Meet Mohamed Salama

PHD in International Business, 2008

Mohamed Salama

  In my opinion what makes a university is not the buildings... it’s the faculty and I like everybody here.

We wanted to know a little about you.

Ok. I’m originally not from here as you can tell from the accent, I'm from Egypt. But then I came to El Paso and did everything: bachelors, masters and even PhD. My area is in international accounting, financial accounting I should say, and that’s my research and this is where I am from.

What motivated you to pursue a career in business?

Honestly this is the only thing that I ever wanted to do. My parents, my father is a financial analyst at a central bank in Kuwait, which is like the Federal Reserve Bank in the United States, so I wanted always to study business you know. So my motivation would be my parents. I love the language of money. I always wanted to be like my father, he’s a businessman so that’s the biggest motivation.

Why did you choose UTEP, the CoBA College?

First of all, my uncle was doing his masters in civil engineering at UTEP and he recommended it very highly, you know, because of the people, because of the cost of living, how friendly people are here. So I said I’m going to give it a try and then when I came and I did all my bachelors, my masters I fell in love with the faculty. Maybe UTEP is not Stanford, but I know it’s a very good school. It’s a very good school for those who want to learn, you know, students who want to learn. So even though I’m leaving UTEP I’m thinking maybe like in five years, if I have the opportunity, to come back because I love El Paso and I love the faculty. In my opinion what makes a university is not the buildings or something, it’s the faculty and I like everybody here. My undergraduate was in accounting, my graduate was in finance and I worked in the Management and Marketing department so I know almost everybody at the different departments. So that’s why UTEP and I think it’s a wonderful school for those who want to work hard.

Can you tell us a little about your PhD like what your dissertation was about?

My dissertation is about diversification. You know in general, like how companies that decide to diversify, companies that decide to expand either to Mexico, Europe, Egypt, Canada, anywhere, how does this move impact their performance? This is one thing that I study. Also I study the relationship between diversification into Mexico, Europe, Latin America in general, whatever, and how does that impact the company’s or the firm’s ability to borrow. They call it financial leverage. So in doing that I do not specialize in Mexican companies or European companies or Egyptian companies, I did not care I just wanted big companies that diversify.

We know you presented your dissertation last week, were you nervous or what was it like?

I was extremely nervous, even though I am experienced in presenting. I did present before at several conferences. I presented at the AIB (Academy of International Business). I presented at the AUM to many people. Of course I have been teaching for two years now at the undergraduate level, I teach accounting principles I and II, so I have no problem speaking in front of people. But when it came to my presentation, because this is your future—that two hours or three hours will make you or break you. I thought that the pressure was tremendous, so I’m not going to lie to you and say no, I was cool. No, I was burning up from inside but I’ve got to say something: my committee helped me very much, they believed in me and did not try to put me on the spot. They did that before, when I was writing the paper they were asking questions and telling me just what to do. Once the presentation started they were the easiest questions. I don’t know if they asked easier questions or every question I knew the answer to because I discussed this with them already, so they helped me a great deal.

What would you think is your biggest accomplishment?

Of course the PhD, hopefully I mean. But it’s not over yet because my committee sent me some comments on some changes that I have to make. So assuming 90% there is a great chance that I will do that it’s my PhD. Of course, I’m a CPA too. I have bachelors, masters and a PhD and a CPA. So I’m proud of all of those but the thing that I’m most proud of is that I got a PhD from UTEP. And while I was in the program I also published, you know, a piece in a conference and I published also in a journal, maybe its not the best journal in the world but it’s a journal, the Journal of  Conflict Management—me and George White published in that journal. So that to me is a very big accomplishment because if you review the resumes from those PhDs that come from Stanford, Yale, most of the schools, most of them are not published. So UTEP did us a favor when it decided that, you know, that you don’t need to focus only in your classes but you need to also publish, so I’m very proud of this.

You have been in the college since the undergraduate level, so you know about the different student organizations here at the College of Business. How do you think these organizations helped you?

Even though I was supposed to be in more, the only organization that I was actively involved with was the Accounting Society at the undergraduate level.  But in my opinion, every business student will do him/herself a great favor if they get involved in all the different kinds of organizations. I know that the finance major has an organization, Financial Management; I know that the marketing has one, and the accounting. It’s very very important that you get to meet new people, employers, you get to hear the opinions of those who’ve done it, who’ve been there and done that before you and that is very very important. I’ve got to admit that I did not do very much in that but I should have.

What advice would you give undergraduate students?

The same advice that I tell my students: think long-term. Do not sacrifice school for work. Try to finish as soon as possible. I know you’re not going to be very very rich as a student. Some of us appreciate that we have to work, but do not lower the number of hours at school so you can go work and make more money, think long term because at the end school will pay off. The pay off from school will be great great great. And of course never drop out, never, don’t give up.

What piece of advice helped you in your career?

Most of the time they were telling me that I have to publish. The director of the PhD program always took me aside and said, "you know what, you have to publish," so this is the most important advice that I got. Also Dr. Sprinkle, Richard Sprinkle, he’s no longer here, he used to do economics here, always showed me how to publish, how to collect data, to be patient and things like this. But the most important one, I would say, is publication.

What are your future plans?

I got a job at American University which is in Dubai. So I’m moving there for three years and I will be teaching accounting.

Would you like to add anything else?

One thing that I keep telling everybody is that even though I’m not from here, because I know that lots of people keep talking about El Paso, El Paso this El Paso that, I’m from Egypt, I’m from Cairo and I’m going to go to Dubai but I’m very very proud of El Paso. And if it’s up to me—UTEP has the policy, just like any other good school, not to hire its own graduates because you want to promote the program, they want you to go find a job somewhere else—if it’s up to me I would never leave El Paso. So that’s how much I love this town, I love UTEP. Is it perfect? No, but neither is San Francisco, neither is Dubai, neither is New York, so I love the people here, love this university, and I owe a lot to the community.

Degree Plans