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An Interview with Dr. Yaghoobi, New Director of Persian Studies

December 9, 2021

Recently I interviewed our wonderful professor, Dr. Claudia Yaghoobi, about her appointment as the new inaugural Director of Persian Studies here at UNC. This was the multilayered question I asked her:

In your appointment letter, which I was given to read by Lori prior to this interview, [our dean] stated that you have a “terrific track record” (we here in DAMES obviously agree!) in building the Persian Studies program on campus. How will your new appointment impact your current endeavors? Are there projects you’ve been working on that will expand as a result of the appointment, for instance? In the letter, one of your duties is stated as “continuing to elevate the profile of Persian Studies,” and to you, does that mean a campus-specific approach, or do you intend to go farther by reaching beyond the boundaries of UNC itself?

Below is Dr. Yaghoobi’s reply and thoughts on her new appointment:

As part of my responsibilities as the director, I would be promoting research, scholarly opportunity, and artistic exchange related to Persian Studies on the UNC campus. This entails organizing scholarly events, promoting speakers, supporting exhibitions, and developing workshops that strengthen the community of faculty, students, and staff pursuing Persianate Studies. For these events, I identify and pursue external funding opportunities to support programming. However, this is what I was already doing before this appointment. What changes with the appointment is the need for me to engage in fundraising efforts both for programming and for supporting graduate students, holding meetings with the Persian Studies Advisory Committee to solicit input, overseeing Roshan graduate student fellowship, ensuring the breadth of curricular offerings, and consulting with Vice Provost of Global Affairs on university-wide about alignments between Persian Studies and the university’s global unit.

The most significant change that this appointment embodies is the coordination aspect of it – what I mean is that we have Persian Studies faculty, students, and funding in various units and departments on campus. With this appointment, there is a director to coordinate all of them and receive feedback and support from all.

One of my priorities for this academic year was to establish a Persian Studies Advisory Committee which we did and held a meeting a few weeks ago. With the Advisory Committee’s input, we have formalized a co-sponsorship procedure where we would be happy to fund and/or co-sponsor Persian-related events. We have also discussed how to hold a celebratory event for Nowruz or Persian New Year, and other events this year. We have created a coherent annual lecture series around specific themes. We have also discussed strategies for fundraising this and next academic year – in short, the committee has already been actively working towards our shared goals.

The next project on my list is to highlight the committee members’ research, teaching, and service at UNC. To do this, I have asked the committee members to prepare brief 2-minute videos introducing themselves and their work. The goal of these videos is to introduce the Persian Studies committee to campus, the broader community, and potential donors. These videos will be posted on the Persian Studies Facebook page, on social media, and on the campus webpage.

Congratulations on the new appointment, Dr. Yaghoobi! We’re so fortunate to have you here in DAMES!

Dr. Pitelka, Japanese Ceramics, and the Ackland Art Museum: A Video Lecture

October 14, 2021

On Friday, October 8th, the Ackland Art Museum opened a new exhibition entitled Buddha and Shiva, Lotus and Dragon: Masterworks from the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection at Asia Society, on view until January 9, 2022. Don’t miss it, and before you go, consider watching this lecture from our very own Dr. Pitelka about one of the pieces in the collection, commissioned by the Ackland to complement the new exhibition:

Meet the Grad Students: Samir Sefiane!

September 24, 2021

Here’s a little bit about Samir, one of the students in the first DAMES graduate program cohort!

Tell us about yourself!

I graduated from North Carolina State University last year with a Bachelor’s in History and a Middle East studies minor. My initial plan had been to stick with History in my graduate studies, but I kind of fell in love with Middle East studies, so here I am! Studying Arabic is a big part of my field, so I was pleased to be part of the CLS (Critical Language Scholarship) Program over the summer.  It was supposed to be in Ibri, Oman, but due to COVID, we did it online. It was still a great experience, and I really feel like it took my Arabic abilities to the next level. In my free time, I enjoy reading/watching sci-fi (go see the new Dune movie!), playing chess, and spending time with my partner and our lazy cat.

What program track did you choose?

I chose the Interdisciplinary track and intend to focus primarily on Middle East studies

What are you hoping to gain from your experiences here in DAMES and at UNC?

I was thrilled to be accepted into the DAMES program here at UNC because I tend to shy away from academic overspecialization, and the program’s commitment to a humanist approach to the decidedly complex issues that accompany Asian and Middle East Studies really resonated with me . I look forward to improving my language abilities, making connections with other departments, and interacting with my fellow DAMES students.

Meet the Grad Students: Caroline Williams!

September 13, 2021

Here’s a little bit about Caroline, one of the students in the first DAMES graduate program cohort!

Tell us about yourself!

I’m from Cumming, Georgia, and I graduated from the University of Georgia in May 2021 with a BA in History and a BA in International Affairs (go dawgs!). A fun fact about me is that I grew up on a farm, and during my time at UGA, I participated in the Disney College Program and spent a semester working at Disney World. I also completed a (virtual – thanks, 2020) summer study abroad with the University of Oxford. I’m already loving it here in Chapel Hill and am so excited to be a Tar Heel!

