The DreamPanel Series brings together speakers with the goal to further conversations related to important topics that impact our community.
White but not Quite:
Middle Eastern- and North African-Americans’ Identity and Representation
The panel will explore issues of Middle Eastern- and North African-Americans’ identity and representation, or lack thereof, including the impact of federal and local policies around how race and ethnicity are collected, the politicization of MENA-Americans identities, and the public health implications on MENA-Americans both in San Antonio and around the country.
- Nadia Mavrakis, CEO Culturingua- Moderator
- As a native Texan and Libyan-American with extensive global experience, Nadia Mavrakis brings the perspective of these worldviews to her role as Chief Executive Officer of Culturingua, a nonprofit that elevates the people and heritage of the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia (MENASA). Culturingua brings education opportunities to San Antonio K-12 students to improve their global competencies and activate their voices; community development programs to the Northwest Bexar County neighborhoods in and around the Medical Center Area to enable all residents to reach their full potential and lead prosperous lives; and economic development programs to support workforce development and small business success for Bexar County residents.Ms. Mavrakis graduated magna cum laude from The University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Business Strategy and Finance with a minor in French. She completed nonprofit fellowships through both Social Venture Partners San Antonio and HOLT Values-Based Nonprofit Leadership Program at the San Antonio Area Foundation. She has taken business leadership courses at INSEAD, Harvard Business School, Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, and HEC Paris. She is a frequent speaker and panelists at conferences discussing best and equitable practices on global education as well as immigrant integration and empowerment.
- Sara Ismail, National Network for Arab American Communities
- Sara Ismail is a Public Policy Associate with the National Network for Arab American Communities. Sara is also a doctoral candidate at Wayne State University, where she also received her Master’s of Arts in Dispute Resolution. She is an active member of the community and previously worked with the University of Michigan School of Social Work as a Research Assistant and Community Liaison and as a survey researcher at the Center for Urban Studies at Wayne State University. Sara’s focus is working on Middle Eastern and North African inclusion in education, immigration, and healthcare, including advocacy work highlighting political and social inequities, racial disparities, and creating understanding among marginalized communities.
- Howaida Werfelli, Executive Director, SALVERE Public Health Consultants
- Dr. Howaida M. Werfelli serves as the Founding Executive Director of SALVERE, a public health consulting firm based in San Antonio, Texas. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and Middle Eastern Studies from The University of Texas at Austin, and a Master’s degree in Public Health from UTHealth School of Public Health. She obtained her DrPH in Community Health Practice from UTHealth School of Public Health. Her focus is on addressing the challenges of underserved populations to create actionable items that address the multilevel facilitating and impeding factors existent within underserved populations. Part of this effort includes reimagining refugee resettlement through the public health perspective. She has seventeen years experience working on federal grants, including SAMHSA/CSAP and U.S. Department of Education. She has served as the principal investigator on several grant-funded projects. She also has focused experience conducting HIV-related epidemiologic studies. She has authored two papers and has presented her work at local, state, and national conferences. In addition to her public health experience, Dr. Werfelli is also a long-time entrepreneur and is owner of Tripoli’s, a Mediterranean grill and coffee shop, in San Antonio, Texas. Dr. Werfelli feels her combined public health and entrepreneurial skills have served her well in both facets of her work. She currently serves as the President of the Board of Directors for the Center for Refugee Services.
- Mojgan Panah, President, Mehr Foundation
- Mojgan was born in Tehran, Iran and grew up in San Antonio where she graduated from the University of the Incarnate Word. She held multiple executive positions at Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s Inc. in Southern California before moving back to San Antonio and starting a career in real estate with JB Goodwin Realtors in 2016. Roots to her strong ties with the Iranian-American community began with an Iranian TV show she produced and hosted in San Antonio, and the creation of an online Iranian networking group in the late 1990s. She published a book in 2014 and was an associate producer on a film project alongside Iranian legend Parviz Sayyad. Her event planning resume comprises over 150 events. Today she is a top producer at her brokerage, focuses on Mehr Foundation’s mission statement which is the celebration of Persian arts and culture and she advocates for freedom and human rights. Her motto– life is a journey, not an obstacle.