El-Hibri Endowed Chair and Executive Director
Prior to becoming the El-Hibri inaugural endowed chair and executive director Augsburg’s Interfaith Institute, Najeeba Syeed was a professor and expert practitioner in the fields of conflict resolution, mediation, and interfaith studies. An award-winning educator, she has taught extensively on interreligious education and published articles on faith and community-based conflict resolution, restorative justice, and interfaith just peacemaking. She previously served for 10 years as an associate professor at the Claremont School of Theology. She also held faculty positions at Starr King School for the Ministry and Chicago Theological Seminary, where she was most recently associate professor of Muslim and interreligious studies. She has 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.
Syeed also brings significant executive experience in organizations focused on conflict resolution in community, higher education, and government settings, including the Western Justice Center Foundation and the Asian Pacific American Dispute Resolution Center. Her peacemaking work in the area of gang intervention, school based conflict resolution and community peacebuilding has been recognized with numerous prestigious awards. In 2021, she served as chief of staff to the first Asian American woman elected to the Los Angeles city council. She holds a law degree from the Indiana University School of Law and a bachelor of science degree from Guilford College.
“I am honored to serve as the inaugural El-Hibri Chair and Executive Director of Interfaith at Augsburg. This is a unique opportunity to extend and amplify Augsburg’s remarkable interfaith work and to honor the generous and visionary commitment of the El-Hibri family, “ said Syeed.
“My life’s work combines a commitment to scholarship, teaching, and community organizing,” she added. “Listen, learn, partner, and co-create is the process I utilize to lead and build with fellow faculty, administrators, students, community leaders, and stakeholders from around the globe.”
Michon True Smith
Michon has worked in the non-profit sector for close to 20 years, telling the stories of organizations and people served, and raising funds through grant writing and events. She has supported organizations making a difference in an array of community needs, including education, housing, and equitable services for people with disabilities and immigrants. Prior to coming to Augsburg, Michon served as Development and Communications Manager for Portico Healthnet, a Saint Paul based organization that advances equitable access to health care. For the past five years she has been the co-chair of Human Services day for Leadership Saint Paul (LSP), a program of the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce designed to prepare, challenge, and engage emerging and current civic and business leaders around the needs and challenges impacting the east metro region. She is an active member of her church, Nativity Lutheran in St. Anthony, where she enjoys helping others discover their gifts and passions. Michon is also an Augsburg alumni! She is really excited to be back on campus and to dive into the important work of the Interfaith Institute.
Outside of work, Michon loves pop music and watching her kids play sports! She is also slowly learning to play pickleball.
Mark S. Hanson
Serving as the Founding Director of Interfaith at Augsburg, Rev. Mark S. Hanson led Augsburg University’s commitment to interfaith leadership being a core aspect of Augsburg’s academic mission. Prior to his current appointment, Hanson served as presiding bishop of the ELCA and president of the Lutheran World Federation. He is continuing his work as a fellow for Interfaith at Augsburg.
Interfaith Advisory Committee
- Katie Clark, Assistant Professor, Executive Director of the Health Commons
- Sarah Erkkinen, Assistant Vice President for Institutional Advancement
- Lori Brandt Hale, Professor of Religion
- Fardosa Hassan, Muslim Student Program Associate
- Audrey Lensmire, Associate Professor of Education
- Taryn Marashi, Assistant Professor of History
- Matt Maruggi, Associate Professor of Religion and Department Chair
- Patrick Mulvihill, Assistant Provost for Global Education and Experience
- Iva Patel, Assistant Professor of Religion
- Sarah Degner Riveros, Spanish Faculty, Department of Languages and Cross-Cultural Studies