Who We Are

Persis Karim
Program Director of Persian Studies

Persis KarimPersis Karim is the Director of the newly-established Persian Studies program and a professor in the Department of English & Comparative. She also coordinates the Middle East Studies program at SJSU. She is contributing poet and editor of two anthologies of Iranian Diaspora literature---Let Me Tell You Where I've Been: New Writing by Women of the Iranian Diaspora(2006) and A World Between: Poems, Short Stories and Essays by Iranian-Americans (1999) and numerous articles about Iranian Americans and Iranian Diaspora literature. She is co-editor of Tremors: New Fiction by Iranian American Writers (2013) which will be published by the University of Arkansas Press. She teaches world and comparative literature and creative writing at San Jose State University.


Shahin Gerami
Associate Program Director of Persian Studies

Shahin GeramiProfessor Shahin Gerami is Director of Women’s Studies and Associate Director of Persian Studies at San Jose State University. She holds a law degree from the University of Tehran and Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Oklahoma. Her research and activism has involved various aspects of gendered disparity ranging from displaced population, religious mandated sexism, and political profiling of Muslim men.

 Dr. Gerami’s research on gendered religious fundamentalist movements culminated in a book titled Women and Fundamentalism: Islam and Christianity, published in 1996 by Garland Press. She has collaborated with the United Nation’s High Commission for Refugees to conduct a needs assessment of Afghan refugee families in Iran. Her findings have been published and presented at numerous international conferences including a keynote speech, “Global Masculinity vs. Transnational Brown Men: Discursive Identities at Home and Abroad” at the international conference on Migration, Islam and Masculinities in Oldenburg, Germany. In 2011, she presented her work “Women’s Agency and Islamisms” at the conference on Globalization, Gender, and Languages, at University of Torino, Italy. Her current research on Iranian women’s identity construction on Facebook was presented at The International Institute of Sociology 40th World Congress in New Delhi, India, in 2012. She is currently conducting a survey of Iranian Americans and attitudes toward Iran and co-directing “Iranian-American Voices in Silicon Valley: Evolution of a Community.” She can be reached at 408-924-5754 or shahin.gerami@sjsu.edu. 


Naciem Nikkhah
Lecturer in Persian Language

Layla ForooghiNaciem Nikkhah, lecturer in World Languages, and currently teaching beginning Persian  at San Jose State University, holds an M.A. in the History of Art and Archaeology from SOAS, University of London and a BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute. As an Iranian-American born in the United States and raised in Iran, she has been  interested in the art of the Iranian diaspora and its exploration of cultural duality. In addition to her research on art of Iranian Diaspora, she is interested in Persian language and literature, and has researched the relationship between text and image in Persian painting. She is also the faculty advisor of the Persian Students Association (PSA) at SJSU.

Sarah Aghazadeh
Program Assistant


Sarah Aghazadeh is an Interdisciplinary Studies graduate student pursuing her MA in Global Citizenship. In Spring 2011, Sarah graduated Summa Cum Laude with a B.S. in Public Relations and minor in Political Science. Working with mentor and professor of leadership and systems, Dr. William J. Reckmeyer, she serves as his teaching assistant for the Provost's Honors Seminar where students address global concerns and draft policy recommendations. Sarah is a 2012 Salzburg Global Seminar Scholar and a 2012-2013 Sally Casanova Pre-Doctoral Scholar. In the future, Sarah looks to pursue a PhD in  International Relations and start a career in public service.


Ume Naqvi
Student Assistant

Sarah AghazadehUme Naqvi is a student at San Jose State University. She was born in Pakistan, and raised in Saudi Arabia where she attended the International American School. To that effect, Ume is an international student herself. Ume's upbringing in and her love of Middle Eastern culture inspired her to join the Persian Studies Program at SJSU. As Persis Karim's assistant, Ume is responsible for event publicity, correspondence, press releases, and support with grant work. She also maintains the Persian Studies Facebook profile. From this experience, Ume hopes to gain insight about Persian culture and further globalize her own sociopolitical views. Ume is most excited, however, to be working alongside a poet and writer with whom she hopes to perfect her writing/publishing skills (by osmosis if nothing else!). She currently holds a minor in Chemistry, and is majoring in English (with emphasis on Creative Writing). As is obvious, Ume is diligently preparing herself to become a published poet/author someday soon. When she isn't writing her blog or revising her poems, Ume likes spending time with her husband and three beautiful kids.


Ritu Srivastava
Graduate Assistant 

rituRitu Srivastava is an international student from India, pursuing Masters of Sciences in Mechanical Engineering at San Jose State University since fall of 2012. She completed her bachelors degree in Instrumentation and Control System Engineering from University of Delhi in 2008 and worked for three years at Advanced Systems Laboratory as Mission Designer and System Analyst. She started working as a graduate assistant for the Director of Persian Studies program in spring of 2013. She helps maintain the department website and her responsibilities include assisting the director with research, publicity and event planning. Coming from an engineering background, she believes that this role will help her broaden perspectives in life and introduce her to the rich Persian culture.  


Advisory Board

Damian Bacich, Chair, World Languages and LIteratures, San Jose State University
Kathryn Davis, Chair, Global Studies, San Jose State University
Mary Hegland, Professor, Anthropology, Santa Clara University
Hashem Kardevani, Professor, History, Cabrillo College
Mazyar Lotfalian, Assistant Director, Samuel M. Jordan Center for Persian Studies, UC Irvine
Paul McNamara, Advancement, San Jose State University
Fariba Nejat, Community Activist, Founder Iranian Federated Women's Clubs
Ashraf Zahedi, Independent Scholar