Peacemaker, Healer, Scholar
Najeeba has been a professor, expert practitioner and public speaker for the last two decades in the fields of conflict resolution, interfaith studies, mediation, education, deliberative democracy, social, gender and racial equity. She is currently working on establishing the Center for Healing Justice and Spirituality.
Most recently she served as Chief of Staff to Councilmember Nithya Raman, the first Asian American woman elected Los Angeles City Council to assist her with the setup of her office, hiring, strategic planning, legislative and communications strategies. For the fall of 2020 she was Associate Professor of Muslim and Interreligious Studies at Chicago Theological Seminary teaching three courses on management, indigenous religious movements, and interfaith leadership.
She was an Associate Professor of Interreligious Education at Claremont School of Theology from 2010-2020 and is recognized as a leader in peacebuilding and social justice based research. Under her leadership the two conflict resolution centers she led received the Jon Anson Ford Award for reducing violence in schools and in the area of interracial gang conflict and was named Southern California Mediation Association’s “Peacemaker of the Year” in 2007. She has chaired national conferences on Muslim and Interfaith Peacebuilding, served as a mediator in many cases, started restorative justice mediation programs in many institutions including University of Southern California and several middle and high schools. Schools have reported a drop in disciplinary referrals and violence. Her track record as a peacemaker and critical peace researcher has made her a sought-out advisor and she has served as an on the ground peace interventionist in conflicts around the globe. Syeed’s peace and justice work has been the subject of news reports and documentaries as well such as this film which aired on NBC “Waging Peace: Muslim and Christian Alternatives.”
She was formerly the executive director of the Western Justice Center Foundation founded by Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Dorothy Nelson and previous to that appointment was the executive director of the Asian Pacific American Dispute Resolution Center. Under her directorship the organizations grew significantly in the areas of school based interracial conflict resolution, anti-bullying initiatives, environmental mediation, restorative justice, cross cultural conflict resolution training, gang intervention programs, community engaged design for youth violence prevention and served a range of clients including the Coca-Cola company, UCLA, USC, Arts Center College for design, LAUSD and the Department of Justice.
Her research articles have focused on: 1) Faith based community-based conflict resolution 2) Restorative and Healing Justice and 3) Interfaith just peacemaking and social justice hermeneutics for interfaith learning. She co-edited the book “Critical Approaches to Interreligious Education,” a project supported by the Henry Luce Foundation. This book features leading Jewish, Christian, and Muslim scholars reflecting on interfaith peacemaking between and amongst communities. Along with colleagues she has developed training modules in Islamic conflict resolution and mediation presented at Harvard Law School.
As a scholar she co-designed a doctoral program in Interreligious Education and is directing dissertations on topics including resilience in interreligious learning, decolonial models for interreligious programs, Christian-Buddhist peacemaking in Southeast Asia, Black Muslim community practical theologies of community development, interfaith activism models on mass incarceration. She has designed and taught a dozen graduate courses in interreligious education such as: Comparative Theologies and Pedagogies of Restorative Justice. Islam, Women and Social Movements. Urban Education. Peace Education. Interfaith Leadership and Dialogue. Pedagogies of Interreligious Education. Indigenous/Hybrid Religious Communities’ Activism. African American Islams. Transformational Muslim Leadership Models, Managing and Developing the Interreligious Non Profit. Negotiation and Mediation. She was awarded the Fisher Faculty Teaching Award in 2014 for her excellence in teaching. In 2017 she received the Scholar-Activist Award from Auburn Seminary, and in 2020 received instructor of the year award. She has worked with other universities to develop interfaith education models. For example, she co-designed and co-taught the first interreligious education course offered by Chicago Theological Seminary with Susan Thistlethwaite and Rachel Mikva.
She has facilitated conflict resolution processes for conflicts in many school, community, and environmental and public controversies. She served as the co-chair of the American Academy of Religion’s Religion and Politics Section and was a member of the Academy’s Religion, Social Conflict and Peace Section. She was elected by the body of the American Academy of Religion to serve on the governing body of the Program Committee. She is a past board member of the National Association for Community Mediation, National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation and serves on the Higher Education Advisory Council for Interfaith Youth Corps, and Advisory Council for Peace and Conflict Resolution at the Tanenbaum Center and past chair of the Pasadena Commission on the Status of Women. She served on the Teaching Team for the Luce American Academy of Religion Summer Seminar on Religious Pluralism and Comparative Theologies.
She has been been featured in the Los Angeles Times, on NPR, PBS, on the Tavis Smiley show, worked with Oprah Winfrey on two projects and has been quoted by print and news media around the globe. Her speaking schedule has included keynotes and named lectures around the country at major universities including Duke University, La Sierra University, Seattle University, University of Southern California, Harvard University, Boston Theological Seminary, University of Toledo, Eastern Mennonite University and her alma mater, Guilford College.
She is a 1995 graduate of Guilford College where she received the Oexmann Fellowship for community-based mediation and was awarded the 2012 Young Alumni Achievement Award. She is a 2000 graduate of Indiana University Maurer School of Law where she was a teaching fellow in the area of mediation and ran the university’s mediation program. In 2021, she was awarded the Litterarum Humanarum Doctor (Doctor of Humane Letters) from Starr King School for the Ministry.