UCI’s Elahé Omidyar Mir-Djalali Presidential Chair in Art History & Archaeology of Ancient Iran
“The endowment from Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute will enable Iranian studies graduate students to gain intensive training in their chosen disciplines while simultaneously acquiring deep, field-specific expertise in art, archaeology, history, languages, literatures and religions from the interdisciplinary program. It is my honor and responsibility to ensure that the endowment and the graduate program fulfill this extraordinary promise,” says Matthew Canepa, UCI’s Elahé Omidyar Mir-Djalali Presidential Chair in Art History & Archaeology of Ancient Iran and director of the graduate specialization in ancient Iran and the premodern Persian world. UCI School of Humanities

Irvine, Calif., March 17, 2021 – The University of California, Irvine has received a $1,565,000 grant from Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute, with $1.5 million establishing an endowment for doctoral students pursuing Iranian studies at UCI. The remaining $65,000 of the grant will immediately fund graduate student fellowships.

Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute has supported several Iranian-focused initiatives at UCI, and this new grant – which comes from the Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute Fund, a donor-advised fund of Silicon Valley Community Foundation – marks its second campus endowment. The $2 million Elahé Omidyar Mir-Djalali Presidential Chair in Art History & Archaeology of Ancient Iran, currently held by Matthew Canepa, a professor in UCI’s Department of Art History, was created in 2017.

“We are deeply grateful to Dr. Mir-Djalali and Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute for their support of UCI’s graduate students,” said Tyrus Miller, dean of the School of Humanities. “Because of them, UCI is poised to recruit the best and brightest graduate students from around the world who seek scholarly opportunities in Iranian studies. With the support of Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute, UCI has become the leading destination for the study of both ancient and modern Iran.”

Administered by the holder of the Elahé Omidyar Mir-Djalali Presidential Chair and the dean of humanities, the new endowment will annually award one or two fellowships as part of a competitive five-year funding package guaranteed to Ph.D. students upon admission. It establishes two doctoral fellowships – the Elahé Omidyar Mir-Djalali Graduate Fellowship in Ancient Iranian Studies and the Elahé Omidyar Mir-Djalali Graduate Fellowship in the Study of the Persian/Iranian World – for students pursuing a Ph.D. concentration in Iranian studies.

The first fellowship supports Ph.D. students who are studying the ancient Iranian/Persian world (550 BCE to 650 CE) and are advised or co-advised by the Elahé Omidyar Mir-Djalali Presidential Chair in Art History & Archaeology of Ancient Iran; the second fellowship is open to students studying the Iranian world in any time period or discipline, in any UCI Ph.D. program that participates in the concentration. Currently, UCI offers a graduate specialization in ancient Iran and the premodern Persian world. With the support of the new endowment, it will now be expanded into a Ph.D. concentration that’s expected to be available for student applications in fall 2022.

“The Elahé Omidyar Mir-Djalali Graduate Fellowships will be transformative both for UCI – which will attract top doctoral students as a result – and for the field of Iranian studies more generally,” said Canepa, who directs the graduate specialization. “By graduating with a disciplinary Ph.D. as well as credentials in Iranian studies, doctoral students will be ideally equipped to compete for the widest possible range of positions at the widest possible range of institutions and programs.”

Elahé Omidyar Mir-Djalali, Ph.D., is the founder, chair and president of Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute, a private foundation that supports cultural and educational activities and helps nurture a new generation of educators to preserve the transmission and instruction of Persian language and culture. Founded in 2000, the institute has awarded millions of dollars in grants for the strengthening or establishment of academic Persian programs at some of the most esteemed universities in the United States and throughout the world.

“UCI’s vision for the study of Persian civilization, from antiquity to today, is inspiring, and we are honored to establish this new endowment that will support this vision. I, personally, am proud for the opportunity to advance the knowledge and appreciation of Persian culture through these new doctoral fellowships and am inspired for the positive impact they will have on generations of students and scholars at UCI and beyond for years,” Mir-Djalali said.

UCI is currently home to four endowed faculty chairs in Iranian studies, with a fifth in recruitment – more than any other university in the nation – and the two fellowships established by this grant are among the only permanent, endowed Ph.D. fellowships in the world dedicated specifically to ancient Iranian studies. In addition to the doctoral specialization/concentration, UCI offers undergraduates a minor in Persian studies and Persian language courses. And the campus’s Samuel M. Jordan Center for Persian Studies and Culture is a hub for interdisciplinary research projects that bridge the arts, humanities, engineering, medicine and the sciences with Persian studies.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities and is ranked among the nation’s top 10 public universities by U.S. News & World Report. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 36,000 students and offers 222 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $7 billion annually to the local economy and $8 billion overall. For more on UCI, visit www.uci.edu.

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