Azra Siddiqi is the founder and President of WiseUp TX. Azra’s interest in politics began at a young age. Growing up her father would make her read a political piece a day in the Dallas Morning News. Her first real political experience came when she campaigned for her classmate’s dad for the Plano Mayoral race back in 1996. Even at the young age of 10, she enjoyed going door to door to ask people to vote for him and was in awe of the the impact she was able to make. From then on she’s interned at the Texas Senate Education Committee, worked as a Legislative Fellow in the U.S. Congress in D.C., was Legislative Director/General Counsel in the Texas House, and worked as a Tax Attorney at the Texas Comptroller’s office. During her time at the Texas Legislature, Azra realized Texas South Asians were unaware of the detrimental impacts certain state legislation had on the Texas South Asian community. To combat this issue, Azra started doing political segments on Radio Azad in 2015, which eventually evolved into a podcast, and is now a nonpartisan digital media platform. Azra currently works as a Tax Policy Advocate for AT&T and contributes to various South Asian American media outlets. She also continues to expand her political and legislative knowledge by doing research, attending policy conferences, and debating with other policy experts. She currently resides in Austin, TX with her husband and three birds!
Punam Kaji has been interested in policy and politics for as long as she can remember. Punam studied government and plan II at the University of Texas at Austin. Through student organizations and non-profit groups, she lobbied the Texas legislature regarding international human rights, voter suppression, and campaign finance reform, among other issues. Next, she went to law school at SMU Dedman School of Law. She practiced at Haynes and Boone, LLP for five years in the firm’s Houston, Dallas, and Fort Worth offices. Now, she works as Assistant General Counsel at Ben E. Keith Company in Fort Worth. Her practice focuses on employment and litigation matters for the Company, which has over 5000 employees working in fifteen states and is the 7th largest food distributor in the country. She is Board Certified in labor and employment law and passionate about shaping workplace policies and culture. Punam regularly speaks at conferences and other venues regarding employment law issues and on diversity and inclusion. When Punam is not doing her legal job, she is working in the community. She is the past Chair of the Asian Pacific Interest Section of the State Bar of Texas and served on the board for three years. She was the Community Outreach Chair for the board of the South Asian Bar Association of Houston (SABA Houston). She has worked with various non-profit organizations in Houston and Dallas, and her work has not gone unrecognized – she received DAABA’s 2013 Member of the Year Award for her efforts in community service and SABA Houston’s 2016 Outstanding Public Service Award. Currently, she is on the board of New Leaders Council Dallas after completing the New Leaders Council fellowship program. She remains passionate about voter engagement and advocacy work, as well as access to justice and pro bono legal programs. Most recently, she started a fundraising project that raised over $10,000 to cover travel costs of pro bono legal teams to assist asylum-seekers and detained at the U.S.-Mexico border. She enjoys supporting candidates that inspire her, including planning and hosting campaign events and fundraisers. For fun, Punam likes to read, travel with her husband, and explore food (you can follow her food adventures on Instagram @eatsbyPK). She’s from San Antonio and has lived in Austin, Dallas, Houston, and Fort Worth. If you ask her to pick her favorite city, she will say “Texas is my favorite.”
Ava Damri is excited to join the board of WiseUp TX because she is passionate about educating her community about the issues that affect their daily lives. As a child, Ava did not share her parents’ interest in 24/7 news coverage. However, as a young adult, she developed an interest in current events and a passion for social justice by listening to podcasts. She looked forward to voting as soon as she turned 18 because her mother, an Indian immigrant, volunteered for local and national candidates and inspired Ava to become more politically engaged. In 2018, after graduating with her MBA, Ava volunteered her time as Deputy Voter Registrar and supported several local candidates running for office, as a Precinct Chair in Tarrant County. Ava is a Human Capital Consultant with Deloitte Consulting and lives in the suburbs of Dallas-Fort Worth. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Management Science and a Master of Science in Engineering Management from the Lyle School of Engineering at Southern Methodist University, and a Master of Business Administration from the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. When Ava is not working, she travels, reads British mystery novels, enjoys high tea, listens to podcasts, and ushers at the Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth, TX.
