Who We Are

Persis Karim 
Founding Director

Persis KarimDr. Persis Karim is a professor in the Department of English & Comparative Literature and Coordinator of the Middle East Studies Program at San Jose State University. In 2010, Dr. Karim created the initiative for Iranian Studies with a start-up grant from the PARSA Community Foundation. In 2011, Dr. Karim received a generous grant from the PARSA Community Foundation to expand and officially launch the Persian Studies program. In 2012, San Jose State received a generous three-year grant from the Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute to augment the Persian Studies program. Dr. Karim has gained an international reputation for her work on literature of the Iranian diaspora and has written numerous articles about Iranian diaspora culture for academic journals such as Iranian StudiesComparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, and MELUS: Multi-Ethnic Literatures of the United States. She is the editor of three anthologies of literature: Tremors: New Fiction by Iranian American Writers (University of Arkansas Press, 2013), Let Me Tell You Where I've Been: New Writing by Women of the Iranian Diaspora (University of Arkansas Press, 2006), and A World Between: Poems, Short Stories and Essays by Iranian-Americans (George Braziller, Inc., 1999). She is the founding director and current co-director of Persian Studies. She can be reached at 408-924-4476 or persis.karim@sjsu.edu.

Shahin Gerami

Associate Director

Dr. Shahin GeramiDr. Shahin Gerami is a professor of Women's Studies and Co-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


Shayan Afshar
Lecturer Persian (Department of World Languages and Literatures) 

Shayan AfsharDr. Shayan Afshar earned his Ph.D. in Near Eastern Studies from the University of California, Berkeley. His dissertation was on the "Cultural and Linguistic Transitions from Sassanian Persia to Islamic Iran."  He has taught Persian at Santa Monica College, the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and Saddleback College. He is looking forward to sharing his knowledge of Persian language and literature with students at SJSU during AY 2015-2016. 


Saba Jalali
Graduate Student Assistant

Saba JalaliSaba Jalali is an international student at San Jose State University. She holds a B.A. from Azad University of Tehran and is currently a graduate student in Spanish. She is a member of Phi Sigma Iota, an International Honor Society for students of foreign languages. She seeks to enroll for single subject teaching credentials after finishing her studies and wants to become a teacher as she strongly believes that when one teaches, two learn. She says one day, she will be able to speak French, too! As a GA, she has joined Persian Studies for fall 2014.

Michelle Belmessieri
Student Assistant

Michelle Belmessieri

Michelle graduated with a B.A. in French and minors in Portuguese and Italian. She is currently working as a student assistant for the Persian Studies department at San José State University and is beginning her third semester studying Persian language and culture. Michelle plans to pursue a career in teaching world languages or possibly working abroad teaching English.  


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