Alumni from across North America met in Chicago for their annual meeting on 24-26 August on the topic of “Faith and Social Change.” This year’s meeting attracted a record number of participants, bringing together over 50 alumni from Canada and the United States.

Speakers at the meeting included the Honourable Mobina Jaffer (Senate of Canada), Dr. Amyn Sajoo (Simon Fraser University), Dr Hussein Rashid (Hofstra University), and leaders of the Ismaili community from Canada and USA.

“We were delighted to have such a strong response from alumni,” said North American Chapter Group (NACG) President, Sabrina A. Bandali. “As the Alumni Association grows as an institution, it is exciting to see the annual meeting become a space for alumni to engage with and challenge each other, as they build their personal and professional networks.”

The 2012 meeting began with the Chapter Group leadership’s welcome address. President Sabrina A. Bandali spoke about the meeting’s theme, highlighting ways in which religion or faith identity enter into a variety of social policy and political debates in North America.

The institutional leaders from the Ismaili community participated in a panel discussion on case studies reflecting the community’s experience of social change. Dr. Amyn Sajoo led an interactive session on “Life and Death: The Ethics of Autonomy,” in which he explored relevant case studies from an ethical perspective. The session explored the distinction between autonomy and agency as well as the limits imposed on human autonomy.

Dr. Hussein Rashid led two sessions: one entitled “Faith and the Language of Social Change” and the other entitled “Can We Be Religiously Authentic? Case Studies in Politics and Culture.” Focusing on contemporary debates in North America, Dr. Rashid explored how social policy discussions can be approached from a perspective grounded in the ethical principles of Islam.

The annual meeting concluded with a forum for alumni to share their research projects and current work, featuring presentations by Noorullah Iman (Class of 2005) and Rozina Kanchwala (Class of 2011) as well as video presentations by Maryam Baiza (Class of 2005) and Yasmin Khan (Class of 1983).

The sessions provoked considerable debate and dialogue among alumni, with small group discussions continuing well into the evenings. The meeting fostered a space of inquiry and creative thought that was reminiscent of the intellectual rigour of IIS programmes.

The annual meeting also enabled recent and seasoned alumni to connect and build relationships. According to Hafiz Printer (STEP Canada, Cohort 3), “it was great to reconnect with classmates and meet other graduates from the IIS as it gave me a chance to hear about their experiences and find out about the work in which they are currently involved.”

Reflecting on the benefits of participating in the NACG, President Sabrina A Bandali commented, ”One of the best things about being President of the NACG for the past two years has been getting to know so many alumni. There are many dynamic people in the Association, doing amazing work. As people continue to participate in local and regional events, the Alumni Association can become a genuine network. In order for the network to be useful, the NACG needs to continue to look for ways to connect alumni in similar industries or with similar interests."

At the meeting, the outgoing leadership also announced the results of the NACG election: Hafiz Lakhani (President) and Arzina Zaver (Secretary) commence their one-year term in September 2012.