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University News

CSUF and Iranian Cultural Center Work to Provide Persian Language Classes


From Dateline (October 9, 2003)

For years, Cal State Fullerton has prided itself on offering a wide range of programs representing our diverse population. This fall, a new language offering was made possible through a collaboration with the Iranian Cultural Center of Orange County. Because of these efforts, students are now able to enroll in Fundamental Persian 101, a four-unit class.

“Both Cal State Fullerton and the Iranian Cultural Center wanted to find a way to introduce the Persian culture to Americans, as well as teach Iranian-American students – many of whom have lived their entire lives in the United States – about the Persian language and culture,” said Touraj Daryaee, professor of history. “In fact, we have about 1,000 students of Iranian descent at Cal State Fullerton and about 200,000 Iranian-Americans live in Orange County.

“Unfortunately, many of the perceptions Americans have of Iran or Iranians are what they see on the nightly news, and often, political references to Iran are pejorative,” noted Daryaee. “For this reason, offering a language class seemed like a way to reach out to the community.”

But how do you do that in a tough budget situation? The state budget didn’t allow for adding a new language course. But as luck would have it, members of the Iranian Cultural Center, a group that seeks to preserve and advance knowledge of Persian language, literature and culture, approached Daryaee. They agreed to provide funding for a beginning class in Persian. Although original plans were for one section to be offered, the course’s popularity necessitated offering a second section. Each class can accommodate up to 25 students.

“For many years, we have been encouraging the Iranian population of Orange County to reach out to their neighbors and help them better understand our culture,” said Daryaee. “Classes such as this link our young people back to their culture and open up our culture to those who may not be familiar with it or may have a negative attitude.”

“We are delighted to work with Cal State Fullerton,” said Maryam Molavi of the Iranian Cultural Center. “We are looking for ways to connect not only with each other but with the community as well.”

In the future, both Daryaee and Molavi would like to see additional classes offered. This spring, Daryaee will begin teaching a course in ancient Persian civilization. (The university currently offers Medieval and Modern Near Eastern history.)

To support the new courses, the Iranian Cultural Center has developed fundraising programs including the recently held concert of Persian music featuring the Black Cats. Other fundraisers will be held throughout the year to support these programs.

“Providing courses such as this demonstrates Cal State Fullerton’s commitment to diverse cultures,” said Daryaee. “Working in conjunction with the Iranian Cultural Center makes these types of programs possible. We all benefit – we can introduce Persian culture and language to a wider audience, and students have an opportunity to study a different language.

“These kinds of community collaborations help ensure that our goals of enhancing diversity and providing an academically challenging environment can be maintained.”

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