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

The IIS today welcomes a new Director. Dr Zayn Kassam joins the Institute from Pomona College, a premier liberal arts college outside Los Angeles, California, where she was Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and served as the John Knox McLean Professor of Religious Studies.

Dr Kassam replaces Dr Farhad Daftary, who served for 12 years as Co-Director, and who steps away to become Director Emeritus and serve on the Board of Governors.

Dr Kassam is a highly accomplished scholar of Islamic and Ismaili philosophy and Islamic mysticism and spent a year at the IIS in 1998 as a research fellow, teaching a course on gender here. At Pomona, she has held roles as an academic leader, served as Chair of the Religious Studies Department twice, 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, and taken on other senior committee roles.

Away from Pomona College, Dr Kassam has undertaken many activities, including serving on the Board of the American Academy of Religion, and has won prestigious prizes and awards for her scholarship and teaching.

She says: “I remember the excitement many of us felt when the Institute was inaugurated in 1977, and I have watched and contributed as it has made significant strides in fostering scholarship on Ismailism, Shi’ism and Qur’anic studies as well as other specialisms."

“I am eager to start work as Director, to continue to build a culture of support, best practices and wellbeing for our dedicated staff, students and volunteers. I am also looking forward to building on the Institute’s significant strengths to consider how we can respond and perhaps even shape the conversation on the many global issues facing the Jamat, the communities in which we live, and indeed the world itself.”

The Board welcomes Dr Kassam to her role as Director of the IIS.