Gift Creates First Persian Studies Endowed Professorship

October 13, 2015
Carl Ernst is Kenan Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies and director of the Persian Studies Program. Photo by Mark Derewicz.

Carl Ernst is Kenan Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies and director of the Persian Studies Program. Photo by Mark Derewicz.

The Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute has created a second endowment at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, bringing its total gifts to $1 million in support of the University’s growing Persian studies program.

The new gift has established the Roshan Institute Professorship in Persian Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences. A search is underway to recruit the inaugural professor who will be a faculty member in the College’s department of Asian studies.

“We are very grateful for Roshan Institute’s generous support of Persian studies at Carolina,” said Karen M. Gil, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “A professorship in this important field will have a lasting impact on generations of Carolina students, who are living in an increasingly global society.”

Endowed professorships provide research funding and salary support for extraordinary teacher-scholars at the University. Professorships are significant tools in recruiting and retaining outstanding faculty.

“I am delighted that Roshan Institute and UNC have partnered to establish the University’s first Persian studies endowed professorship,” said Elahé Omidyar Mir-Djalali, chair and president of Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute. “This is a wonderful opportunity to further support faculty and students engaged in Persian studies.”

In 2013, the Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute created the Roshan Institute Fellowships for Excellence in Persian Studies for graduate students at UNC. Students from any academic discipline, but whose research and career interests address Persian studies, may compete for summer research funding and fellowships ranging from $1,500 to $5,000. To date, six graduate students have been awarded funding from this fellowship.

“Persian language and culture is of immense historical and contemporary importance,” said Carl Ernst, Kenan Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies and director of the Persian Studies Program at UNC.

“This additional generous gift from Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute will make it possible to expand this field at UNC, starting with the introduction of a minor in Persian studies.”

Carolina students may enroll in Persian language or Persian studies culture courses. Nearly 50 students enrolled in languages courses in 2013-14, while nearly 250 students — up from just 26 in 2006-07 — were enrolled in Persian culture courses in the departments of art history, Asian studies, history and religious studies.

The Persian Studies Program is supported by the department of Asian studies in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Carolina Center for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Civilizations.

Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute, a U.S.-based nonprofit foundation founded in 2000, sponsors cultural and educational activities with a primary focus on preservation, transmission and instruction of Persian language and culture. The Institute has established endowments in support of Persian studies at numerous leading universities in the U.S. and abroad.