Endowment to Expand Persian and Iranian Studies at UA
The program, already among the largest in the U.S., has received half of a $2 million commitment from Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute.

By Lori Harwood, UA College of Social and Behavioral Sciences
March 22, 2016


Azadi Square in the Iranian capital of Tehran
Azadi Square in the Iranian capital of Tehran

A $2 million commitment from Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute will be used to bolster the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences' scholarly depth in Iranian and Persian studies, the University of Arizona announced.

The Persian and Iranian Studies program, offered by the School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, is already among the largest in the United States. The grant will facilitate the creation of the Roshan Graduate Interdisciplinary Program in Persian and Iranian Studies and support the program's components, including a new endowed faculty chair and an endowed professorship, the Master of Arts and doctoral programs that are currently under development, and programmatic activities. The first $1 million of the grant has been received.

Kamran Talattof, a professor in Middle Eastern and North African Studies whose work focuses on issues of gender, culture and Persian language instruction, will hold the Roshan Institute Chair in Persian and Iranian Studies. Talattof, who initiated the grant process, also will serve as chair of the Roshan Graduate Interdisciplinary Program's executive committee, which includes faculty experts from the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences as well as other colleges across campus.

The holder of the endowed professorship, the Roshan Institute Professor of Persian and Iranian Studies, has not been named.

In addition, the grant from Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute will be used to:

  • Support academic programming on topics such as ancient Iranian languages and religion, Iranian Sufism, and Iranian arts and literature.
  • Expand UA connections with academics in Iran.
  • Increase academic and extracurricular activities by bringing in visiting scholars.
  • Support community outreach activities such as conferences, symposiums, film series, lectures and cultural celebrations.
  • Provide access to an electronic database on Persian texts, translation and criticism.

The grant puts the UA closer to its goal of raising $1.5 billion during Arizona NOW, the comprehensive fundraising campaign distinguished by its unprecedented scope and focus on improving the prospects and enriching the lives of the people of Arizona and the world. Thanks to the generosity of nearly 85,000 distinct donors, the campaign is well ahead of pace, with more than 90 percent of the goal already raised.

Endowed chairs advance the UA in perpetuity by supporting faculty year after year using the payout from the gift's principal amount. With government funding for higher education at a historic low, endowments are increasingly important to recruit and retain exceptional faculty.

"I am very grateful to Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute for this transformative grant," said John Paul Jones III, dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. "It will enable us to build upon the School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies' already strong program in Persian and Iranian Studies while advancing interdisciplinary scholarship and teaching in the historic and contemporary dimensions of this important world region."

"As a global university with strong partnerships in and around the Persian Gulf region, the UA is well positioned to make further important contributions to the interdisciplinary study of Persian language, culture and heritage," said UA President Ann Weaver Hart. "International partnerships of the kind that this gift is designed to encourage are absolutely critical for the future of the UA, and I am very grateful for Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute’s continuing generosity. I look forward to the impact that this gift will have here at the UA and around the world."

Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute supports cultural and educational activities that help the transmission and instruction of Persian language and culture. Founded in 2000, the institute has awarded millions in grants for the strengthening or establishment of academic Persian programs throughout the world.

"We are pleased to establish the first Roshan Institute graduate program at the University of Arizona, home of one of the oldest and strongest Persian programs nationwide," said Elahé Omidyar Mir-Djalali, chair and president of Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute. "The vision for the Roshan Graduate Interdisciplinary Program in Persian and Iranian Studies is to support research, teaching and programmatic activities that are necessary for the training of Persian and Iranian studies scholars and Persian language teachers. We are delighted to partner again with the University of Arizona, knowing that our first graduate program is uniquely poised to make a real impact for generations to come."

This is the institute's second grant to the UA. In 2003, Talattof worked with Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute to establish a $300,000 endowment in the UA School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies to provide fellowships to outstanding graduate students in Persian and Iranian studies.

With the support provided by this new endowment — which comes from the Roshan Cultural Heritage Fund, an advised fund of Silicon Valley Community Foundation — Talattof says the UA is on its way to having one of the best Persian and Iranian studies programs in the country.

"There are perhaps 20 universities in the United States where Persian language instruction has been offered substantially and for any significant length of time," Talattof said. "Of these, a few have offered specializations or higher degrees. However, these numbers constantly fluctuate, indicating the volatility of the field in the face of sociopolitical changes and economic conditions. The Roshan Program will be a secure, nationally recognized home for the continuous pursuit of excellence in Persian and Iranian studies."


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Lori Harwood

UA College of Social and Behavioral Sciences