entire university offers anything on this subject, so this is a one-and-only opportunity,” Houry said.
Houry said his favorite thing about students at Mercer is that they are responsive and respectful. “When I take an interest in a student to help them distinguish themselves in one way or another, I’ve never had a student say ‘no thank you’ and walk away,” he said. “I’ve been here for twenty years, and I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve had a problem with a student being disrespectful.”
Although Houry has traveled to five continents, he said Aruba is his favorite vacation location; he has visited it sixteen times. “There’s really nothing special about it, other than its simplicity,” he said.
Houry’s favorite pastime is watching soccer, particularly European and international leagues.