Photo by Jake Paige ’25

Malik Barnes ’23 is the first of this year’s weekly Senior Spotlight. Malik is a PPE major from the small town of Marion, Arkansas. He most notably holds the position of Chairman of the Malcolm X Institute of Black Studies, the highest-ranking leadership position a student can hold in the institute. He is arguably one of the most recognizable faces on the campus, whether that be due to his tall stature, impeccable fashion or seemingly infectious smile.

However, the whole story of Malik Barnes isn’t told by his major or his extracurricular achievements.

One of Malik’s most influential experiences before arriving on campus occurred at the Arkansas Governor’s School Camp. Here, he found the experience “mesmerizing” due to the idea that he was surrounded by people who could spend hours discussing many philosophical and scholarly topics, including discussions over very difficult topics.

“I really liked the idea of not being afraid to ask questions of how society should be versus how it is,” said Barnes. “Striving for a more perfect union” was at the forefront of these discussions, and they allowed Malik to become the man he is today.

As you could imagine, Wabash was never really on Malik’s radar coming from a small town in Arkansas. But a last-ditch effort by a high school advisor changed his future.

“I remember my advisor coming in and she said she wouldn’t be doing her job if she didn’t show me this one last school. And, as every Wabash man likely was at one point, Barnes was skeptical. “At first, I was like ‘No way.’ But then I came up, and I loved the atmosphere and the energy of the school.”

To Malik, none of these factors stacked up as much as talking to the professors themselves.

“Sitting down with the professors and hearing how they got to and came to love Wabash was very motivating,” he said. “And it never came in the angle of ‘this is why you should choose Wabash,’ but rather, they asked what my own aspirations were and tried to figure out whether or not Wabash would be a good fit. I really valued that.” Ultimately, Malik was sold and chose Wabash. “It really seemed like a place that was worth a shot.”

As one of the friendliest people you could ever meet, Malik has found that some of the most important people in his life are really… everyone!

“Everybody has something valuable,” he said. “Whether it be some thought process or way of living, I have found that everyone has something valuable to learn from.” Malik also suggested that all people perceive different situations differently. “I think by understanding that, we are able to grow together in a way that helps everyone.” Malik holds the firm belief that all people truly have good intentions, regardless of how it is conveyed, and therefore we all should try to put ourselves in another’s position to better understand. In terms of Malik’s future, he has one simple goal: to make the world a better place. “I hope to be an agent of great change,” said Barnes. Coming into Wabash, Barnes was either going to be Pre-Law or Pre-Medicine. “Helping people has truly been my passion.”

While noticing the common connotations and shortcomings of many politicians today, Barnes may find himself changing the world for the better directly through the government.

“I really do think that there’s a lot of hope when it comes to representational democracy.” noted Barnes. “It can be such a great way to make the voices of constituents heard and represent them in a way that they can see a change in their own smaller communities.”

Regardless of Malik’s future endeavors, he is destined for success with his helpful and giving mindset.