Bahaiteachings.org

The conference management committee is delighted to inform you that Bahaiteachings.org will be presenting on the first day of the conference for adults, college age, youth and junior youth. The presenters are:

Presenters for Adult Program

Presenters for Youth

Artistic Performances By

Presenter Bios


Payam Akhavan

Payam Akhavan

Payam Akhavan PhD (Harvard) is Professor of International Law at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, a Member of the International Court of Arbitration, and a former UN prosecutor at The Hague. His prior academic appointments were at Yale, Florence, Paris, and Oxford, he has served with the UN in Bosnia, Cambodia, Guatemala, Rwanda, and Timor Leste, and is a founder of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center. His global career has been featured in the New York Times, BBC World's HardTalk, Maclean's magazine, Toronto Star, and Brazil's TV Globo. In 2017, he will deliver the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's annual Massey Lectures.


Puneh Ala

Puneh Ala'i

Puneh Ala’i is the founder of For The Unseen, a not-for-profit serving those in need the world over. Puneh was raised by immigrant parents who raised her with the belief that “Mankind is One” and service is a key factor in contributing to this life. Puneh’s vision to create For The Unseen was ignited in a small war-torn corner of the world – Syria. If you had asked her when she was there a few years ago, she would have never imagined she would be the founder of a 501c3 organization that has provided thousands of dollars of medical aid, food, toys, and even schooling to the Syrian refugees. Puneh has worked with children ever since she can remember, but working with Syrian refugee children was a transformational experience. Even in the midst of war, despair, loss, and nothingness, their purity and love can shine through and prevailed. It was with this flame of love and hope in her heart that Puneh established For The Unseen. She wants to reach out over the world and help serve those in need with food, shelter, medical support, but most of all love and hope. She believes that in the path of service, it is only love and hope that can truly heal wounds and help them overcome the challenges they face.


Paul O. Arbab

Paul O. Arbab

Paul Arbab has served in multiple capacities within Bahá'í administration and is involved and passionate about exploring how the learning of the Bahá'í community can be effectively applied to encompass the wider society, especially through sustainable social and economic endeavors. Paul currently lives in New York with his wife and two boys.


Ken Bowers

Ken Bowers

Kenneth E. Bowers currently serves as Secretary of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States, the annually elected body governing the activities of Bahá'ís in the 48 contiguous states. Prior to being elected to the National Assembly, he served as an appointed member of the National Teaching Committee, the principal arm of the National Assembly, acting as its Secretary for nearly 10 years. Until 1991, Mr. Bowers owned and operated a business in Atlanta. He is the author of God Speaks Again, an introductory book about the Bahá'í Faith. Together with their children, Mojdeh and Ford, Ken and his wife Mojgan make their home in Wilmette, Ill. in the northern suburbs of Chicago.


Dapper Bandits

Dapper Bandits

The Dapper Bandits are an eastern-fusion rock band from San Diego. Vafa Samiei (piano) and Koosha Hakimi (drums), two cousins from Iran, have been playing music together from a young age. To further their musical journey, they both decided to move to the United States due to religious and political conflicts in their home country. The duo paired up with two other music majors from Palomar College, Shannon Nauss (electric bass) and Danny Gonzalez (saxophone), to form, what is now, The Dapper Bandits. They have been playing popular shows in San Diego, including a recent show opening for Ali Azimi and his band on their world tour, and are seeking to expand their audience.


Farshad Fani Marvasti

Farshad Fani Marvasti

Dr. Shad is a Stanford trained physician leader and medical educator. Dr. Shad has undertaken research, published articles and medical textbook chapters on disease prevention, nutrition and complementary and alternative medicine since 1997. As a practicing physician who is inspired by the Bahá'í Teachings on Health and Healing, Dr. Shad advocates for the use of food as medicine and actively teaches his patients to buy and prepare healthy meals with food prescriptions as a standard part of treating their medical conditions. His most recent academic article was published in the New England Journal of Medicine where he and his co-author make the case for redesigning medicine to create a prevention focused model of health care. Acting to transform medical education, Dr. Shad is redesigning the 4-year medical school curriculum to include lifestyle medicine, nutrition and evidence based integrative medicine and complementary therapies to prevent disease, reduce the costs of care and maintain health throughout the lifespan. Dr. Shad a distinguished graduate of Barrett, the Honors College at Arizona State University and has obtained both his Medical Doctorate and Masters of Public Health from the University of Arizona. He completed his medical residency training at the Stanford University School of Medicine and subsequently served as a postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Stanford Prevention Research Center. Dr. Shad currently serves as the Director of Public Health, Prevention and Health Promotion at the University of Arizona College of Medicine Phoenix and as Medical Director for the College of Health Solutions Healthy Lifestyles Research Center at Arizona State University. Dr. Shad also continues to teach medical students at Stanford where he trained and serves as Medical Director of Clinical Partnerships and Strategy for One Medical Arizona.


