|Najeeba Syeed-Miller, of Pasadena, the new executive director of the Western Justice Center Foundation, looks into a cracked mirror that is part of a lesson on conflict resolution for children in their Pasadena office Monday March 7, 2005. The foundation runs a training program on conflict resolution in the community, courts and schools. (Staff photo by Sarah Reingewirtz)
Pasadena, California -- She's spent her life fostering conflict resolution, so it seemed like fate when Najeeba Syeed-Miller and the Western Justice Center Foundation in Pasadena found each other.
Syeed-Miller has been the center's executive director since November, charged with fulfilling its goals of working with communities, courts, governments and schools to promote conflict resolution and helping courts and administrative agencies improve access to justice.
She supervises a staff of four that can expand to do special projects.
"I have always felt that whenever a problem exists, there is always a collaborative solution for it,' Syeed-Miller said. "It's just a matter of bringing the right people together around the table in the most effective manner. Because the most creative solutions are the ones that include as many people who have a stake in the problem as possible.'
A South Asian American Muslim, Syeed-Miller has a degree in psychology from Gilford College and is a graduate of the Indiana University School of Law, where she was awarded several fellowships for achievements in the field of conflict resolution.
She also was trained at The Hague at the International Institute for Mediation and Conflict Resolution, and at the University of Erasmus in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
Prior to joining the center she led the Los Angeles-based Asian Pacific-American Dispute Resolution Center. Under her leadership, it received the Jon Anson Ford Award for improving human relations from the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission.
A poet, she speaks several South Asian languages and Arabic and said she became interested in using conflict resolution on an international level in college.
"That comes from my sense that (in resolving conflicts) the process is sometimes more important than the end results,' she said. "Getting to know each other is really the goal, and out of that will come some sort of recognition of our common humanity.'
Judge Dorothy W. Nelson , chair of the center's board of directors, said "10 very worthy candidates' were considered for the job, "and (Syeed-Miller) was the most outstanding at the local, national and international level in the peaceful resolution field.'
She noted that Syeed-Miller trained United Nations relief workers, involved in the post-war reconstruction of Afghanistan, in conflict resolution.
"She is recognized nationally in this field,' said Sarah Smith Orr , chair of the center's program committee.
"It was pretty clear she was the right person for our organization. We want to expand our outreach programs and she has a strong track record in effective outreach work. She has a superior ability to create collaborative partnerships, which is critical for the foundation,' Orr said.
Syeed-Miller and her husband, Jonathan, an attorney at a local firm, moved to Pasadena from Long Beach in August.
"I'm really delighted to be able to work and live in the same community,' she said.
Syeed-Miller has been involved in conflict resolution 12 years and said as a Muslim she is aware that, "A factor in conflicts is a lack of understanding. I'm one of those people who really seeks to break barriers and boundaries.
"It's a case of looking for how similar we are versus how different. Because the differences really melt away after a while. But when there are differences, address them honestly and openly, find a way to make those differences strengthen us instead of being our weakness.'
Emanuel Parker can be reached at (626) 578-6300, Ext. 4475, or by e-mail at [email protected] .
Source: Pasadena Star News