Past News Articles


April 18, 2014

Last weekend, April 11-12, San Jose State University Persian Studies, with the support of the Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute hosted the first-ever "Cultures of the Iranian Diaspora" Conference.  The conference was a tremendous success and involved visual artists, writers, filmmakers, videographers, and academics who are at the forefront of producing and understanding the rich cultural production of Iranian Americans and Iranians of the Diaspora. With other 75 participants on each day of the conference, we engaged in rich and textured conversation, made connections, and heard from both first-generation and second-generation artists. The conference was exactly what I hoped it would be--a time for conversation, sharing our work with each other, and ultimately, inspiring one another. The variety of artists, many from California, but also from elsewhere in the United States had much in common, and also were able to participate in a cross-disciplinary exchange in ways that many conferences don't facilitate. In addition to the conference panels held on both Friday andSaturday, we hosted, "Inja o Oonja: Stories of Iranian American Life" a play written and adapted by Professor Matthew Spangler from three short stories by Jasmin Darznik, Mehdi Tavana Okasi, and Persis Karim. The audience loved these performances by a mixed cast of Iranian and non-Iranian actors (some professional, some acting for the first time), and the plays generated a rich discussion aftewards in the Q & A session. Saturday's panels were equally riveting and interesting with many artists and writers participating in a discussion about aesthetics, history, and the role of art in shaping Iranian identity. The film-screening and discussion with Iranian American directors, Babak Sarrafan (a professor at SJSU) and Mohammad Gorjestani, who screened "Doosteh Hameshegy" and "Refuge" was a testament to the equally beautiful representations of Iran and Iranian Americans in film. The conference was a great success with many participants reporting to me that, "this was by far one of the best conferences" they had attended. We thank all the participants and the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library and the Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute for making this wonderful and unforgettable conference a reality.

To see photos from the conference, please go to our gallery.

For two more upcoming events, please see the flyers below.

We hope to see you at both of these important events!

With warm regards, Persis Karim, Director, Persian Studies at SJSU





April 2014

Join San Jose State University Persian Studies  for the first-ever "Cultures of the Iranian Diaspora"-- a two-day conference featuring  panels on visual arts, literature and film with Bay Area and nationally-acclaimed writers, artists and filmmakers. The conference also features two special events: "Inja o Oonja: Stories from Iranian American Life" -- a staged adaptation of three short stories from Tremors: New Fiction by Iranian American Writers  on Friday, April 11  (7 pm, Le Petit Trianon Theatre, 72 N. 5th Street-free and open to the public) and "Filmmaking in the Diaspora-- A Screening and Discussion Babak Sarrafan's "Doosteh Hameshegy--Forever Friends" and Mo Gorjestani's "Refuge" on Saturday, April 12, (7 pm, SJSU Student Union Ballroom- free and open to the public). To register for conference byApril 7 (which includes two days of panels about art, literature, and film as well as lunch both days) go to:  or call: 408 924-4476. See attached poster for full schedule of events. 




Learning About the Persianate World

 February 27, 2014

Persis Karim, Director, Persian Studies,, 408-924-4476

SAN JOSE, Calif., – The Persian Studies Program at San Jose State, with support from the Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute, will hold the third annual Norouz concert to celebrate the arrival of spring and the Persian New Year on Sunday, March 9, from 3-5 p.m. in the Student Union Barrett Ballroom. This event is free and open to the public.

Musicians Mahvash Guerami, santour, and Hossein Massoudi, vocals, as well as members of the Bay Area Iranian American Children’s Choral Group will perform classical and folk Persian music to commemorate this important Persian holiday, which falls on March 20, the spring equinox. A tea and sweets reception will precede the performance.


 The Persian Studies Program will host its third annual Norouz concert.

Rich Culture, History and Heritage

SJSU’s Persian Studies Program was established in March 2011 with funding from a grant from PARSA Community Foundation and received a generous three-year grant from the Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute to continue the work of educating the SJSU community about the rich culture, history and heritage of the Persianate world.

Since 2011, Persian Studies at SJSU has offered courses in beginning Persian through the World Languages department and has hosted numerous lectures with scholars, film-screenings, musical events and book readings. The Norouz concert on March 9 is a wonderful opportunity to share a meaningful holiday with classical and folk music of Iran.

"Many people in the larger Silicon Valley community look forward to this event and the idea that SJSU has created a tradition each year,” said Persis Karim, director of Persian Studies.

This semester, Persian Studies hosts lectures on “Jews of Iran,” and an upcoming lecture on April 2 with SJSU’s Dr. Katherine Richardson from the Department of Geography, who will share her research on “Iranian American Technology Leaders in Silicon Valley.”

 Iranian Diaspora Conference

The first-ever “Cultures of the Iranian Diaspora Conference,” made possible with the support of the Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute, will take place April 11-12, 2014, at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library. The conference will feature panels by visual artists, writers and filmmakers, as well as the play, “Inja o Oonja: Stories from Iranian American Life,” adapted by SJSU Theater Arts Professor Matthew Spangler from three short stories by Iranian American writers. The play will take place on Friday, April 11, at the Le Petit Trianon Theater (72 N. Fifth St., San Jose).

