Nahal Salimi

Assistant Professor in Rehabilitation Counseling

Nahal Salimi

What year did you start working at NIU?
I joined NIU in 2020.

Where is your hometown? and where do you live now?
I am originally from Tehran, the capital city of Iran. I am currently living in DeKalb.

Where did you attend college and what degree(s) have you earned?
I have a Master of Science degree in clinical psychology from Iran and a doctoral degree in rehabilitation counseling from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale.

In which department(s) do you teach?
I teach both graduate and undergraduate courses in rehabilitation and disability services and rehabilitation counseling in the School of Interdisciplinary Health Professions.

What do you like about working at NIU?
I really appreciate the fact that NIU is diverse, both in the student body and faculty. I love living and working in a multicultural environment. In my opinion, when you live in a diverse society, you become more aware of your cultural identity. It also gives you the opportunity to feel the need for understanding the differences and similarities between yourself and others with different backgrounds.

What advice would you give to students currently attending NIU?
I would say to be patient and go through the process. College education is a journey of everyday experiences that build on one another. Being patient throughout this journey allows you to create new opportunities for growth and fulfillment.

Tell us about a research or engaged learning project you have led.
Research and continuous learning are integral parts of academia. I have completed several research projects focused on mental health and quality of life of people with disabilities, disability attitudes, and college students’ mental health challenges and considerations in the era of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, I am most proud of my current research project, which focuses on Native American employment patterns and factors that predict successful employment outcomes.

What do you hope students take away from your class?
For a very long time, it was typically enough for an instructor to make sure students are learning the course subjects, but this is no longer enough. The primary aim is still to teach the subject very well, but I would like to combine this with anything that helps students prepare for life after university. I constantly try to help students build a more global perspective and show them that despite our differences, we are all connected. In my classes, I offer activities that allow students to develop the necessary skills, aptitudes and attitudes. For instance, I encourage students to learn how to practice skills such as avoiding presumptions toward others, understanding their biases and engaging in sharing and cooperation.

What is your favorite campus event?
I really enjoyed the Chai Chat event, which brought together domestic and international students and strengthened these bonding experiences by engaging in fun conversations, activities and games over a cup of tea and snacks. The event was organized by Counseling and Consultation Services in collaboration with International Student and Scholar Services, ELS, DeKalb and the Asian American Resource Center. It was a fun and welcoming event for students and faculty from diverse backgrounds. Unfortunately, the event has been discontinued due to the current pandemic. The Chai Chat event was a great place to eat, relax and feel at home!

What is your favorite memory of NIU?
My favorite memory goes back to our first faculty meeting at the department. As a new faculty member, I could not ask for anything better. All of my colleagues were so welcoming and supportive. Right after that meeting, all my worries as a brand-new faculty member turned to hope, optimism and the wonderful experience of learning and growing every day.

Who has influenced your professional path?
I’ve had many mentors throughout my life, but among all, the most important one is Dr. Sharo Shafie. He played a significant role in helping me build my professional path. His positive manner and nonjudgmental attitude guided me throughout my professional journey to academia. My parents also played a significant role with their everyday support and encouragement, despite being a thousand miles away.

What did you want to be when you were growing up? Are you currently doing it? If not, what changed your path?
I always dreamed about pursuing a higher education degree in a discipline related to mental health and counseling. I was always eager to work with individuals with disabilities, specifically those with severe mental health disabilities. I was always passionate about developing interventions that can improve the mental health and quality of life of those with severe disabilities, so that they can live their highest potential. I am grateful that I am currently working in my dream job!

Are you a member of or hold a position within a professional organization? If so, what organization? What is the purpose of that organization and how does being part of this organization benefit you in your role at NIU?
I am a member of several important professional organizations in rehabilitation counseling, such as the National Rehabilitation Association (NRA), the National Association of Rehabilitation Leadership (NARL) and the National Council on Rehabilitation Education (NCRE). The primary purpose of these professional organizations is to advocate for the rights of individuals with disabilities while promoting high-quality, ethical and collaborative practice across the rehabilitation profession. In addition to being a member, I also serve on a couple of editorial boards for journals, such as the Journal of Rehabilitation Administration and International Psychological Applications Conference and Trends.

What do you do to relax or recharge?
I love to travel and explore new places. After a busy day, I usually find a comfy and peaceful spot to read a travel magazine. I also like to meditate, watch movies and paint.

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