The view from Inez Jabalpurwala’s office in downtown Montreal is nothing short of spectacular.
It looks out onto McGill campus, in all its fall splendour, with the stately Arts building centre stage, and the slope of Mount Royal tinged with orange and yellow.
“I studied in the Arts Building and it’s still my favourite building on campus,” says Jabalpurwala, BA’89, MA’91, MBA’01, president and CEO of the Brain Canada Foundation, a national charitable organization that supports and advances brain research.
Her bird’s-eye view of McGill seems fitting given Jabalpurwala’s voluntary position as president of the McGill Alumni Association (MAA), which represents the University’s 275,000 graduates.
She takes on the new role as McGill gears up for its bicentennial in 2021.
“The MAA board has reflected on how alumni can support the bicentennial, and we are very committed to its success,” says Jabalpurwala, who previously served as the MAA’s treasurer.
“The MAA’s role is to ensure that alumni remain engaged and connected to McGill, and while this is not only about funds and fundraising, fundraising is a core part of what will propel us to the future.”
“At the same time, having alumni involved in mentorship, internships—connecting to the next generations of graduates—that’s an important role that alumni can play. And I know there are many alumni who would be delighted to spend time with students and to be able to help with their future readiness.”
It’s something that Jabalpurwala herself would have liked at the start of her career with a bachelor and master’s in English literature under her belt. She didn’t have a network and didn’t know which doors to knock on. “I didn’t have anyone to talk to about what careers are possible for someone with an arts degree,” she says.
“And that’s why we want to engage alumni in the broadest sense.”
Jabalpurwala worked in public relations and for several non-profit organizations after graduating, and later returned to McGill to do her MBA and master’s of management at the same time.
“The MBA equipped me with a toolkit of skills in management and operations and expanded my career options,” says Jabalpurwala, who aspired to a leadership position.
From there, she landed her current role at Brain Canada in 2001. It was, she says, exactly what she was looking for: an entrepreneurial start-up organization with a social mission. “It was looking at creating a space for supporting brain research the way we support cancer research and cardiovascular research.”
Brain Canada promotes a collaborative approach to research. Since its inception in 1998, it has contributed $250 million to nearly 300 projects across Canada.
“We saw there was funding for individual labs, there was funding for infrastructure,” Jabalpurwala explains. “But what was missing was funding that enabled researchers to work together across diseases, across disciplines, across institutions. There were firmly entrenched silos and the community was quite fragmented. We sought to harness the potential of a diverse, interconnected ecosystem working towards common goals.”
In addition to her family, she credits the “amazing mentors” who helped her, two of the founders of Brain Canada: Allan Taylor, former chairman and CEO of the Royal Bank of Canada, and former federal finance minister Michael Wilson—as well as Principal Emerita Heather Munroe-Blum, DSc’17, and de Gaspé Beaubien Foundation co-chair Nan-b de Gaspé Beaubien, BA’58, MSc(A)’60.
“This is why I really understand the value of mentorship, because without mentors I wouldn’t have been able to have the kind of career that I’ve enjoyed in this organization. I’m as passionate about Brain Canada today as I was when I joined 17 years ago.”
Inez Jabalpurwala isn’t the only Montreal-area McGillian who is taking on a new role for the MAA. Here are some of the MAA’s other new leaders:
Nicole Wilson, BSc’09, CertProfFrench’13, manager for responsible investment at PSP Investments and event organizer for TEDxMontrealWomen, is the new president of the McGill Women’s Alumnae Association.
Erin Yong Ping, MSc’12, a doctoral student in clinical psychology at Concordia University and a former research coordinator at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute, is the new president of the McGill Young Alumni.
Igor Kozlov, a McGill doctoral student in physics, is the new president of the Scarlet Key Society, an organization that promotes student leadership at McGill.