Parisa Fitz-Henley

Parisa Fitz-Henley

Parisa Fitz-Henley is an actress and producer, known for Jessica Jones (2015) and Midnight, Texas (2017). She has lived in a number of places, including Jamaica, Florida, South Africa, New York, and Los Angeles. She was born in Kingston, Jamaica to an American mother and Jamaican father. Parisa started as a model; she also was filming "Fist In The Eye" in Los Angeles, CA in May 2006.


Farid Ghebleh

Farid Ghebleh

Dr Farid Ghebleh is a physician in the field of Pulmonary and Critical Care medicine, serving the communities in greater Phoenix area for 30 years. He is an avid collector of music, particularly music from around the world with emphasis on fusion style that combines many elements of local with western style of music giving it a real taste of internationality. This presentation of "Faith, Courage and Sacrifice" is a dynamic expression with music, DVD, Texts from Baha'i Scripture, scientific facts, poetry, special effect and live performance in a small theatre /stage set up in an effort to see if it would have a more lasting impression on the audience, in relation to the subject matter which is the heroic sacrifices of the 10 Baha'i women of Shiraz, Iran who in 1983 were executed by the order of the authorities of the Islamic Republic Of Iran, and therefore gave up their lives for a loftier cause which would ultimately make the world a better place.


Van Gilmer

Van Gilmer

Van Gilmer, reknowned soloist, composer, and director, is the original organizer and director of the 80 member Bahá’í Gospel Choir that made its first debut appearance before a standing-room only audience in the Ramada Hotel Ballroom during the 2nd Bahá’í World Congress held in New York City in 1992. Since then, he has directed several Bahá’í choirs, including a 100 member Bahá’í Choir that toured western Europe in 2004. Van produced his first CD from that tour entitled: The Bahá’í Gospel Choir LIVE in Luxembourg. Van is a native of Greensboro North Carolina, and graduated from NC Agricultural & Technical State University with a BS in Architectural Engineering. During that early period, he was also directly involved in the sit-ins of the 60’s to remove barriers of segregation in the United States. After 37 years of federal civilian service in a variety of engineering and management positions. He was presented with the Civilian Meritorious Award and Metal by the US Navy Department for his outstanding service and retired from federal service in 2004. For the past nine years, Mr. Gilmer has been the Music Director at the Bahá’í House of Worship for the North American Continent, located in Wilmette, Illinois. He has toured throughout Europe, the United States, and the Caribbean and has appeared twice at Carnegie Hall. In 2011, Van took a Baha’i Gospel Choir to sing for the 50th Anniversary of the Baha’i Faith in Ethiopia. Van has been a Bahá’í for over 49 years and has served on a variety of Bahá’í administrative and appointed bodies, including the National Race Unity and National Persian/American Affairs Committees. Mr. Gilmer was invited by the InterFaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington DC to direct a 200-voice Combined Choir for their 26th Annual InterFaith Conference held at the Washington Hebrew Congregation in Washington, D.C. He is currently planning for the 9th Annual Baha’i Choral Festival which he founded under the auspices of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States. He is also the recipient of the Independent Music Award’s “Best Gospel Song” for 2006. Van is a member of the American Society of Choral Directors and is listed in the Who’s Who Registry & Global Network for Outstanding Professionals.


Jamey Heath

Jamey Heath

Jamey Heath strives to serve God by setting His sacred words to music. Having had many opportunities to travel throughout the world, he has learned that music will indeed penetrate a heart, no matter the country. Especially when singing the words of God. Having literally grown up in recording studios surrounded by many legendary artists, his first language was music. A songwriter, musician and producer, Jamey has co-written and/or produced songs for many Grammy award artists. He also has enjoyed a life of scoring music for TV and Film. He is a proud father of four and he adores his wife, Natasha. He continues to rebuild his life after setting fire to it some years ago, and he strives to keep God and Natasha at the center of it.