The first-ever “Cultures of the Iranian Diaspora Conference,” made possible with the support of the Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute, will take place April 11-12, 2014.

The conference will also feature a film screening and discussion of two films by Professor of Theatre Arts Babak Sarrafan and San Jose native Mo Gorjestani on Saturday, April 12, in the Student Union Barrett Ballroom. Information and registration for this conference and these two evening events can be found at Brown Paper Tickets.

Additional information is available on the Persian Studies Program website and Facebook page.

San Jose State — Silicon Valley’s largest institution of higher learning with 30,000 students and 3,850 employees — is part of the California State University system. SJSU’s 154-acre downtown campus anchors the nation’s 10th largest city.


This article was originally published on SJSU Today. Click here to view it.

January 15th, 2014


December, 2013


Meet Naciem Nikkah--SJSU'S Dynamic Persian Language Instructor

Novemver 2nd, 2013


profile naceimWhen you first meet the new Persian language instructor, Naciem Nikkhah, you might miss an important detail that she wants you to know: she grew up in Iran and feels very  connected to Iran even though she speaks English like a native of the United States. Even though Nikkhah was born at good Samaritan Hospital in San Jose, she lived her formative years (age 2-17) in Iran. When she speaks, Nikkhah has only the slightest hint of an accent which is all the more surprising since she learned English only when she came to the United States at the age of 17. Actually, Nikkhah refused to learn English in Iran and thought "everyone knows English" and then decided to teach herself Italian because she thought was the language of art, culture and the great traditions of culture to which she hoped to one day belong.  "Half my heart lives here and half my heart lives in Iran," said Nikkhah smiling. 

Nikkah grew up in Sari, a city in Mazandaran Province in the north of Iran after her parents returned to Iran in 1986 during the height of the Iran-Iraq War. Although her father's family was from this region, it was because of the bombings of the cities that her parents decided to move to the north. There, instead of attending a regular high school, she attended a special school dedicated to the arts. After graduating from Bessat Art School, she was selected by the school to design a supply store for art students at the school. This led to another job for Nikkhah when someone asked her to design a building for a private high school in Sari. She drew the initial plan, but never got to see the physical execution of her design. She left Iran to come to the US to study at the university, and not surprisingly, returned to her other home in San Jose, where she began taking classes at De Anza, and later transferred to the San Francisco Art Institute where she completed a BFA in photography. Shortly after completing her BFA, she interned at the San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery and helped to organize the first-ever photography exhibition of Iranians to the United States. She went to Iran to help select the work that would later adorn at the San Francisco City Hall. 

After graduating in 2008, Nikkhah started working at Heald College advising students in academic planning. In 2011, she started a master's program at SOAS-University of London, in art history with an emphasis on Iran. Her passion for art and art history is part of her general appreciation for the culture of Iran, and one of the most important things she enjoys sharing with her students. Although she has been teaching at San Jose State  University only since the fall semester, we are fortunate to have such a passionate and enthusiastic language teacher. She believes that the best way to learn a language is to be exposed to and appreciate the culture from which that language springs. One of her hopes for her SJSU Persian language students is that they one day get to see Iran for themselves so that they can appreciate the splendor and beauty of a very old culture that carries that beauty in so many ways--including in the daily expressions that people speak.

October 18th, 2013


Dear Friends of SJSU Persian Studies:

Next week, October 30th, we will have Torange Yeghiazarian, director of Golden Thread Productions, the Bay Area's preeminent Middle East Theatre Company at San Jose State University. Ms. Yeghiazarian will be speaking about her work writing and directing plays with Middle Eastern and specifically Iranian themes. Her talk, "Changing the National Conversation on the Middle East, One Play at a Time," will be held in the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library, Wednesday, October 30th at 7 pm, room 255 in the library (150E. San Fernando Street). Part our fall series of public lectures about Iran and the Iranian Diaspora made possible with a grant from the Roshan Cultural Heritage Foundation, Ms. Yeghiazarian will discuss her work as a playwright and specifically her new play "444 Days" which opened in San Francisco on October 17 and continues through November 3rd at Z Below (470 Florida St, SF). The play tells the story of a Laleh, an Iranian revolutionary, and Harry, a diplomatic attaché who meet for the first time in 25 years after having seen each other last during the hostage crisis at the US embassy in Tehran. Join us for a riveting discussion about the role of theater in changing attitudes about the Middle East. 

Click here for viewing the poster.

September 29th,2013


Dear Friends of SJSU Persian Studies:

Welcome back to fall! Happy Mehregan! 

