Interview with Sabeen Perwaiz Syed

April 13, 2015 2 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Arash Kamiar interviews the Executive Director and Co-organizer of TEDxJacksonville.

Before we talk about TEDxJacksonville, let’s talk about you. You were born in Pakistan and grew up in Queens, NY. Why are you in Jacksonville?

My husband, Asghar. He convinced me to move down here from New York when we got engaged.

Tell me what it means to have a Master’s Degree in International Development? Is this an unexpected degree program for University of Birmingham in Alabama or is the University more international then I would expect.

 Haha. What do you think? Birmingham, United Kingdom

33 countries? Whatevs. How have you been able to travel this extensively?

I was lucky enough to have a great corporate job right after college. That funded my trips for a few years but the bulk of my traveling took place during graduate school. It is so cheap to explore the world from Europe! My goal is to visit 100 by the time I am 100.

Your career has centered on non-profit work. You’ve spent a good chunk of your life working with organizations like Vital Voices, Pace Center for Girls and Aide et Action. Currently, you are working with JaxUSA? Why non-profits and what are you doing now with JAXUSA?

My career has somehow always revolved around education.  I really believe that education can solve a lot of the world’s problem. Currently, I am working on a collaborate project, housed at the Jacksonville Chamber, called Earn Up. Earn Up’s goal is to increase Northeast Florida’s college attainment rate from 36% to 60% by 2025. Did you know that only 36% of NE Florida’s working age population has a college degree?

Where in the world is Sabeen Perwaiz?

Oh, and what was this hiatus you took from Jacksonville? Were you in Thailand? Tell me what you were doing there?

I moved to Cambodia on Thanksgiving day in 2013. I have  always wanted to work and live abroad and when the opportunity presented itself, I couldn’t help it. I lived there for six months and volunteered with Aide et Action as an early childhood education specialist. My work revolved around increasing the number of preschools in the country. This meant meeting with local community leaders, parents, and young adults and convincing them that an early childhood education is an extremely important component of a child’s life, especially in a country where you are lucky if the student completes 5th grade.

The selfless TEDxJacksonville team.

TEDxJacksonville. Give me the rundown and what’s your role?

 I am the co-organizer and executive producer of TEDxJacksonville. It compromises of 25  selfless individuals who volunteer their time to put on amazing events that continuously provide ideas worth spreading.

The work your team has done in four years is pretty awesome. You’ve amplified people from Jacksonville and messages to Jacksonville that have been so good for us to experience and hear. You’ve brought to the forefront Jacksonville’s hidden thought leaders. Do you think that is an accurate statement? Are Jacksonville’s thought leaders hidden?
I wouldn’t necessarily say they are hidden. I think they need a bigger platform and we can provide that. They are well known in their circles but not to the community at large. We not only introduce them to a network of change agents but also bring their idea to the global community by placing their talk on the TEDx Youtube channel.

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