The Board of the Sufi Order International is pleased to announce the appointment of Jennifer Alia Wittman to the position of Executive Director of the Sufi Order International-North America. In this position, Alia will build on the efforts of the last year in executive management of the Sufi Order International-North America and the Abode of the Message. Alia has served the Sufi Order for almost 20 years and adds this position to a long list of roles for which she has provided leadership.
By way of background, Alia first became interested in the teachings of Hazrat Inayat Khan as a college student and later, in 1996, took initiation. She has served as a youth leader in the Sufi Order and as a mentor for younger mureeds. She was asked to join the Board of Trustees of SOI- NA, serving from 2001 through 2006.
Prior to her work with the Sufi Order, Alia was extensively involved in youth leadership, the youth service movement, and non-profit development. At 19, she was already student government president of her community college, overseeing a $200k student activities budget. In the years following, as a student at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, Alia would be appointed to numerous state commissions and national projects, including the Maryland Higher Education Commission, the Maryland Governor’s Commission on Service and Volunteerism, and the Points of Light Foundation’s YES Ambassadorship.
In 1995, Alia was on the team that developed and implemented the AmeriCorps National Service Program in Maryland. At the same time, she also founded the Maryland Youth Service Action Committee, a statewide corps of young people dedicated to advancing volunteerism and service, becoming its first Director under the auspices of the Governor’s Office on Service and Volunteerism. In 1998, at just 26, she was hired to be the Executive Director of Hands on Baltimore (now Business Volunteers Maryland). Hired to stabilize the organization, refine its staff structure and clarify its strategic direction, she put the organization on a new footing and raised over $900k in just two years.
In 2002, during a period of financial crisis, she took over as General Manager of Omega Publications, the publishing arm of the Sufi Order. Working together with a team of dedicated mureeds, Alia helped create a ten-year plan to pay off all debts and avoid bankruptcy.
In 2006, Alia co-founded and became the first Executive Director of Seven Pillars House of Wisdom, a project of Pir Zia’s and a collective of leading thinkers stressing the vital importance of sustainable ecological systems, a rich inner life, cross-cultural and interspiritual understanding, and chivalric service. As Executive Director, Alia developed the initial infrastructure, organized over 40 programs and events, raised more than $850,000 during an economic downturn, and facilitated a successful financial recovery after its investors suffered major losses in 2008.
In October of 2014, during a period of transition, Alia was asked to step-in as Interim Manager of the Sufi Order International-North America and the Abode of the Message, serving as ‘on-the-ground’ management at a critical juncture. Now, with many months of progress, the Board of Trustees has strong confidence in Alia’s organizational leadership and grounding in effective operations management. Her unique ability to manage complex systems and situations, and to create harmony among diverse perspectives has substantiated her as the choice for executive leadership for the SOI-NA and the Abode at a time of significant change and transition.
As such, the Board of the Sufi Order International has authorized a two-year contract with Alia as Executive Director of the Sufi Order International-North America. Alia will provide primary support to the work and teachings of Pir Zia and the Sufi Order, will focus on revitalizing and repositioning of SOI-NA, streamlining operational systems, and upgrading and modernizing all aspects of the work of the Order. Alia will continue to work on the transition process with SOI-NA and the Abode, now well underway.
We look forward to working with Alia and are excited about the skills, attunement and commitment that she brings to the organization at this time of change and possibility.
Amina Linda Hall
Amina Linda Hall
Board of Trustees SOI-NA