The Persian Studies program at SJSU has had a good start to the semester, with a wonderful lecture with Professor John Lee (UC Santa Barbara talking about the Cyrus Cylinder and the contributions of Achaemenid Persia) at the beginning of September. We wanted to alert you to two very exciting events coming up in the second week of October:

To mark the 60th anniversary of the 1953 coup that overthrew the democratically-elected Prime Minister of Iran, Mohammad Mossadegh, we've invited Professor Kurosh ValaNejad of University of Southern California (USC--Animation and Illustration) who will be sharing his fascinating animated video game about this event titled, "The Cat and the Coup" that employs some of the latest animation technology. He'll be with us on Tuesday, October 8th at 7 pm in the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library. 

That same week, Thursday, October 10th at 7 pm, in the MLK Library, Meghan Sayres, editor of Love and Pomegranates: Artists and Wayfarers on Iran will share this brand new anthology with SJSU audiences. The collection which includes prose nonfiction and poetry will be read by a number of local authors including Azin Arefi, Brian Appleton, Farnaz Fatemi, and Jasmin Darznik. Join us for an evening of inspiring stories inspired by the beauty of Iran and Iranian culture. 

Both events are free and open to the public. The library is located at the corner of East San Fernando and 4th Streets. 

Mark your calendars for October 30, at 7pm in the library. We'll be hosting Torange Yezhegarian, director of Golden Thread Theater Productions. She'll be sharing some of her involvement with dramatizing the Iranian diaspora and sharing the stories of the Iranian community. Her play, "444 Days," opens in the Bay Area October 24th and she'll be talking about it at SJSU. 

To check out the posters for these events, click here.

July 27th, 2013




 $300,000 Gift for Persian Studies

 March 1, 2013 Pat Lopes Harris

news article

SAN JOSE, CA - The Persian Studies Program at San Jose State University will continue its mission to educate students and promote Iranian culture and Persian language for the next three years through a generous grant of $300,000 from the Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute. The grant has been awarded to Persis Karim, principal investigator and professor of English and comparative literature within the College of Humanities and the Arts.  The funds will support language instruction, cultural events, lectures, faculty research and scholarships as well as a conference on the Iranian Diaspora culture in 2014.

The program directors include Karim, who also serves as coordinator of Middle Eastern Studies, and Shahin Gerami, professor of interdisciplinary social sciences and coordinator of the Women’s Studies Program. Both Karim and Gerami welcome the opportunity to expand the Persian Studies Program, which was initiated in 2011 with seed money from the PARSA Community Foundation. SJSU made an appeal for private support to establish a Persian Studies Program and was granted a generous $200,000 grant from the PARSA Community Foundation during the 2010 Mehregan grant cycle. These donations recognize the importance of teaching Persian language, as well as introducing Iran’s rich heritage to university students.

Iranian Diaspora Studies

Because Silicon Valley is home to California’s second largest population of Iranian immigrants and their second-generation children, the Persian Studies Program increases participation in the emerging field of Iranian Diaspora Studies; it also supports students and scholars engaging with Iran and its diaspora community.  A conference about the Iranian Diaspora is set for spring 2014, when the program will invite scholars to share information and experiences about California’s Iranian-American communities and the rich contributions they are making to American society.

“We couldn’t be more pleased about the Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute’s support for Persian Studies at SJSU,” said Karim. “This generous gift establishes a precedent for academic programs, research and public outreach that serves both a student population and a community that has roots in Iran, but that is contributing to and innovating the culture of Silicon Valley. By offering courses in Persian and presenting lectures and programs about Iran and Persian culture, we can engage more constructively with a country that too often is seen only through the prism of negative media headlines. And we can recognize the ways that the Iranian American community is evolving.”

Evolution of a Community

With previous support, the Persian Studies Program developed lecture events, scholarships for students, and initiated an oral history project titled Iranian-American Voices of Silicon Valley: Evolution of a Community. The project will document the lives, histories, and stories of this community. Since 2012, the Persian Studies Program has been offering language courses that are a mix of interested students of Iranian descent, those with Iranian spouses, and those who expect to use Persian language in their careers. Assistant Professor of Geography Kathrine Richardson will use research money from this grant to initiate a study of Iranian Americans in Silicon Valley’s high-tech industry.

Although Persian Studies has conducted a preliminary survey to gain insight into the Iranian-American community in Silicon Valley, numerous cultural and educational events, and musical concerts to celebrate Iranian holidays, the Persian Studies Program aims to build further relationships with the community and to learn more about how we can serve, support, and develop SJSU’s innovative program.

A Norouz Celebration

To further signify its commitment to the community, a Norouz celebration with master santour Player Mahvash Guerami and vocalist Hossein Massoudi will take place at 3 p.m. March 10in the SJSU Engineering Auditorium 189, with a tea and sweets reception at 2:30 p.m. This free and public event, which includes a poetry reading by Iranian American poet and translator Mojdeh Marashi, and Afghan American poet Najia Karim, will inaugurate a new year for the growing program, and offer its gratitude to the Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute and its Chair and founder and President Elahe Omidyar Mir-Djalali. 

The original article can be viewed through the following link: