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For details on how you can support this program, download our brochure in English or Persian.

The Case for Private Support

“Persian art, language and culture, which is identified with modern Iran and adjoining regions, is one of the most formidable cultural traditions in the world – going back to the ancient Persian empire of Cyrus the Great, over 2500 years ago.”
-Carl W. Ernst, Kenan Distinguished Professor

The importance of Persian culture as a major legacy of world civilization cannot be overstated. The names of Hafez, Sa`di, Rumi, Ibn Sina, and Omar Khayyam are only a few of the great figures that Persia contributed to world civilization. Beyond this historic legacy, Iran is unquestionably a country of major strategic and political significance today. Regrettably, since the 1978-79 Iranian revolution, Iranian studies as an academic field has significantly declined, both in the US and Europe.

While general appreciation of Persian culture and history is largely overshadowed by current political and ideological conflicts, the relevance of Persian studies at UNC remains a top priority. Today, modern Persian is spoken by over 70 million people. It is the Farsi spoken in Iran, and also includes Dari (Afghanistan) and Tajiki (Tajikistan); related Iranian languages are Baluchi, Kurdish, and Pashto. Post-1979 Iranian migrations mean Persian is spoken around the world, particularly in Europe, Asia, and the Americas.

UNC-Chapel Hill is fortunate to boast a number of significant strengths in Persian studies. First and foremost, the University’s success in Persian studies can be traced to the teaching and scholarship of its faculty, three of whom have established international reputations in Persian studies and are considered among the finest in their respective fields. Student demand for Persian courses is also on the rise, both at the graduate and undergraduate levels. UNC’s library collection is taking the lead on Persian acquisitions among Triangle universities (Duke, NCSU, and UNC). After ten years of relying on a cadre of dedicated adjunct instructors, UNC has now appointed Shahla Adel as a full time Persian Instructor beginning in 2010-11.

Building Persian studies at UNC

The dramatic rise in student interest and demand for Persian-related courses has far exceeded the University’s teaching capacity due to insufficient numbers of faculty to teach Persian language, most notably at advanced levels. The recent hire of a Persian lecturer means that UNC can now offer two levels of Persian per year, plus one or two culture courses. Outside of the Department of Religious Studies, however, there are no other classes available on Iranian history, culture, literature, or politics.

The primary goal of this campaign is to create a minor in Persian in the Department of Asian Studies, similar to the existing minors in Arabic and other Asian languages. Since this minor will require three years of language plus at least one culture course, such a curricular presence assumes an additional faculty appointment in Persian language and culture, at the tenure-track assistant professor level. In addition, we want to expand public programs on Persian studies for the benefit of local and regional audiences.

The priorities of the Persian Studies campaign are to support the following:

  • enrichment funds to support Persian language and culture courses (food, music, etc.);
  • course development grants to encourage the creation of new courses or modules relating to Persian studies in different academic departments at UNC;
  • faculty and student research and travel funding relating to Persian studies;
  • lectures, conferences, and public programs on Persian culture;
  • a summer intensive course on Persian language that can be advertised nation-wide;
  • building the Persian library collection at UNC (including film and multimedia);
  • a second faculty appointment in Persian language and culture, at the tenure-track assistant professor level.
  • Given the significance of Persian language and culture in modern society, UNC is committed to expanding course offerings and cultural programming, and to opening the door to this captivating and influential world cultural heritage.

How to Make a Gift to Support Persian Studies

You may make a donation by check. Please make your check payable to “Arts and Science Foundation” with “Persian Studies – 8091” in the memo line and mail to:

The Arts and Sciences Foundation
Attn: Colleen Sisneros
University of North Carolina Chapel Hill
523 E. Franklin Street
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-6115

For more information about creating scholarships, fellowships, and professorships, making donations to specific programs, please contact:

Colleen Sisneros
Senior Director of Development
UNC Arts and Science Foundation
(919) 843-6182

Your gift is greatly appreciated!

Donate Your Persian Books to the UNC Library!
The UNC Library has pledged to take the lead in building a strong Persian Studies collection, which will benefit all area universities and the community at large. Contributions of Persian books from your collection would be most welcome. In addition, you may direct a financial contribution to help build the collection at by selecting the Persian Studies Library Fund (5980). For further information, please contact Rustin Zarkar, Middle East & Islamic Studies Librarian ( Thank you!