Excerpt from "Interviews with Alumni from the 1990s and 200s by Tim Smith", 2011 Department Newsletter.
We reached Ayela Khan in Toronto, where she works as the global website Content Editor for The Aga Khan University. She is responsible for writing and editing all content for the AKU’s websites, which receive at least 1.2 million hits per month. More generally, she is involved in the promotion of the university with a mandate to expand its global presence.
Born in Pakistan, Ayela spent a few years in Canada as a child. She decided to come back to study at Queen’s, graduating with a Major in History in 2003. Ayela returned to Pakistan in 2003 and worked as a journalist with Newsline, a major national newsmagazine, for 3 years. Her articles focused mostly on modernization and the Pakistani identity. One can get a glimpse of this young writer’s unusual talents here: http:// www.newslinemagazine.com/author/ayela-khan/ In particular, we draw your attention to Ayela’s article on the “Death of the Marlboro Man” and her review of the book Prejudice and Pride.
After working as a journalist, it was off to Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., for an M.A. (2007-2009) in Peace and Conflict Studies. Upon graduation, Ayela worked for a Toronto NGO “Gems of Hope,” where she researched corporate practices of donor organizations to ensure the use of fair labor standards. She built a database for GEMS and worked to target a university audience and to attract a wider pool of funding. Finally in September 2010, Ayela took up her current position at the AKU.
“History,” Ayela says, “allowed me a lot of flexibility. I was free to pursue so many potential types of graduate study. Working as a journalist, I benefitted from my History degree. I was taught to write and to think in an analytical fashion. I was taught to be objective and subjective. The study of History made me take everything into account before arriving at my own opinion. Things are not always black and white.” We asked Ayela why she chose to study Peace and Conflict studies at Georgetown’s renowned graduate school: “it was a logical outgrowth of my undergraduate studies. I wanted to study the world, from a slightly different disciplinary angle. I wanted to see all the shades of gray. History taught me to doubt, to be cynical, to weigh everything carefully. In a sense, it can be a burden.” ‘But one worth bearing?’ we asked: “Certainly! I gained a sense of humanity. History forced me to examine things that I had taken for granted.”
Ayela looks back on her Queen’s days with fond memories of friendships “made in seminars. The seminars were the best part. What I learned in them just stuck with me in a way that could never have happened with lectures, no matter how good they were. The coursework we had in our undergraduate seminars was pitched at a similar level to the graduate seminars at Georgetown.”