Mahan Mirza named executive director for Ansari Institute for Global Engagement with Religion

Author: Christine Cox

Mahan Mirza

Mahan Mirza, an Islamic studies scholar and expert on religious literacy, has been named executive director for the Rafat and Zoreen Ansari Institute for Global Engagement with Religion at the Keough School of Global Affairs at the University of Notre Dame. His appointment begins Monday (July 1).

Mirza’s extensive pedagogical and leadership experience includes serving as dean of faculty at Zaytuna College in Berkeley, California, America’s first accredited Muslim liberal arts college. Most recently, he served as the lead faculty member for Notre Dame’s Madrasa Discourses project, which equips Islamic religious leaders in India and Pakistan with the tools to confidently engage with pluralism, modern science and new philosophies. The project is funded by a John Templeton Foundation grant.

“Professor Mirza brings impressive academic and administrative abilities to this critical leadership role, as well as important experience as a participant in interfaith dialogue and community engagement,” said Scott Appleby, the Marilyn Keough Dean of the Keough School. “His expertise in Islamic education and philosophy is complemented by his knowledge and appreciation of the humanities more generally. I am pleased that Mahan has accepted my invitation to help the Ansari Institute fulfill its ambitious and timely mission.”

Mirza joined Notre Dame in 2016 as professor of the practice for the Keough School’s Contending Modernities research initiative, a flagship program of the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. 

For the Madrasa Discourses project — housed under Contending Modernities — Mirza taught participants in India and Pakistan via distance learning and coordinated learning intensive sessions in India, Pakistan, Nepal and Qatar, some of which allowed for intercultural exchanges between Notre Dame students, Madrasa Discourses participants and participants from South Africa. Additionally, Mirza directed pedagogical videos, helped develop an online Urdu journal published in India and led an effort to launch an interactive website to make the Madrasa Discourses curriculum publicly accessible. 

Mirza holds a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin, a master's from Hartford Seminary, and a doctorate in religious studies from Yale University. He has taught courses and lectured on Arabic-Islamic studies, Western religions and the history of science, along with foundational subjects in the liberal arts, including logic, rhetoric, astronomy, ethics and politics. He has edited two special issues of The Muslim World and served as assistant editor for the Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought.

He is a fellow of the Liu Institute for Asia and Asian Studies and will continue to serve as an adviser for Madrasa Discourses.

Launched in fall 2018, the Ansari Institute is dedicated to research, teaching, outreach and interaction with religious communities locally and worldwide. The institute fulfills its mission through the study of how religions contribute to the common good and how they advance integral human development.

Originally published by Christine Cox at on July 1.