By Jenny Hudak
Standing in the Georgia Dome, in an audience of almost 60,000, Niles Niseem’s mother noticed something peculiar. When she looked around, the crowd surrounding her wasn’t quite focused on the speaker of their work conference. But rather, they were captivated by a particularly enthusiastic and chatty toddler standing beside her—her 3-year-old son.
So, it’s not surprising that Niseem, a sophomore studying broadcast journalism in the University of Miami School of Communication, has been a public speaker for almost a decade. He started at a young age, participating in small, weekend religious sermons at his local church in Atlanta, Georgia.
“When I was younger, I was very socially awkward and diagnosed with ADHD as a kid,” Niseem recalled. “I remember trying to find my niche, and my mom finally put me on stage one day at church.”
Gaining notoriety for his motivational and charismatic speeches in his community, Niseem’s public speaking career began to pick up steam. In addition to religious topics, he often addressed overcoming difficulties from his childhood. By the time he was just 12 years old, Niseem’s career had taken off.
He began to travel the world—from London to Beijing to Dallas—as a keynote speaker for corporate conferences for Turner Media and even Coca-Cola.
“I just absolutely fell in love with speaking,” he said. “When you’re on stage . . . it’s like a volt of electricity running through your veins because you know that you’re changing somebody’s life in that crowd.”
Niseem’s motivational orations address a wide range of topics, from the importance of education and learning to diversity and inclusion in society. In high school, he was elected the first Black student body president and a graduate of the first class of the Harvard Diversity Project. He has always pursued positions that allow him to impact his community significantly, including at the University of Miami.
“I have a heart for just wanting to serve people,” he said. “I’m trying to serve the students and contribute to this diverse culture of the University and of the community.”
The sophomore is focused on using his platform to create positive change in the Miami community. As a member of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council on the Student Government, he works with his peers to better students’ lives across campus.
In addition to his role with the Student Government, Niseem is an active member of UMTV, where he uses his craft as a public speaker as the host of “SportsDesk” and also does double duty as the show’s producer.
“Niles has an infectious energy in and out of the classroom. He’s a fun person to be around and willingly displays his quick wit. He’s also not afraid of hard work,” said Ed Julbe, a senior lecturer in the School of Communication, who works closely with Niseem as a faculty advisor to the award-winning, student-produced weekly sports show, SportsDesk. “Niles always has a positive attitude and handles constructive feedback well. It has been a pleasure to have him as a member of the SportsDesk family.”
For such an accomplished 19-year-old, many might wonder—what’s next? Niseem has his sights set on pursuing a career in late-night comedy.
“Being in broadcast journalism and being on camera is just something I love to do,” he said. “Doing whatever allows people to smile when they hear me or see me on screen, that’s what I want to do.”
But for now, he’s focused on impacting the Miami community he feels so connected to and blazing a trail for future speakers like himself, noting the significance of representation in any field.
“There is a beauty in the human experience, no matter what it looks like,” he noted. “I want to continue to break through these barriers because there are people out there who feel it. When you represent everyone’s story, the world story becomes more congruent and effective to listen and learn from.”