The new director of IIS, Professor Zayn Kassam posing and smiling in a picture

Incoming Director of IIS Professor Zayn Kassam.

After having served for 34 years in leadership positions at The Institute of Ismaili Studies (IIS), including the past 12 years as Co-Director, Dr Farhad Daftary has decided to step down from his management roles in early January 2023. Dr Daftary will not be retiring from IIS, but will continue his scholarly research, writing and teaching activities indefinitely.

Dr Daftary has had a very significant impact on the field of Ismaili studies during his career and has led by example with his many groundbreaking publications relating to Ismaili history. Once he has passed on his management responsibilities to his successor, he will have more time to focus on his research and writing.

As appropriate recognition of his contributions to IIS and his long service, Dr Daftary has been conferred the lifetime title Director Emeritus to take effect when he relinquishes his current role, and will be appointed to the IIS Board of Governors. In this way, IIS staff, students and other stakeholders will continue to benefit directly from his knowledge, wisdom and guidance.

Following a thorough and extensive international search process undertaken by the Board of Governors, which considered internal and external candidates, Professor Zayn Kassam has been appointed as the next Director of IIS to succeed Dr Daftary with effect from January 2023.

Professor Kassam is a highly accomplished scholar and academic leader and has spent the last 27 years in a variety of positions at Pomona College in California. She is currently the Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and serves as the John Knox McLean Professor of Religious Studies. She has served as Chair of the Religious Studies Department twice, the Director of the Pacific Basin Institute, Co-Chair of the Climate Study Group, Co-ordinator for Gender and Women’s Studies, Co-ordinator for Middle Eastern Studies, as well as holding numerous other senior committee roles at Pomona. Professor Kassam has undertaken many activities outside of Pomona College, including serving on the Board of the American Academy of Religion and has won many prestigious prizes and awards for her scholarship and teaching. Prior to joining Pomona College, Professor Kassam’s undergraduate, graduate and doctoral studies were undertaken at McGill University in Montréal, Canada. Professor Kassam spent a year as a visiting fellow at IIS in the late 1990s.

The Board thanks Dr Daftary for his many years of service to IIS, congratulates him on his appointment to the Board of Governors and wishes him continued success in his new role as well as welcoming Professor Kassam as the incoming Director of IIS.