Persian Studies Enrich UC Irvine Curriculum

Most people would feel privileged to attend such a culturally diverse university as UC Irvine. At a place where so many of the world’s cultures are represented, students have something to gain both inside and outside of the classroom.
It seems that every year, this diversity is reflected more and more within the curriculum, with the Department of Chicano-Latino studies, Tagalog classes and now, the Samuel M. Jordan Center for Persian Studies and Culture.
The center was made possible by microtechnology expert Dr. Fariborz Maseeh, who established the Massiah Foundation, an organization that embraces education, health, arts, literature and science. Maseeh and his foundation gave $2 million to establish the center, which will begin providing classes in Persian culture and language in Fall 2005.
Karen Lawrence, Dean of Humanities, explained the extensive process that went into the planning of the center.
‘The faculty and the development staff in the School of Humanities worked with me to develop some proposals for Dr. Maseeh,’ Lawrence said. ‘A group of faculty and I met with him to present and discuss our proposals. Over a number of months, discussions with Dr. Maseeh evolved into the present initiative for a Center of Persian Studies and Culture.’
With a sizable number of Persian students attending UC Irvine, it would be easy to conclude that they would jump at the chance to take classes in Persian culture or language (Farsi). But is this really the case?
‘I think expanding the curriculum to include Persian Studies will give many people a better perspective of people like us, such as our heritage and the history behind our culture,’ said first-year biology major and Jonathan Shalom.
Lawrence feels the same way, but also considers current affairs as another benefit for the center.
In a time of political discontent, it is beneficial to provide knowledge and varying perspectives to a society that hasn’t necessarily seen the bigger picture.
‘The gift allows us to focus on an area of the world that has enormous cultural and geopolitical interest right now,’ Lawrence said. ‘We need to make better efforts to understand this region and its influences.’
Shalom believes that the center and all it offers will bring Persian students together in positive ways.
‘Since our campus has a fair share of Persian students, I believe that incorporating a class which we could relate to will help us unite and grow,’ Shalom said.
In Lawrence’s eyes, Maseeh has provided something innovative for the American college campus, starting with UC Irvine.
‘UCI can quickly become the university in which to study Persian culture and history, the host of world authorities,’ Lawrence said. ‘This gift was one of those fortunate instances in which faculty research interests and donor philanthropic interests come together to form a partnership that is both valued by the university and supported by a community leader.’