Alumni from across North America and from across Europe came together for the first meetings of the North American and European Chapter Groups of the IIS Alumni Association. The meetings were held in Houston, USA, on 22nd October and in London, England on 12th November. Members of the Institute’s senior management and leaders from the Ismaili community institutions in the USA and Europe were also in attendance.

Over the past two decades, in excess of 200 individuals have graduated from a range of human resource development initiatives of the IIS. These include:

  • a Waezeen and Teacher Education Programme (1983-1994)
  • the collaborative IIS-McGill programme (1983-1991)
  • a post graduate diploma course in Curriculum Writing at the Institute of Education (1982-1983)
  • the current Graduate Programme in Islamic Studies and Humanities (1994-present)

The Institute’s alumni are now engaged in a wide range of exciting endeavours across the world, particularly in North America and Europe as well as in Southeast and Central Asia. Many of them have remained in touch with their alma mater, but the Institute has now taken the initiative to create formal structures to enable a sustained and mutually beneficial relationship with its alumni.

The IIS Alumni Association was formed in 2005 and the North American and European chapter groups are the first of their kind to be formed. The specific objectives of the Association are:

  • To establish and maintain a mutually beneficial relationship between the IIS and its alumni.
  • To provide a forum for alumni to come together to share experiences, learn from each other, and develop their own careers through networking.
  • To support and contribute to IIS’ work through advice, consultancy, assistance with recruitment of students and faculty, or other means.
  • To develop linkages with other professional alumni bodies (e.g., AKU alumni association, Ismaili Student Associations) for mutual benefit (such as research) and collaborative programming.
  • To develop linkages with Jamati and AKDN Institutions with a view to supporting their programmes and activities, as and when appropriate and relevant.

At the first Chapter Group meeting in Houston, Dr Farhad Daftary welcomed the thirty three alumni and spoke of the contributions of the IIS to Ismaili and, more broadly, Islamic Studies during its relatively short lifespan, examining specifically its publications agenda and contributions to multiple encyclopaedias. In London, Professor Azim Nanji welcomed the thirty one alumni and spoke of the occasion as a historic one in the life of the IIS and referred to the alumni body as the memory and treasury of the IIS. The alumni were also provided an overview of the Institute’s current endeavours as well as how the Institute intends to support and contribute to their continued professional development and career enhancement. The Head of Graduate Studies at IIS, Dr. Alnoor Dhanani, shared with the group how the curriculum of the current Graduate Programme in Islamic Studies and Humanities has evolved over the years and invited them to audit courses and contribute to the mentor programme. In addition, the Alumni Relations Officer, Selina Kassam Ramji, discussed with the alumni the new initiatives that the Institute is developing to strengthen its ties with the alumni.

The agenda for the day also included a review and ratification of the by-laws of the Alumni Association, which yielded useful recommendations. The participating alumni also discussed the proposed terms of reference for office bearers and initiated the process of nominating candidates for these positions. This process will be completed later this month and will be followed by the election of the office bearers from amongst the alumni.

During the farewell dinner in Houston, Professor Richard Flores, Associate Dean of the University of Texas at Austin’s College of Liberal Arts and Director, Islamic Cultural Studies Collaborative Programme, delivered the keynote address sharing with the alumni and invited guests details about the collaborative programme between the University of Texas at Austin and the Aga Khan Development Network to train school teachers of the Social Sciences and World Geography in Texas on Islam.

It is expected that in 2006 an additional Chapter Group will be created in Asia.