Jessica Kemejuk

Jessica Kemejuk

Jessica Kemejuk is an actress and producer, known for The Neighbor (2017), The Abandoned and ToY (2016)


Anise Khoshmashrab

Anise Khoshmashrab

Anise K has been accompanying his father since the age of 5. Anise has traveled the world with his father, performing at various Baha'i conferences, Baha'i fundraiser program and special events held by the Baha'i community. As a writer, producer and recording artist, Anise K is extremely versatile in all facets of music. From a young age he has developed a strong connection to his keyboards, which over time has evolved into an intuitive appreciation of music across all cultures, ages and traditions. In June of this year, Anise teamed up with Australian Pop singer, Nathanial Willemse and composed a song/video clip of a prayer written by Baha'u'llah, in light of the 200th bicentennial celebration. Although Anise has worked with many A list performers, his primary goal is to create positive music, inspired by the Baha'i readings/prayers.


Behzad Khoshmashrab

Behzad Khoshmashrab

Born in Iran, Behzad, renowned international violinist has been playing Persian and international music since he was 8 years old and has been performing in variety of concerts from the age of 15. In 1979, he migrated to Germany for further studies in the field of Architecture. In 1982, following his marriage, he moved to Australia. Behzad has used his talents to serve the Faith all around the world for various conferences and fundraisers. Behzad has not only performed in numerous Baha'i events across Australia, but his violin playing and singing have also taken him to other parts of the world, having had presentations in various locations in the United States, Europe, Israel and Africa. He feels so fortunate to have met so many Baha'is all around the world. Although Behzads music is primarily focused on service to the Cause he has also performed with Many Iranian singers such as Mahasti, Haideh, Golpa, Iraj, Sattar, Susan, Ahdieh and many more. Music has always been Behzad's passion in life, as he believes music is an international language and can touch everyone’s heart.


Raha Lewis

Raha Lewis

A US native (by way of a study detour in Sydney Australia), Raha Lewis is an influencer for all things pop culture, fashion and entertainment. A lawyer in her past life, who has written for publications such as the LA Times, People Magazine and InStyle, Lewis is genuinely interested in the state of the world and how it's players conduct themselves. You may have seen her touting exclusive stories on E! News, Good Morning America and Showbiz Tonight. Her legal background anchors an innate analytic mindset, while her passion and have-fun-for-a-living attitude gives her the ability to provide telling insights on just about any subject matter. She extracts a unique reality in interviews because of her conversational free spirited style. She’s motivating, honest and reveals strengths in subjects that even they sometimes didn’t know they had.She’s a content creator with a voice that speaks to the masses. And if she ends up at your dinner party, be prepared for a lot of laughter.


Daniel Lord

Daniel Lord

Daniel B. Lord recently retired as a psychology professor from University of Alaska Southeast, and presently, he works as a marriage and family life counselor.


Nura Mowzoon

Nura Mowzoon

Dr. Mowzoon completed her Doctoral and Master's degrees in Marriage and Family Therapy at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Her training at Nova Southeastern University also included a specialization in Medical Family Therapy and a post-doctoral certificate in hypnotherapy. She completed her Bachelor’s degree in Family Studies and Child Development, with a minor in Psychology, at Arizona State University. She has presented at conferences around the country, is a contributor to the Huffington Post, and is also a published author in the academic journal, The Qualitative Review. Dr. Mowzoon is currently an instructor at Arizona State University, teaching classes in the social sciences focusing on courtship, marriage, family life, and race and diversity issues. She also works as a couple’s coach based in Phoenix, Arizona, working with clients all over the world to help them find happiness and success in their love relationships.


Naysan Naraqi

Naysan Naraqi

Naysan is the editor of Baha'i Blog and he has worked in various avenues of media for two decades. He’s passionate about using the arts and media to support and explore the teachings of the Baha’i Faith and he has produced and collaborated on popular music projects like the "DawnBreaker Collective" and the successful Ruhi-inspired sequence of "MANA" albums. His experience as a producer for CNN was invaluable while working on a number of special projects for the Baha’i World Centre, including the "Building Momentum" and "Pilgrimage: A Sacred Experience" videos. If there’s a media-related Baha’i project out there, chances are that Naysan was involved with it somehow!


Masud Olufani

Masud Olufani

Masud Olufani is a committed artist devoted to living a creative life that inspires the human spirit.


Vahid Rafati

Vahid Rafati

Dr Vahid Ra'fati was born in Shiraz, Iran. He received his higher education at Tehran University, the American University of Beirut (AUB), and the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), where he received his Ph.D. in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies in 1979. He is the author of numerous research articles, and has written, compiled, and edited more than twenty books. He has a particular interest in the sources of Persian and Arabic poetry quoted in the Baha'i Writings, which has resulted in a five-volume series on the subject, and he has contributed a number of entries to the Encyclopaedia Iranica. Dr Rafati has been a lecturer in Persian language and literature at UCLA, and since 1980 he has been serving in the Research Department of the Baha'i World Centre in Haifa, Israel. His most recent publication in English is "The Evolving Role of Baha'i Scholarship," published in the Journal of Baha'i Studies earlier this year.


