I was born and raised in District 1 and am a product of east and central Austin schools, including Trinity Preschool in Windsor Park, Lee Elementary in Hyde Park, and Kealing Middle School on Pennsylvania Avenue in East Austin. I received a full scholarship to Yale and double majored in Philosophy and Political Science. At Yale, I served as an ethics committee reader for the Yale Philosophy Review and was the youngest contributor of brain imaging research to the Encyclopedia of Autism Spectrum Disorders. I recently completed my graduate studies at the University of Oxford (in England) where I was a member of Balliol College and studied public policy at the Blavatnik School of Government, before earning a Master of Science in comparative policy. My studies have primarily focused on ethics in the age of multinational corporations, global poverty, international security, and comparative systems of government, particularly in relation to different approaches to caring for the economic and social well-being of citizens. At Oxford, I acquired the tools necessary to actually evaluate policy and conduct quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods science research (policy analysis).
Prior to graduate school, I lived and worked in New York City, where I served as a housing policy researcher, speechwriter, and Huffington Post blogger for a mayoral campaign. It was during this period that I learned about the politics of affordability, gentrification, and urban renewal. I learned about the management of municipalities during extreme weather events, as I lived through Hurricane Sandy, which flooded my apartment in lower Manhattan and devastated the city’s infrastructure.
During my time there, I founded United Voices, an organization building creative bridges between East and West and inspired by the idea that wars and conflicts speak more to the poverty of our imaginations than the superiority of our religions or political systems. I was invited to contribute to round tables at the Council on Foreign Relations and served as a young member of UN NGO Sustainability, Inc., an organization that provides small-scale sustainable energy solutions to women in developing countries and promotes cultural exchange between Asia and the United States.
More recently, I was named an Asia 21 Young Leader by the Asia Society, with whom I had the honor of traveling to South Korea and working with a start-up company developing sustainable, cradle to cradle hygiene products for school girls in India.
But my heart has always been here in Austin with my community and my family. I actually got my start in Austin’s indie film and television industry, which led to my first taste of public service: as a teenager, I served as a spokesperson for Joy International, an Austin-based nonprofit that promoted mutual understanding between nations and raised money for school children in Mexico.
Upon returning home to Austin after finishing college, I found that the strengths of the town I remembered are still here: a love of the arts; a commitment to environmental health and justice; and a strong community of loving, hard-working people committed to caring for their families and their city. But I also found deep-rooted, systematic injustice – economic, environmental, and political. And I knew I could do something about it.
Now I’m looking forward to my next chapter, serving you as your voice on City Council, where I will fight for people over profit.
I grew up in an international and interfaith family. My mother, Teresa, was born in Victoria, Texas, in a Christian family. My father was born to a Muslim family in an ancient city just an hour outside of Tehran, Iran. My parents met and fell in love in an art class at UT Austin in the early 1970s.
Having resided in Austin for almost half a century, my parents are now retired, my father from about 30 years of teaching mathematics at UT Austin and ACC and my mother as a paper conservator and restorer of rare books, maps, and works of art. Thanks to my parents’ work, I was fortunate enough to come in contact with original copies of some of Austin’s founding documents, including a Stephen F. Austin map of the Austin Colony and an eviction notice addressed by him to a member of the Colony. (Displacement is evidently a longstanding problem in Austin.)
Earlier in her career, my mother worked at Casis Elementary, a joint venture of Austin Public Schools and the University of Texas, serving physically and mentally challenged children. I have two older siblings, the oldest of whom was born with multiple physical and mental challenges due to a case of Maternal Rubella syndrome (German measles), a fact that has made me aware of and sensitive to issues around access and inclusion of children and adults with special needs.
Our family has a long history of public service. My great grandfather was appointed chief of police to the Panama Canal Zone by President Roosevelt. My grandfather, a veteran of the WWII, attended UT Austin on the GI bill then served in the Social Security Administration until retirement. My grandmother, who was born and raised in Panama, also graduated from UT Austin, where she met my grandfather in business school. She served the Texas State legislature for a number of years, but finished her career with service to the Texas Department of Human Services until retirement.