News story

Professional Opportunities Through the Alumni Research Grant

2nd June 2016

The Institute of Ismaili Studies is currently inviting applications for the next cycle of the alumni research grant. Established in 2009, the grant is designed to support alumni who wish to pursue further research, present papers at academic conferences, publish articles, or undertake field studies in areas of relevance to the IIS.

Recipients of the research grant have included alumni from a diverse range of fields, some of which have included, education, governance, mental health, youth and identity, arts and culture to music and cinema. The research grant provides alumni with the opportunity to enhance their professional network, dialogue with peers in the field and contribute to the debates that are occurring in relevant sectors.

Nacim Pak Shiraz (GPISH Class of 2002), who presented a paper entitled, Exploring Manhood and Masculinity in Iranian Cinema at the tenth Biennial Iranian Studies Conference in Montreal, Canada, found that having the opportunity to receive specialist feedback on a piece of current research, an invaluable experience. She commented:

“I had the opportunity to receive valuable feedback from an interested and specialist audience spanning a range of different disciplines. Networking with academics from across the globe and familiarising myself with the latest research is another fruitful outcome of these experiences. I have since completed an article on the paper I had presented at the conference, which will be published later this year.”

The research grant has also provided recent graduates with the encouragement and support to further their interest areas and continually enhance their own professional development. Parvez Kotadia (STEP Class of 2012), presented a paper on The Use of a Problem Based Learning Approach to Teach Islamic Ethics: An Action Research in the Indian Context, which was conducted using the Ethical Pathways to Human Development module of the IIS’ Secondary Curriculum. This experience provided Parvez with an opportunity to engage with other practitioners and their perspectives in the field, whilst developing his current career as a secondary education teacher. Parvez said:

It allowed me to interact with scholars and practitioners, thus providing an opportunity to understand different approaches and challenges. The exposure and insights helped me in understanding and teaching the Ethics curriculum. Furthermore, it also enabled me to mentor other teachers in their preparation for such conferences and teaching of ethics curriculum.”

For Amal Sachedina (GPISH Class of 2000), the grant was an opportunity to conduct further research towards her doctoral degree, whilst opening up avenues for publishing and expanding her network of contacts.

I conducted much need needed research on the India Office Records at the British Library and the National Archives in the summer of 2011.  This research was for a project that was aimed towards a doctoral (PhD) degree at University of California, Berkeley. Now a book project it is a study of the relationship between historicity, religion and nationhood in the Sultanateinfo-icon of Oman. Through the IIS alumni grant, I was able to address crucial questions, specifically, the exploration of the primary interests and projects that were undertaken by the British in the region in the late 19th and 20th centuries? How did it reconfigure “customary” ways? And how a consciousness of the past then become the foundation for opposition and resistance in turn. This research now forms the core of my first chapter in the developing book manuscript. It has also facilitated discussions and consultations with other scholars interested in colonial Gulf history.”

Other alumni have found the grant has enabled them to complete or expand a piece of research, leading to publishing opportunities. Tanya Panjwani (GPISH Class of 2012), applied for the research grant to conduct the second phase of her field work which was centred on Sufi poetry in Pakistan, particularly Sindhinfo-icon and Punjab. Recounting her journey, Tanya commented:

“Prior to receiving the IIS grant, I had already visited Pakistan to work on the production of a documentary centred on the same topic. I felt there could be another angle to the story, but one that was more on scholarly stance. The research abstract for my paper entitled "Singing the Spirit of Saints: Harnessing Celebrity Activism for Peace Building and Pluralism in Pakistan" was recently accepted by the Centre for Media and Celebrity Studies to be included in the CrossBridge Journal.”

Reflecting on the purpose and the opportunities associated with the alumni research grant, Dr Daryoush Mohammad Poor, a member of the review committee said:

“The Alumni Research Grant is intended to support the academic career of IIS alumni for further development in their areas of work and also to keep alive the intellectual connection with the IIS. As a member of the review committee, I have been involved in assessing applications. Among the criteria which are of utmost importance are originality of ideas, problem-oriented research which can be demonstrated to be aligned with the priorities and the intellectual orientation of the IIS. Moreover, the research grant also facilitates the participation of our alumni in broader academic and intellectual forums to allow them to interact in a more critical and closer manner with other academics and scholars in the field. Research applications must be able to demonstrate the academic merits of their work and the potential to have their work integrated in larger frameworks of research and scholarship”.

Further details on how to harness similar opportunities can be find on the Alumni Research Grant page.