Leila Rassekh Milani

Leila Rassekh Milani

Leila Milani, JD, MA is Senior International Policy Advocate for Futures Without Violence, where she leads their work on global violence prevention, with a focus on women and children. In this capacity, she is instrumental in developing innovative policy solutions, driving advocacy efforts, and influencing the agendas of national coalitions such as Girls Not Brides, Coalition for Adolescent Girls, the US Civil Society Working Group on Women, Peace, and Security, Alliance To End Slavery and Tracking (ATEST), and the Coalition to End Violence Against Women and Girls Globally, for which she serves on the executive committee. Milani was recently named to the Board of Directors of Soccer Without Borders which aims to use soccer as a vehicle for positive change, providing underserved youth in the U.S. and overseas with the tools to overcome obstacles to growth, inclusion, and personal success. Milani is a lawyer and human rights advocate with special expertise in women’s rights, religious freedom, and conditions in Iran.


Setareh Rouhani

Setareh Rouhani

Setareh Rouhani, PhD (Cand) is a Research Associate with the Institute for Intersectionality, Research and Policy at Simon Fraser University, and a Research Methodologist with the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Newborn Care at the Ottawa Hospital. Setareh is completing her doctoral degree in Population Health with the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Ottawa. She holds a Masters of Science degree in Healthcare and Epidemiology from the University of British Columbia and a Bachelors of Health Sciences from the University of Ottawa. Her research areas focus on immigrant and refugee health, women’s health, reducing health inequalities for marginalized populations and intersectoral policy action. Through recent involvement with the Association for Baha’i Studies Health and Medicine working groups, her interests further include advancing the discourse on health and medicine in the context of the framework of the five year plan and social action for community building.


Shadi Salehian

Shadi Salehian

Shadi Salehian was a child refugee and grew up in India and Canada, where she completed her studies in microbiology and education. She holds a Master of Public Health from The Johns Hopkins University focusing on substance abuse and mental health in vulnerable populations. She currently acts as the Managing Director of an NGO working in capacity building with focus on health and economic development in vulnerable and disadvantaged populations. Previously, she served at the Research and other departments at the Baha’i World Center in Israel for 26 years. Her mission and passion has been public health as social justice and human rights. Her main research and work focus on displaced populations and refugees with access to health as vital component of social integration, economic development and community building. Her other area of research interest and activity is the role of spirituality in mental health and addiction prevention and recovery, which she is collaborating with a leader in the field and is actively engaged in expanding this discourse. She has lectured, published and been interviewed on these topics and presented widely. She brings rich experience working on global public health issues bridging the gap from advocacy to sustainable and integrated solutions that not only advance discourse but also lead to just and lasting social change. She is an active member of the Association for Baha’i Studies working groups “Health and Medicine” and “Mental Health”. She also collaborates with the Global Institute for Health and Human Rights in working with displaced populations in projects such as training and capacity building in students in Syria. She brings a unique personal and professional innovative perspective to these discourses of our time.


Derik Smith

Derik Smith

Professor Smith works in Critical Race Studies in a transnational and global context, African American poetry, American popular culture, and relations between esthetic movements and radical Black politics in America. Originally from the Caribbean, and having completed his BA in English Literature at the University of Michigan before moving to Northwestern, he has also taught in Dubai (UAE) and Oman, before moving to the Department of English. He has also taught in the Bard Prison Initiative. He is currently completing Love’s Lonely Offices, a book on Robert Hayden and the Black Arts Movement.


Smith & Dragoman

Smith & Dragoman

Together since 2003, Smith & Dragoman have been writing songs which focus on the early history of the Baha'i Faith, with themes and stories covering the lives of the Bab, Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha. With three CD's and a Live in Concert DVD to date, their music touches upon themes of courage, love, search, sacrifice, crisis and victory and attempts to bring the listener on a powerful sonic journey through world music sounds, rich harmonies and intimate stories. Based in Toronto, Canada, Smith & Dragoman consist of Brett Smith, Michael Dragoman, Emily Dragoman, Aaron Ferrera, John Ebata and Asher Lenz. All of their music can be found on iTunes, Spotify and the like.


