Experts in UN systems, agencies, and programs.

Mehr “Jay” Shahidi:

Mehr “Jay” Shahidi is former president of the UNA-USA Minnesota division who served as a board member for many years. Shahidi specializes primarily in the subjects of land mines, refugees, economic development, United States leadership (in relation to the United Nations,) peace-keeping, and peace-building. He also researches the subjects of population planning and environmental protection.

Shahidi has been a citizen lobbyist since 1966 and has made hundreds of visits to governmental and other political offices while advocating for both economic development and international social justice.

Shahidi has worked as a human rights activist in the U.S. for close to 50 years. He has held leadership roles at over forty civic, educational and charitable organizations including the American Refugee Committee, Minnesota Institute for Talented Youth, Citizens for Global Solutions, and Population Connection.

Having been a Great Decisions lecturer at Global Minnesota, he gave over 800 public speeches on international issues. Shahidi has also written many articles for publications ranging from the Daily Telegraph to the Star Tribune. He is a Minnesota business owner who was born in Tehran and then came to the US for higher education after attending college in London for two and a half years. He graduated from Minnesota State University, Mankato with majors in economics and political science. Before graduating he became student body president, a newspaper columnist, and a board member of the Mankato Area Chamber of Commerce. He helped organize the International Student Office, a free legal aid service and Kessel Peace Institute there and has served on a university advisory board. Jay was awarded the university’s Distinguished Humanitarian Award in 2004.

Jay founded Decorative Construction Services, Inc. in 1977 which provides environmentally friendly building renovations in the Twin Cities and M.J. Shahidi Business Consulting Co. which provides services to small business, non-profit and civic groups. He also co-founded the Iranian-American Society of MN.

Steve Werle:

Born and raised in Rochester, Minnesota, Steve Werle graduated from the University of Minnesota Duluth with a Bachelor of Applied Arts in Teaching Social Studies in 1994 and went on to earn a Master’s from the same university in 1999. He teaches Advanced Placement United States History (APUSH) in the Twin Cities. Every summer (very much in the spirit of Minnesota) he bakes thousands of Sweet Martha cookies during The Great Minnesota Get-Together.

Werle is the author of An American Gothic: The Life & Times & Legacy of William Gates LeDuc. His most recent book, Stassen Again, was published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press in 2015. He currently lives in Minneapolis with his wife and three sons.

Dr. Bharat Parekh:

Dr. Parekh immigrated to the Twin Cities from his native India in 1987. He earned his Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Minnesota Rochester and has since worked as an educator and consultant to U.S. companies, Indian enterprises, and non-governmental organizations alike.

His work involves technology transfer in the rural and environmental development sectors, using methods such as biofuels, food processing, and water resource models and systems. Prior to coming to the Twin Cities, Dr. Parekh was a physics professor at North Dakota State University. While in North Dakota he also served as a research scientist for the State Water Institute in Fargo. His research there focused mainly on turbulence modeling and hydrologic simulation, and ways to better address complex issues in the river basin. During his teaching career, he was an early advocate of the interdisciplinary curriculum: learning physics in tandem with other disciplines such as art, environmental sciences, technology and health.

He currently serves as the board member of three other organizations: Citizens for Global Solutions Minnesota, the Committee on Foreign Relations Minnesota, and Toddler Food Partners.