Interview with Aisha Ahmad

portrait picture of Professor Aisha Ahmad

How did you get interested in Political Science?

My family are from a part of the world that was severely affected by war, poverty, and colonialism. As a student, I was desperate to both understand the causes of and the potential solutions to these crises. Studying Political Science, and particularly International Security, helped me make sense of the chaos and be of service to the world.

What are you working on right now?

My current gig is tracking jihadist financing in Mali, Iraq, and Nigeria. I'm working with three amazing field teams to identify the nexus between transnational crime and insurgent networks in these war zones. We are investigating the real, economic drivers of insecurity in these troubled places. Most people don't realize that the cocaine snorted at raves in Europe directly funds both the Latin American drug cartels and al-Qaeda terrorist networks across West Africa. Our job as scholars is to map out these global processes.

What do you bring to the undergraduate classroom?

The classroom is my link between the field and the university, and teaching is a very humanizing experience for me. My relationship with my students throughout the semester is defined by our common mission to understand the most pressing crises in the world today. We track conflict processes at ground level and run regional conflict simulations to understand meta-level processes. We commit to using scientific principles to guide us on this journey.

What is one helpful tip you’d like to share with your students to help them succeed at UTSC?

When I was a student, I worked and studied at the same time, which meant that my time was really tight. My advice to students in this situation is to team up with your classmates. Work together, trade notes, and share. Life in your 20s is a fierce hustle, and you'll need to be resilient in the face of setbacks. If you help each other on this journey, you will all perform better, and you'll be happier, too.