Mark Jbeily is a Plan II Honors and Naval ROTC senior from Austin, Texas. He is a recipient of the 2015 British Marshall scholarship, which will fund his pursuit of a Master of Philosophy in international relations at the University of Oxford. Jbeily is also a Naval ROTC battalion commander, a Bill Archer fellow and a Truman scholarship finalist.
What does winning a Marshall scholarship mean to you?
It is truly an honor. I see it as an opportunity to continue studying national security and better understanding the character of our international system. By studying in England, I also hope to promote greater understanding between our countries because of the shared security challenges we face.
When did you know you wanted to be a part of the NROTC?
I decided during my senior year of high school, soon after being accepted into Plan II. Although I am the first in my family to serve, the military has always fascinated me. As a young boy, I looked up to role models like Adm. Bobby Inman and Gen. Colin Powell. There was even a character on “The West Wing,” my all-time favorite TV show, named Adm. Percy Fitzwallace who I particularly admired. I knew I wanted to be like these men, and the first step was earning a commission as an officer in the Navy.
Why is studying the liberal arts important?
The liberal arts have prepared me to challenge conventional thinking as a leader. The liberal education I received in Plan II honed my thinking and gave depth to my knowledge. Through a broad curriculum, small group courses taught me to challenge conventional thinking and my own assumptions. Plan II professors like Adm. Inman pushed me to think deeply about national security while also acting as mentors.
Complementing my studies, training as a midshipman in the Naval ROTC program was a daily opportunity to apply these concepts. What emerged was a creative tension between the free-flowing, innovative ideas of Plan II and the real-world, strategic concerns of an operational military unit.
You studied Arabic in Morocco in the summer of 2013. What was that like?
It was both overwhelming and gratifying. My study was funded through the Department of Defense National Security Education Program and Project Global Officer. Though I have traveled to the Middle East before (my family is from Lebanon), Moroccan culture was still foreign. The most interesting experience was being in Morocco during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. I participated in the daily fast, which was very challenging in the 100+ degree heat. Being part of Ramadan gave me insights into Islamic culture that I never could have gotten without experiencing it firsthand. For example, because everyone fasts during the day and rests to save energy, the city comes alive at night as people eat and drink with their families and friends.
What are your goals for the future?
At Oxford, I hope to continue my studies in national security policymaking by researching the National Security Council and its influence on the strategic planning process. After completing my degree, I will attend U.S. Navy flight school to complete training as a naval aviator. As an officer, I will apply the lessons I learned at UT and Oxford to promote American security interests abroad.
What is the most important thing you’ve learned at UT?
Relationships matter. The peers, professors and mentors I have had at UT have defined my undergraduate experience. None of the opportunities I have been able to pursue would have been possible without their steadfast guidance and support.