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‘It’s Just the Beginning’

USC Dornsife and the Farhang Foundation solidify a relationship to develop the university’s instruction in Iranian studies.

USC Dornsife Dean Steve Kay (left) shakes hands with Ali Razi, chair of Farhang Foundation Board of Trustees, during the recent signing ceremony. Albert Checcio, senior vice president for USC advancement, is sitting right. Standing from left: Hassan Izad, Farhang's chief financial officer; Haleh Emrani, chair of Farhang’s Iranian Studies Council; and Ahmad Gramian,  vice chair of Farhang's Board of Trustees. Photo by Dietmar Quistorf.
USC Dornsife Dean Steve Kay (left) shakes hands with Ali Razi, chair of Farhang Foundation Board of Trustees, during the recent signing ceremony. Albert Checcio, senior vice president for USC advancement, is sitting right. Standing from left: Hassan Izad, Farhang's chief financial officer; Haleh Emrani, chair of Farhang’s Iranian Studies Council; and Ahmad Gramian, vice chair of Farhang's Board of Trustees. Photo by Dietmar Quistorf.

In a recent signing ceremony, USC Dornsife and the Farhang Foundation sealed the deal on a long-term commitment to enhance the study and research of Iranian art and culture at the university.

The June 19 ceremony marked the official launch of the three-phase plan’s second phase — to offer a minor in Iranian studies at USC Dornsife. As part of the second phase, USC hired its first lecturer of Iranian history and culture, Hani Khafipour, who will join faculty Aug. 16 to facilitate the newly created minor.

The first phase occurred in Fall 2011, when Persian language courses, taught by Peyman Nojoumian, assistant professor of Persian, were launched through USC Dornsife’s Middle East Studies Program.

“This signing today symbolizes the continuation of a crucial effort,” USC Dornsife Dean Steve Kay said. “Now more than ever, there is an urgent need to help students better understand the forces and transnational issues that shape Iran and its neighbors. Our relationship with Farhang Foundation will advance our effort to help students not only develop skills important in the international market, but help them become more compassionate individuals.”

After shaking hands on the contract with Kay, Ali C. Razi, chair of Farhang Foundation Board of Trustees, said he was elated to have achieved the second milestone. Farhang chose USC in part because of its location in Los Angeles, which encompasses the largest community of Iranians outside Iran. The Iranian population in Southern California is roughly 500,000.

“USC is also one of the greatest universities in the United States,” Razi said. “If we can reach generations by sharing the arts and culture of the Middle East, I believe we can create more love and peace in the world.”

Razi noted that the effort has a broader reach than Iranian studies. In all, he said, 17 countries in the Middle East will be covered in the new minor and future programs.

The third phase involves creating a chair in Iranian studies.

“We hope to develop a full-fledged program so that a major in Iranian studies is offered,” said Haleh Emrani, chair of Farhang’s Iranian Studies Council, which established the foundation’s Iranian Studies Initiative at USC Dornsife in 2010. “We want students to be able to earn their bachelor’s degree in Iranian studies.”

Emrani emphasized the community’s support.

“The financial support has come from Farhang, but mainly from the Iranian American community and friends of Farhang,” she said. “So this is a very significant event.

“There is such a close cooperation between our organization and USC to bring this area of study to students. Today, we feel this signing ceremony solidifies our partnership. It’s not the end; it’s just the beginning.”

Present during the historic event was also Albert Checcio, senior vice president for university advancement.

Also in attendance from Farhang were Ahmad Gramian, vice chair of the foundation’s Board of Trustees, and Hassan Izad, the foundation’s chief financial officer. Gramian received his M.S. in 1980 and his son Abtin Gramian earned his B.A. in 2012, both from USC Viterbi School of Engineering.

“We’re looking forward to the day when students can earn a Ph.D. in Iranian studies,” Ahmad Gramian said. “We envision establishing a center in the future.”

Izad, who earned his bachelor’s in 1967 from USC Viterbi, said visiting campus that day brought back great memories.

“I’m thankful to USC and am happy to be able to do something for my alma mater,” Izad said. “After all I’ve received, it feels good to give something back.”

Farhang is a non-religious, non-political, and not-for-profit foundation based in Los Angeles. It was established by a group of Southern California philanthropists in 2008. Its goal is to celebrate and to promote Iranian art and culture for the benefit of the community at large.

The foundation does so by funding university programs, publications and academic conferences. It also sponsors art and cultural events, art shows, musical performances, plays, dances, films and poetry readings. In addition to universities, it works with local cultural institutions such as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.