With over a decade of experience in the Texas House, Rahul Sreenivasan currently serves as Chief of Staff and General Counsel to State Representative Armando Walle (D-Houston). With Rahul serving in his current role since 2013, State Rep. Walle has risen among the ranks of Texas House members, securing critical committee appointments and gaining stature and respect among his colleagues as a well-liked member and rising Democratic leader who will always do what is best for the constituents he represents at the Capitol. Through his time in the Texas House, Rahul’s experience, expertise, and candor on policy matters like the Texas budget, as well as on legislative process and the in’s and out’s of the legislative session have come to be sought after by many of his colleagues in and around the Texas Capitol.Prior to working for Rep. Walle, Rahul first served as an aide to former State Rep. Scott Hochberg from 2009 through 2011, for the 81st and 82nd Legislative Sessions. After finishing law school and passing the Texas Bar in 2007, Rahul left Texas to work on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2007 through May of 2008. Upon the end of the campaign, Rahul returned to Texas to be closer to his now-wife, Erin. Rahul and Erin, a local criminal defense attorney, love spending time with their 2 young children, but also still love spending time with each other. Rahul’s parents, originally from Kerala, still live in Amarillo, where he grew up and graduated from high school.
My name is Jasmin and I was born in Kathmandu, Nepal and raised in Dallas, Texas. I graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2015 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Speech Language Pathology and a certification in digital media.My interest in politics began at a young age. Growing up, I would listen to my father and sister talk about politics and how it would impact our community directly. My morning routines included watching CNN in the living area and BBC-Nepal in my parents’ room. My first real political experience came when I campaigned with a group led by a Texas representative, Mary Gonzalez. It was in 2012 and President Obama was running for office. The endless amount of phone calls and event hosting was worth it— Obama was re-elected. It was such exhilarating knowing our team made an impact! From then on, I have been eager to dive back into politics. When I am not submerged in digital marketing and speech therapy, I enjoy quality time with my family, traveling, visiting new coffee shops, and meeting new people from all different walks of life!
Noreen Choudhury was born in New York City to immigrant Bangladeshi parents. She moved to North Dallas at the age of 7. She now is a Global Tax Account Manager at Thomson Reutersand is in charge of managing global relationships between Thomson Reuters and the “Global 7” accounting firms. Beyond her professional role, she is the Global Volunteer Network lead at the Dallas Thomson Reuters office. Within her roles, she creates strategic alliances and uses analytical development tactics. She has achieved success by identifying growth opportunities and cultivating strong relationships with key contacts from various NGOs and accounting firms. She has been an integral member of the Thomson Reuters’ team since 2012 and completed her B.S in Marketing at the University of Texas at Dallas.
Shariq Khan is an entrepreneur and board-certified physician practicing Emergency Medicine in Houston He is a born and bred Houstonian and a graduate of Texas A&M University. Prior to practicing medicine, he was a medical editor at PEPID, a Chicago based medical clinical and drug reference software. His was engaged in community projects such as the South Asian Public Health Association (SAPHA) which published the nationally recognized A Brown Paper: The Health of South Asians in the United States. He devoted time at AlSalaam Clinic, which provides medical services to the uninsured immigrant population, and Chicago Recovery Alliance which reduces drug-related harm by creating any positive change. He is an active member of Asia Society Texas Center and World Affairs Council of Houston which readily invites influential South Asian thought leaders and policymakers. He recognizes the emerging rise and influence of South Asians in shaping the American political, social and economic arena and the opportunities this challenge creates. He has a keen affinity in South Asian American public policy research analysis and advocates for ideas which shape state and local social change.
Noor is a local government professional with experience working in community development and finance. As an immigrant to the United States, she is passionate about working with immigrant communities to realize their potential – as residents, tax payers, and (eventual) voters. Noor wants to build a new narrative around the immigrant experience – one that emphasizes civic engagement and trust in the political process.Noor holds an MPA from the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University and a B.A. from Texas A&M University. She served on the City of Aurora, Colorado’s Immigrant and Refugee Commission, and is an active member of the International City/County Management Association.
Simra Abedi is a third-year undergraduate student at Northeastern University. She has been a social media intern with WiseUp TX since July 2018. Simra is currently studying International Affairs, and is very passionate about ensuring that Muslims are represented in a fair and positive light in western media. She recently completed an internship with the United Nations Population Fund in New York, which she followed with a month-long study abroad program in Eastern Europe. Going forward, she hopes to be able to help WiseUp TX expand their audience and continue to create meaningful content through graphic design.
Areeba Amer is a journalism and economics student at The University of Texas at Austin and has worked with WiseUp TX since June 2018. Outside of WiseUp TX, she reports and designs atThe Daily Texan,where she works to humanize and highlight stories. Many issues get lost in the realm of short-attention spans, so she strives to inform people about issues that affect their communities through various forms of storytelling. She is also a Health Content Intern at AMD Global for summer 2019 and the Publicity Director at UT’s Pakistani Student Association. She has previously worked in web design, graphic design, marketing and campaign finance. At WiseUp TX, she wants to help people understand the impact of politics with objective research, in hope that they get involved in whatever way suits them.
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