Anoosheh Oskouian made a $25,000 gift to UCI’s Samuel Jordan Center for Persian Studies and Culture, a dedicated hub for Persian studies and a global destination for Persian scholars. Photo: Anoosheh Oskouian

Persian Studies Blooms at UCI

Clean tech may be entrepreneur Anoosheh Oskouian’s professional passion, but keeping Persian culture alive in the U.S. is her personal joy. 

A longtime collaborator with UCI – which she refers to as a “gem” in Orange County – she is a member of the university’s Chief Executive Roundtable, an alliance of business and university leaders that support the development and well-being of UCI and area businesses. She is active in the School of Humanities as well as the School of Physical Sciences.

Oskouian recently took her involvement one step further by making a $25,000 gift to UCI’s Samuel Jordan Center for Persian Studies and Culture, the largest center for the study of Iran in the U.S. by number of endowed faculty chairs.

Situated in Irvine, home to the second largest Iranian population in Southern California, UCI fulfills a vital role within the Persian diaspora.

Founded in 2009, UCI’s Jordan Center is both UCI’s dedicated hub for Persian studies and a global destination for Persian scholars. Since its inception, the center has hosted international conferences about the Iranian world and created clusters uniting researchers from a multitude of disciplines across the UCI campus. They have also established an online, peer-reviewed journal called the Digital Archive of Brief Notes & Iran Review.

UCI students can minor in Persian studies, take courses about ancient and modern Iran, and learn the Persian language. Graduate students can pursue a specialization in ancient Iran and the premodern Persianate world.

For Oskouian, the Jordan Center fills the gap in her life that was left in Iran after emigrating at an early age.

“I have been here for many years,” she says. “And I always felt that I did not get an opportunity to fulfill one part of what I would have hoped to be, which is to be more knowledgeable about our literature, our culture and all that goes on behind this great rich array of Persian studies.”

Oskouian thinks of her son and his generation. Although her son can understand Farsi, he cannot read or write the language. UCI offers a venue for American-born Iranians coming of age like him to engage with the culture and language.

“For a community as rich as I mentioned to be out there and not know anything about their history is almost like a beautiful tree that is cut from its roots and expected to flourish.”

- Anoosheh Oskouian

“For a community as rich as I mentioned to be out there and not know anything about their history is almost like a beautiful tree that is cut from its roots and expected to flourish,” she says, “so my hope and goal has always been to stay connected to my roots and live the best of both worlds, have the cultural background yet have it be in a wonderful American ground for it to come to full fruition.”

Oskouian’s gift to UCI’s Jordan Center in effect rebuilds those very roots. Her gift is earmarked for conferences, cultural events, guest lectures and publications.

“We are incredibly grateful to Anoosheh Oskouian for her generous support of the Jordan Center,” says UCI history professor Touraj Daryaee, the Maseeh Chair in Persian Studies and Culture and director of the Jordan Center. “This gift will help ensure the center continues to engage the Iranian and broader community in the study and celebration of Iranian history and culture.”

“I believe all of the people that left Iran with the hope of coming here for education and never went back like myself – Iranian Americans – love to preserve the arts and the culture as much as possible,” Oskouian says. “And I am so thrilled to see that the Jordan Center has embraced bringing on more lecture series: from ancient studies to language to cinema to the history of food. I truly wish sometimes I had nothing to do but to just attend every single one of them.”

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