The Daily Tar Heel

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Tuesday May 24th

Endowment allows UNC Persian media collection to grow

UNC will acquire more Persian books, journals, magazines and films during the next few years thanks to a $25,000 endowment.

Members of the Persian studies program hope the money, which was donated by UNC alumnus Dr. Ali Jarrahi last week, will accommodate the recent interest in the field.

Persian is one of the most widely-spoken languages in the Middle East, especially in Iran.

UNC’s Persian studies program began in 2000, said Carl Ernst, religious studies professor and co-director of the Carolina Center for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Civilizations.

“We’re very pleased with the development of the program, and we really think UNC can be a major player in this field with our growing faculty involvement and student interest,” he said.

In less than two years, the number of Persian titles in UNC libraries has increased from 350 to more than 600, said Emily Silverman, associate director of library development.

“The interest in the culture and language in Iran has grown rapidly,” Silverman said. “There’s been a great surge in interest for film and literature courses.”

Nadia Yaqub, associate chairwoman of the Asian studies department, said most foreign language collections grow due to faculty advocacy.

“The fund, together with the instructor and the librarian, will mean that we hit the ground running when it comes to forming the program,” she said.

Yaqub added that the endowment could encourage more funding for the program.

Ernst said there is increasing interest in the program — interest made apparent by the student Persian Cultural Society and growing enrollment in Iranian cinema classes.

He added that UNC’s program is well-known, especially due to the expertise of its faculty.

The program is also overseen by the Persian studies advisory committee, which is made up mostly of local Iranian-Americans, he said.

“(The endowment) is a very special gift because it shows what a really strong cultural loyalty there is in the Iranian-American community and I don’t think that we’ve seen that anywhere else,” Ernst said.

The Persian studies program is expanding in terms of full-time faculty as well, he said.

Ernst said UNC added a full-time Persian studies lecturer and a librarian specializing in Middle East and African studies in 2010.

Silverman said other schools have more Persian library resources, including Duke University with 900 titles. But she said she is hopeful that UNC will surpass its rival in the future.

“If you look at other schools that have a longer history with Persian, they have larger collections but ours is growing and it will continue to grow to meet the demand.”

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