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Book, TED talks make it a stellar year for UTSC alum

U of T Scarborough alum Renu Persaud is about to publish her book, The Mastery of You, and earlier this year was a speaker at a TED community conference in Kitchener-Waterloo. (Photo courtesy of Renu Persaud)

Between a TEDx talk in Waterloo in May, an invitation to the TEDWomen 2016 conference in San Francisco in October and an upcoming book launch, Renu Persaud’s star is ascending quickly.

It’s not as if the U of T Scarborough graduate (BA, Sociology) wasn’t busy already. Persaud, who went on to earn an MA and PhD in Sociology and Equity Studies at U of T, works as a lecturing professor in sociology at the University of Windsor. She and her husband also have two daughters, ages 12 and 7. Adding TEDx, TEDWomen and authorship to her achievements simply rounded out her ambitions. 

“As an academic, it’s difficult to try to pursue all your aspirations, and mine are numerous” Persaud says. “I couldn’t write a book until my young children were older.” 

It was evident early on that her life would require a balancing act. 

“My daughter, Sarah, was born while I was working on my PhD dissertation,” Persaud says. “My oral defence was scheduled for 9 a.m. and I had to breastfeed my daughter at 8:50, so there I was, sitting in the car in the parking lot of the building breastfeeding before appearing before my committee.” 

Her success at managing life’s demands saw Persaud through the rigourous process of applying and preparing to deliver the community-based TEDx talk in Kitchener-Waterloo that focused on her PhD research on self-worth and her upcoming book, The Mastery of You.   

“There were thousands of applicants and they wanted to focus mostly on people from the area, but the organizer was enthralled with my material,” Persaud says. 

Before she was accepted as a speaker, Persaud had to provide three videos of her lecturing to provide organizers with a sense of how articulate she was. Once she was invited to speak, “you receive confidential and extensive information about the TED brand and what you can and cannot do,” she says.

Persaud was impressed by the amount of time, care and effort the TED organization devotes to their speakers. They are assigned to a speech coach, while editors and, technology/presentation professionals polish the presentation at every step.

“All of the assistance was amazing and so professionally done,” Persaud says.

She delivered her talk to an audience of hundreds, including her husband and daughters.  Persaud calls it “a moment I’ll never forget.”

“It was a celebrity moment,” Persaud says. “It was the number four trending topic across [Twitter] Canada for a couple of hours. But most meaningful to me was to see my daughters sitting in the front row cheering me on.”

This week, Persaud is in California to attend TEDWomen 2016, an annual TED conference focusing on global issues for women and men. She is one of an exclusive list of attendees, including celebrities, CEOs, global leaders and politicians, chosen from thousands of applicants.  She hopes to parlay her selection into a talk at an international TED forum.

After the conference, Persaud will shift her attention back to her book, slated for limited edition previews in February, with full distribution in September. The book demonstrates the perils of ignoring one’s deepest personal needs and compromising one’s sense of self-worth in order to satisfy the needs of others.

“It’s a literary non-fiction book,” Persaud says. “It tells the story of my life-journey analyzed using my academic and research knowledge.  It demonstrates why ignoring one’s self and aspirations is, ultimately, the greatest form of self-betrayal. It will appeal to everyone in our society because the nurturance of self is paramount. One’s sense of self must be strong because it is from this, all interactions flow.”

If this year is any indication, Persaud’s ongoing life journey will be a dazzling one. 


© University of Toronto Scarborough