Syda Taylor

Syda Taylor

Syda Segovia Taylor has an M.A in Community Development and Social Justice, and close to 20 years of experience bringing opportunities to youth in Chicago’s under-served communities and prides herself of being a social justice advocate: promoting race unity, gender equality, oneness of humankind, health and food access, the environment, the arts, harmony between science and religion, and quality education.


Shaheen Sean Tedjarati

Shaheen Sean Tedjarati

Dr Tedjarati is the Chief and Associate Professor of Gynecologic Oncology and Robotic Surgery and Co-Director of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at New York Medical College/Westchester Medical Center Health Network in New York. He completed surgical training at MD Anderson Cancer Center and Research Institute and holds an MBA in Leadership in Healthcare from Yale University and an MPH from Johns Hopkins University. He has number of academic and other awards including the Ellis Island Medal of Honor Award in 2017 and named Top Doctor in New York for years. He has multiple peer reviewed publications and active in clinical research. His non-clinical research interests include evidenced based principled leadership, management and governance. He has studied leadership and management extensively with emphasis and in depth analysis on the Ministry of the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, Shoghi Effendi with a unique view and perspective on His Ministry as a model of leadership and Ministry of Custodians as model of leadership succession. He has also extensively researched Baha’i covenant, history, and development of global plans and of the Baha’i Administrative order. He has lectured on these topics extensively. He has strong interest in women’s health and rights in developing nations and has volunteered and worked on variety of international projects focusing on comprehensive, integrated approach to women’s health and rights. He lives in Manhattan, New York.


Shadi Toloui-Wallace

Shadi Toloui-Wallace

Shadi is widely recognized for her musical contributions to the Baha’i community and involvement in arts based initiatives and discourse relating to the Community Building Process. She now resides in Vancouver, BC, where she continues to work, serve, travel, perform and record her music.


Shidan Toloui-Wallace

Shidan Toloui-Wallace

Shidan Toloui-Wallace is a traditional Persian chanter in the contemporary Bahá’í world. She is known for her unique and skilful ability to stay true to the traditions of her art form and her wonderful fusion of East and West performed alongside her daughter Shadi Toloui-Wallace. Her debut album was recorded with fellow vocalist Taraneh Rafati in 1996 in Haifa Israel during her service entitled Call of Carmel. Her sophomore album entitled Phoenix of Love was recorded in 2013 with renowned producer and session guitarist Louie Shelton, with special appearances by her daughter, Shadi Toloui-Wallace. Shidan has also appeared on Shadi’s two albums.


Erica Toussaint-Brock

Erica Toussaint-Brock

Erica Toussaint-Brock is best known for her down-to-earth application of the Bahá'í teachings in our everyday life. Her presentations are filled with insight, laughter and stories which give us a window into a deeper and more profound understanding of walking our path of spiritual development and service to fellow human beings. She has served variously in Bahá'í administrative positions including as an Auxiliary Board member, the Regional Bahá'í Council of the Western states and most recently as a member of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States for 15 years until 2015.


Tatiana Zamir

Tatiana Zamir

A graduate of UCLA's renowned World Arts and Cultures Department, Tatiana Zamir has been dancing most of her life. From the moment her grandmother put her in her first tutu at three years old, creativity and movement have been center stage. Trained in various forms of dance from all over the world, Tatiana studied at L’Ecole de Sables, in Senegal, West Africa, and traveled to Alaska, Bulgaria, Argentina, Uruguay, Namibia, Turkey, Mexico, Israel, and Cuba as a member of the One World Dance Company. While dancing with the Pan African performing arts ensemble, L'Esprit d'Afrique, Tatiana began her studies at the Institute of Psycho-Structural Balancing. There, she honed her natural skills in the healing arts, learning a holistic approach to wellness, and utilizing techniques based on principles of Tai Chi. After being a member of the woman’s poetry collective, Full Moon Phases, Tatiana discovered the art of combining movement with her other love: words. With a natural gravitation towards writing poetry and short stories, Tatiana is one of few artists who bridges the gap between dance and creative writing. From her childhood days dancing at the Lula Washington Dance Studio and the Bahá’í Youth Workshop, Tatiana has always been on a path of movement and creativity--with a spiritually based foundation of equality, love, and social justice through self expression. Tatiana has been teaching dance for over ten years at various schools and youth centers. Her genuine love for dance and the desire to create something for all levels led to the creation of her popular Afro-Hip Hop Dance Workout, mainly inspired by Hip Hop and West African dance. Tatiana practices bodywork in her home healing room, teaches two community dance classes, and waters her garden three times a week.

Copyright ©2017 The Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Phoenix, Arizona