Ismail Ali smiles, closemouthed, and looks straight into the camera. He's wearing a greenish toque and jacket and metal glasses.

For the first two years of his degree, Ismail Ali focused on his courses and his dream of becoming a director.  

"I was a bit timid. I would go to class and leave right away. I started to think, 'maybe I should be looking for more," said the Film and Media Production student. 

He didn't have to look any further than his inbox. Humber College and its faculties and departments often send emails with important information and updates, but Ali never really paid attention to them. As soon as he started reading the emails, he found enrichment opportunities. 

Ali read about the Intercultural & Creative Music Fellowship (ICMF 2021), offered by Humber’s Centre for Creative Business Innovation (CCBI) in partnership with the Aga Khan Museum. CCBI and the museum employ students part time to collaborate and produce an original music composition and a short documentary chronicling the experience. The whole project is inspired by Aga Khan's collection of Islamic art, literature and history. 

He applied and was accepted. 

"Like with everything online, people were a little shy for the first few weeks, but I'm a pretty open person, and I'd try to speed it up and get everyone to know each other," said Ali. 

Ali isn't a musician – save a short foray into saxophone years ago – but he still connected deeply with his peers, who joined video calls from Calgary, Montreal, India, Colombia and Jamaica. 

"That's what I love about Humber – you can meet people from all over the world." 


Despite working from locations worldwide, the fellowship students wowed CCBI organizers in Toronto. 

"If it weren't for the film students, we wouldn't know how these musical pieces came together," CCBI research coordinator Tuhin Giri. 

"They were really professional. We got out of their way, and they did more than we ever expected of them." 

When the time came to film the ICMF 2021 musical composition, the group's first major in-person meeting, there was no need to break the ice. 

"We knew each other so well. And part of that is that we would always keep our cameras on during Teams meeting," said Ali, ever the documentarian. 

"Even though we were online, that visual connection is so important." 

The ICMF 2021 internship was only the beginning for Ali. 

One of his mentors at the Aga Khan Museum tapped Ali and another student to film and edit a short promotional video. 

And, he's still checking his emails.  

"I received another email from Humber about a design charrette held in Denmark. I knew I had to get in touch with them." 

A charrette is a collaborative project where stakeholders – in this case students, community members and industry – identify challenges and map solutions. The KEA Charrette is hosted by one of Humber’s international partners, KEA Copenhagen School of Design and Technology


Giri says that it's common for students to seek out similar opportunities after participating in an interdisciplinary collaboration with CCBI. 

"We have post-event surveys that show students are really looking for more of these multidisciplinary opportunities," he said. 

The students worked together from all over the world, but many were onsite at the host institution. 

Eight Humber students from a variety of faculties participated in the KEA Charette. Humber also contributed six faculty advisers to help oversee the students’ work. 

Even though Ali is not a design student, the experience was valuable, and he hopes to join other International and multicultural experiences, maybe in person when safety guidelines allow. 

"You do one thing at Humber, and all these other opportunities come up. And people you meet will offer them up. Just go for it because you will eventually land one." 

Ali still has time to explore the world with Humber. He will graduate in 2023. 

For more on similar opportunities, visit the Humber Global and CCBI websites.  

You can find the fellowship students’ composition and documentary here.