Meet the Donor Behind a Gift to Study the Effects of the Iranian Diaspora

One of the many tragic elements surrounding the current Syrian refugee crisis and the accelerating trend of mass migration around the world is how familiar it looks to those attuned to recent history.

For example, approximately four to five million Iranians fled their homeland and scattered across the globe after the Iranian Revolution in 1979. Close to 40 years later, the effects of this migration are still being felt across the Iranian community and host societies.

And so, in an effort to "create a vigorous, dynamic and fresh approach to the study of and research about Iranian diaspora communities, their development, contributions to host societies and impact on Iranian identity," Iranian-American philanthropist Neda Nobari recently gave $5 million to her alma mater San Francisco State University to establish the Center for Iranian Diaspora Studies (CIDS).

According to the SF State press release, the center will be a platform for new academic programs that foster intellectual engagement with local and global Iranian communities across numerous disciplines. It will also model new methods of research and scholarship and develop collaborative interdisciplinary opportunities for faculty and students across the SF State campus, as well as with universities across the U.S. and internationally.

Nobari emigrated from Iran to the U.S. in 1978 at the age of 15 and graduated from SF State in 1984. She earned a master's degree from Dartmouth College in 2015, and her research focused on "the intersection of diaspora and cultural identity in Iranian-American women."

After a 22-year career in the fashion industry, Nobari created the Neda Nobari Foundation approximately a decade ago, whose mission statement is "promoting social and environmental justice through arts and education." The foundation's site lists five focus areas: innovative arts, impact cinema, earth advocacy, holistic education, and edge media.

On commenting on her gift, Nobari, ever aware that we've been down this road before, framed the issue succinctly: "Mass migration is one of the most pressing global challenges of the 21st century," she said. "It's also an opportunity to learn.

In related news, check our take on a $7 million gift from Henry Arnhold to transform the Zolberg Institute at the New School into a "global center for academic research, policy debate, and discussions of global migration and mobility, their economic impact, and their political consequences."