Guneez Ibrahim Discusses Diversity, Leadership at Saturday’s TEDxUTAustin

"Diversity is often used as a checkmark, a quota"

For its 2019 conference “Origins of Tomorrow,” which takes place Saturday (April 6), the TEDxUTAustin team sought speakers at the University of Texas to address sustainability and innovation, including senior Sociology and Design major Guneez Ibrahim, who made waves in 2018 during UT’s Student Government elections.

UT senior Guneez Ibrahim speaks at the second annual TEDxUTAustin Conference Saturday (Photo provided by Guneez Ibrahim)

Ibrahim, who ran for SG president, and her running mate Hannah McMorris were accused of being “anti-white” and “anti-Greek” based on past social media activity; the two women of color faced physical and verbal harassment on and off campus during their campaign, which ended with a second-place finish in the runoff.

Though Ibrahim describes it as a “really painful time” for both her and McMorris, she continues to speak out on issues important to her. Passionate about human rights, Ibrahim has served and advocated for immigrants, refugees, and minorities at UT and beyond. She is a member of Texas Orange Jackets, the school’s oldest women's honorary service organization, and she teaches English to immigrant and refugee women in the city. Ibrahim has also worked with the D.C-based Freedom House, which conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom, and human rights; she aims to continue her advocacy work after graduation and possibly pursue a JD.

On stage at TEDxUTAustin, Ibrahim will focus on diversity and leadership. “The one takeaway is why representation matters and why we have a stake in it. I think everyone’s sort of expecting it to be a discussion about the campaign, which will come up, but I also will talk about what happened leading up to it.” Growing up as a first-generation Pakistani Muslim student in southern Louisiana shaped Ibrahim into the advocate she is today.

The unexpected support Ibrahim received from other students of color during and after her campaign encouraged her not to give up. “UT is massive, and what comes with that is a lot of real-world experience,” said Ibrahim. “Diversity is often used as a checkmark, a quota. When you’re a minority, there’s a lot of pain associated with that.” Many incidents throughout UT’s history have left minority students feeling isolated and unsafe on campus, with little apparent punishment for the perpetrators, and Ibrahim feels all students – not just student leaders – should be vocal and pave the way for future activism.

Having been chosen as one of 14 speakers from thousands of applicants, Ibrahim said she hopes to inspire more students to speak out and create change. A year after the election, Ibrahim described the opportunity to speak at TEDxUTAustin before she graduates as bringing her college career full-circle. “After a year, when I reflect on the whole thing that happened, it’s so surreal,” said Ibrahim. “I feel so proud of our campaign and all the students who stepped up and supported it. Everyone’s going to do such phenomenal things.”

Guneez Ibrahim will speak at the 2019 TEDxUTAustin Conference, which takes place Saturday, April 6, 9:00am-5:30pm at the University of Texas’ Engineering Education and Research Center in the Mulva Auditorium (2501 Speedway).

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Guneez Ibrahim, UT Austin, TEDxUTAustin, Hannah McMorris, UT Student Government

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