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USC Dornsife sets precedent with first Iranian studies minor

The new minor in Iranian studies at USC Dornsife will teach students about the history of Iran. Above, Persian noblemen are carved on a palace wall.

For the first time in its history, the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences will offer a minor in Iranian studies as part of an initiative launched in November 2010 by the Farhang Foundation.

The minor is the latest in a series of milestones in what has been a groundbreaking undertaking at USC. Sponsored by the foundation, the initiative set out to offer Persian-language courses and a minor in Iranian studies at USC Dornsife. In fall 2011, those courses, taught by Peyman Nojoumian, assistant professor of Persian, were launched through USC Dornsife’s Middle East Studies Program.

Nojoumian was thrilled that Iranian studies has gained so much momentum since the language courses began.

“The success of the program is the result of the support of the community and students,” Nojoumian said. “Persian language classes will play an important role and be an integral part of our newly established initiative. The Iranian studies minor will provide our students with an unprecedented collection of courses on Iranian culture and history and pave the way for their success in their future professions.”

To facilitate the newly created minor, USC has also hired its first lecturer of Iranian history and culture, Hani Khafipour, who will join the faculty on Aug. 16.

“I hope to contribute to the development of a firm Iranian studies program at USC,” said Khafipour, formerly a lecturer in Persian at the University of Chicago. “With Farhang Foundation’s support and collaboration, I’m confident that we will advance Iranian studies in Southern California, and American academia at large.”

A native of Iran, Khafipour earned his master’s and PhD in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. His focus is on the history and culture of medieval and early-modern Iran.

Working with Iranian-American communities in Los Angeles and across California, the Farhang Foundation Iranian Studies Initiative at USC has raised more than $875,000. This endeavor was inspired by the belief that second- and third-generation Iranian-Americans, as well as non-Iranians, benefit greatly from an education in Persian language and culture.

This is particularly true in Los Angeles, which encompasses the largest community of Iranians outside Iran, according to National Public Radio. The news outlet placed the Iranian population in Southern California at 500,000. In Beverly Hills, Calif., Iranians now account for 20 percent of the population and 40 percent of students in the schools.

“This landmark achievement at USC Dornsife is proof that when a community comes together, great things can happen,” said Haleh Emrani, chair of the Farhang Foundation’s Iranian Studies Council. “The Iranian studies minor at USC Dornsife will provide students of all ethnic backgrounds the opportunity to learn the Persian language and thereby gain a deeper understanding of Persian culture, which is a significant step toward creating a tolerant and compassionate future.”

Based in Los Angeles, the Farhang Foundation is a nonreligious, nonpolitical and not-for-profit foundation established in 2008 to celebrate and promote Iranian art and culture for the benefit of the community at large. The foundation supports a broad range of academic activities in Southern California by funding university programs, publications and conferences.

Having been positively received by USC faculty and students, the Farhang Foundation will continue to spearhead community outreach and fundraising efforts to help ensure the Iranian Studies Initiative’s ongoing success. USC students, particularly those of Iranian heritage, are encouraged to register for Persian language classes.

For information on the program and courses, visit

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USC Dornsife sets precedent with first Iranian studies minor

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