I Choose Memphis: Surayyah T. Hasan

Special to The Daily News

“I Choose Memphis” spotlights Memphians who are passionate about calling this community home. New Memphis Institute provides the profiles.


Name: Surayyah T. Hasan

Job Title and Company: Strong Cities, Strong Communities Fellow – City of Memphis Office of Talent and Human Capital

Length of time living in Memphis: One year and four months

Life history: A native of Georgia, I am a dedicated public servant who is passionate about improving quality of life and creating opportunities for advancement in underserved communities. I have been fortunate to put my skills and talents to use in my local communities and within a global context. Before moving to Memphis, I attended Wellesley College in Wellesley, Mass., and worked in the nonprofit education sector. I also lived in New York City where I completed my MPA and worked for the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. I enjoy combining my interest in international travel and community-based work by serving as a Global Village Team Leader for Habitat for Humanity International. I’ve traveled to India, Mozambique, China, Cambodia and Thailand leading groups of volunteers on short term builds.

What brought you to Memphis?

I was matched with Memphis to complete a two-year fellowship for the White House Council on Strong Cities, Strong Communities. Before moving here, there was a lot I didn’t know about Memphis and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I decided to take a leap of faith and I’m glad I did. A little more than halfway through my two-year commitment, I have decided to extend my stay since I have been discovering new things to cherish about Memphis every day.

What current local initiative excites you most?

This may be biased, but I’m most excited about Mayor Wharton’s Colleges of Memphis initiative. I am privileged to work on this innovative project that sets Memphis apart from other cities. The Colleges of Memphis is a collaborative effort between the city and 14 local colleges and universities. The initiative works to connect students to resources, networks and experiences to attract and retain talented individuals in Memphis. For example, we host the annual Colleges of Memphis Night as the city’s official back-to-school celebration for college students, faculty and staff each fall. We also organize roundtable discussions with the mayor and are currently planning a citywide Day of Service for students. On the strategic processes side, we’re spearheading the Community Partnership for Attainment, which will create a citywide postsecondary attainment goal. There are many amazing organizations and individuals doing effective work around students’ educational paths beyond high school, we’re working to bring these groups together, align resources and strengthen overall impact.

What do you find surprising about Memphis?

I’ve been surprised by the opportunities I find here and the people I meet who unapologetically love Memphis. Unlike other urban centers in which I have lived, Memphis is ripe with possibility and welcoming to newcomers who want to make an impact. In the short time I’ve been here, I have met business owners, policy makers, artists and educators all working to make sure the city lives up to its potential and eagerly anticipate its bright future. I’ve interacted with native and non-native Memphians who display a passion and zeal for this city. Their enthusiasm is infectious.

What is your favorite outdoor activity?

I appreciate the riverfront. I remember my first time seeing it on a cab ride into Downtown from the airport and being captivated by its vastness. Now that I live Downtown, I have easy access to the river and like to carve out time during the weekends to take walks, listen to music or read a book with the Mississippi as my scenery. Last fall, I had such an amazing time participating in the annual Duncan-Williams Dragon Boat Races on the river as a member of New Memphis Institute’s “Hustle & Row” crew. I look forward to rowing again this year.

What is your favorite local festival?

Cooper-Young is my favorite local festival. I love the eclectic mix of musicians and artisans. I always find some unique piece of jewelry or art that I’ve not seen elsewhere. And, the weather has been perfect for the past two years that I have attended.