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February 24, 2023


Aspire Institute and The International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) collaborate to bring together global communities driven to succeed and learn from each other.

Dr. Khalilah Zakariya, IIUM

Aspire Institute sat down with Associate Professor Khalilah Zakariya, who also serves as the Deputy Director of Aspire partner, Office of Industrial Links (OIL) at IIUM. 

Founded in 1983, IIUM values global orientation and teaches students to be morally responsible and professional.

OIL aims to link academia and industry to positively impact the community. They coordinate regular engagement between students, staff and local professionals. As students plan their next step, OIL plays a vital role in helping them secure internships, research opportunities, mentorships, and jobs.

Many companies and leaders across Malaysia also look to experts at IIUM. OIL will make these collaborative connections, bridging academia with other industries across Malaysia. 

Driven by a commitment to provide opportunities and broaden the horizons of the next generation, OIL and Aspire Institute share values.

As an international university, IIUM serves a global community of students and fosters collaboration to make the world a better place. 

When Professor Zakariya was a young girl, she had the opportunity to live abroad. First, with her mother, who pursued her PhD in Texas. Then, Zakariya pursued her own doctorate in Australia. These global experiences showed her the impact of exposure to cultural exposure.

“It brings new ways of thinking, seeing and doing things — and this is what the Aspire students are getting too,” she said.

When asked about Malaysian youth in particular, Zakariya explained the growing competition in the job market. 

“We are here to give them the knowledge, skills, and exposure, but also to tell them that they don’t necessarily have to work in Malaysia after they graduate,” she said. “There are opportunities in other countries; but, in order for them to succeed [anywhere], they need technical and soft skills and cross-cultural understanding.” 

OIL strives to prepare graduates with a balance of technical and subjective-based skills in addition to creativity, motivation, and communication.

“Whether they go into industry or not, they have skills and talents that they can make a living out of, and even their own business,” Zakariya boasted. “Lots of people are graduating with the same degrees or knowledge, but it’s those other soft skills that set you apart from others, and help you to find your way. This is your USP, unique selling proposition!” 

Aspire Institute, Zakariya, and OIL share the vision that all youth, regardless of their background or previous opportunities, deserve further guidance and encouragement to pursue their dreams and achieve their highest potential.

As a passionate educator, Zakariya feels the magic of academia is guiding and bearing witness to transformation: 

“The impact that we have on the students we work with isn’t direct. We only work with them for four years of University – which is only a brief moment of their life – but watching potential develop is special,” she explained. “It is delayed gratification to know that different types of engagement, different types of things we share, when we intervene, and how we motivate them can change the trajectory of a student’s life — from wanting to quit, to excelling in a future of their own. Being able to witness that process of transformation is what keeps me in academia.” 

Zakariya herself continues to learn and equip herself to teach and guide these young leaders effectively on a daily basis.

“Everyone has brilliant ideas. It’s about finding the way, as the teacher, of helping them feel comfortable to share and express those ideas,” she said. “Once I help them unlock that, it’s everything.” 

When asked about advice for these young leaders, Zakariya emphasized lifelong learning and being open to change, even when it isn’t easy.

“Don’t forget the journey, the process, or the change; that’s where development happens.”


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