The University of Texas at Austin, based in one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States, is home to over 300 Ismaili students from all across the country. A leader in academic achievement and research, UT Austin is recognized internationally. In his 2008 visit to Austin, Mawlana Hazar Imam signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the University as a “move towards narrowing the gap between the West and Islam.”
The Ismaili Muslim Students Association was founded in 2010, with the purpose of bringing together the fragmented student community on campus, and providing a sense of belonging to students, united by the ethics of the Ismaili faith. Twelve years later, IMSA is now a leading organization on campus with over 120 members and hosts a multitude of events each school year.
The student organization aims to uplift the quality of life of all students on campus, but this year, it took the goal beyond students to the broader communities through charity sports tournaments such as Shoot 4 Dreams, large-scale interactive donation drives, service and civic engagement events with community partners, an international cultural festival, and more.
Ammn Meghani, a fourth-year finance student from Sugar Land, TX, is the President of IMSA, describing IMSA as “a home away from home for Ismaili students at UT.” For Ammn, the value of IMSA comes from it being “an outlet through which we can actively engage in the ethics of our faith and share them with our broader communities on and around campus.”
The Tower Award for Outstanding Student Organization honors excellence in volunteerism among student-led efforts across the UT Austin and Central Texas community. Approximately 1,200 UT student organizations qualified for the honor by giving their time, talent, resources, and voices to help strengthen their community.
Over the past year, IMSA has volunteered with countless communities across Texas. From making Navroz bags for sick children at the Ronald McDonald House in Houston, making holiday cards for disabled and homebound elders through Meals on Wheels San Antonio, to cleaning up Lady Bird Lake with Keep Austin Beautiful, IMSA enables its members to make volunteering an active part of their daily lives.
Tanisha Jasani, a second-year biochemistry student from Beaumont, TX, and IMSA’s community service Chair shared with us the impact of the fall donation drive: “We collected over 2,000 pounds of food for homeless shelters in Austin who expressed immense gratitude for our efforts.”
Other high-impact projects include repairing and repainting a house through iACT’s Hands on Housing or partnering with local groups like Posada Esperanza, Casa Marianella, Foundation Homeless, Lifeworks, and more.
IMSA engages its members, as well as their external community, to push the boundaries of their volunteering and to make it a part of their daily lives through easily accessible and high-impact opportunities - not just on campus, but also in their greater community. They hope to make a meaningful impact on the community by embodying values of the Ismaili faith such as knowledge-sharing, pluralism, and service.
Ammn shares that “our members are driven to demonstrate excellence by taking an active role in their communities.” Recently, an IMSA chapter was started at Texas A&M University with the guidance of the UT Austin team. Another chapter exists at the University of California, Berkeley.
“IMSA greatly eases the transition from high school to college for all of our members. It would be great for all Ismaili students to have an IMSA to call home within their campus communities,” remarks Ammn.