Dr. Haleh Emrani, the Chair of the Iranian Studies Council at the Farhang Foundation kindly gave up some of her time to talk to us about the exciting new Iranian Studies program launched at the University of Southern California (USC).
Where did the inspiration stem from to support an Iranian Studies Initiative at USC?
Since its inception in 2008, the Farhang Foundation has focused on promoting and celebrating Iranian art and culture for the benefit of the community at large. We at Farhang Foundation have appreciated the significance of Iranian Studies programs which enable students to learn about Iran, its history, culture, and of course, the Persian Language.
What steps did the Farhang Foundation take to ensure that the initiative came into fruition and that there was sufficient momentum for its success?
Initially, we reached out to USC in order to establish a relationship, which developed into a strong alliance based on the mutual understanding that an Iranian Studies program would be beneficial to the school, its students, and the overall welfare of the greater Los Angeles community. With USC's full support of the Iranian Studies Initiative, we then set out to spark interest among our network of friends and supporters. We raised the needed funds to ensure that Persian classes would be offered for the first time ever at USC by Fall 2011.
Why the University of Southern California? What factors make it the best fit for Farhang Foundation's initiative?
Oddly enough, there has never been a Persian program at USC, one of the world's leading private research universities that is located within a thriving Iranian-American population. We felt that this was a missed opportunity and an academic void that needed to be filled.
How was the curriculum devised and what are the main components of the program?
Dr. Peyman Nojoumian, who is the Assistant Professor of Persian in the Middle East Studies Program at USC, considered one of the most sought after academicians in this field, has developed a curriculum based on current research on the communicative approach to language teaching. The textbooks, also designed by Dr. Nojoumian, are accompanied by audio and visual materials that can be used online or at language labs.
Was it difficult to persuade the academic and cultural community to embark on an ambitious project?
We always felt the support from administrators at USC, as well as several professors at the university with an interest in Iranian Studies. We reached out to the public; and encountered an overwhelmingly positive response. It became evident to us that an Iranian Studies program at USC made a lot of sense and to a great number of people. The project is where it is today because of the generous support of the members of our community.
Are there plans to expand the initiative to other academic institutions across the country or potentially make it accessible for those who aren't students at USC?
We are deeply committed to further developing this current program at USC. Our aim is that students at the university will someday be able to pursue a minor or a major in Iranian Studies. Simultaneously, we are involved with other institutions in developing programs. For example, we recently established the UCLA Council, in support of that university's efforts to create a Center for Iranian Studies and our Orange County Council is actively engaged with UCI's Samuel Jordan Center for Persian Studies and Culture.
Looking into the future, what sort of impact does the initiative hope to have on the Iranian-American community?
Farhang Foundation and USC have envisioned that this Iranian Studies program will not only provide learning opportunities for Iranian-Americans but for non-Iranians as well. The hope is that this program will help preserve Iranian culture, history, and Persian language for younger generations of Iranian-Americans, while introducing these subjects to non-Iranians who aim to gain a deeper understanding of Iran.