What program track did you choose?

Here in DAMES, I’m on the interdisciplinary track, focusing on the Middle East. I’m currently studying Arabic, and my research interests lie in gender and security studies, especially in Egypt.

What are you hoping to gain from your experiences here in DAMES and at UNC?

Through my experience at UNC, I hope to gain new perspectives for analysis in my field. I’m already enjoying my classes and finding new points of interest, and I’m sure DAMES is going to offer me many more valuable connections!

Meet the Grad Students: Kun Meng!

September 13, 2021

Here’s a little bit about Kun, one of the students in the first DAMES graduate program cohort!

Tell us about yourself!

I am Kun Meng, an incoming graduate of UNC at Chapel Hill. I am from the People’s Republic of China, a beautiful country which is growing and flourishing in its own way. I obtained my bachelor’s degree (BFA) in Sha’anxi Normal University and my master’s degree (MFA) in East China Normal University. During both experiences, I have majored in studies of traditional Chinese painting. After graduating from ECNU, I engaged myself to be a volunteer of Shanghai Library. Plus, I got a job as a teacher of Asian culture!

What program track did you choose?

I chose the Chinese track to be my program, specifically transcultural and political studies of ancient China.

What are you hoping to gain from your experiences here in DAMES and at UNC?

I think I will improve my ability of writing and analyzing in this program. Also, I hope I can acquire the knowledge of research methods of Western countries, to examine and judge the ancient Chinese cultures from a different perspective.

Meet the Grad Students: Muziah Kargbo!

September 1, 2021

Here’s a little bit about Muziah, one of the students in the first DAMES graduate program cohort!

Tell us about yourself!

Hi, my name is Muziah Kargbo, a first-year grad student from Huntersville, NC. I graduated from UNC last year with a BA in Asian and Korean Studies with a dash of Japanese. Nice to meet you all.

What program track did you choose?

I’m taking the interdisciplinary Track with a focus on Korean and Japanese courses.

What are you hoping to gain from your experiences here in DAMES and at UNC?

I hope that by the time I graduate from DAMES, I will be more fluent and adept in Japanese and Korean so I can use both in my future career and endeavors whether that be translating, writing/journalism, or researching and educating myself and others about the entertainment industry in both countries (which I hope I can find an internship or work in!) But ultimately, I hope to gain the confidence, skills, and connections for post-grad life and my future.

Meet the Grad Students: Rania Adamczyk!

August 23, 2021

Here’s a little bit about Rania, one of the students in the first DAMES graduate program cohort!

Tell us about yourself!

I come from the Midwest, born, raised, and schooled, so the flora of North Carolina has had me enthralled since I stepped off the plane. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, where I filled many waking hours playing, singing, and writing music, taking theatre classes, and being an old-time radio buff. Ask me about The Saint. On second thought, maybe don’t. (I can also sing 1940s cigarette jingles from memory, just saying, it’s a neat party trick you don’t see every day.) From Oberlin College and Conservatory, just outside of Cleveland, Ohio, I have a Bachelor of Music in Composition and a Bachelor of Arts in Cinema Studies. I also did a math minor there, for which I got to take a très cool applied seminar in using math to make art. I’m passionate about the connective power of art and I hope to get involved soon in collaborative, community-minded art projects here in Chapel Hill! When I’m not doing that, you’ll find me buried nerd-deep in the study of popular Hindi cinema — which is the area of my thesis work.

What program track did you choose?

Interdisciplinary track – I’m interested in popular Indian cinema as a site of multicultural, national, and international discourse, as well as comparisons between Indian and Korean stardom.

What are you hoping to gain from your experiences here in DAMES and at UNC?

A regional studies-specific master’s program is a great opportunity to focus on language acquisition and immerse in the context of history, literature, etc. I don’t have coming from a background in film studies and music. I’m looking forward to being in a department that bridges the whole continent of Asia and the Middle East, with chances to make expected and unexpected connections across what peers are studying and passionate about.


Meet the Grad Students: Sophie Eichelberger!

August 16, 2021

Here’s a little bit about Sophie, one of the students in the first DAMES graduate program cohort!

Tell us about yourself!

I graduated from Davidson College in 2020 where I majored in English and East Asian Studies. After graduation I had planned to teach English in Japan through the JET Program, but due to COVID, I ended up staying in North Carolina and worked as a college adviser this past year.

I’m interested in pre-modern Japanese art history, as well as East Asian history as a whole. When I’m not studying, I love taking care of my excessive number of house plants.

Which track in our grad program are you studying?


What are you hoping to accomplish here in DAMES, and here at Carolina?

I hope to increase my grasp of Japanese, do lots of research, and make connections with other people in the Carolina community.

There and Back Again: The Resurgence of Vietnamese at Carolina in DAMES

June 14, 2021

Exciting news, everyone! Vietnamese is back!

Vietnamese at Carolina: A Look Back

The last year DAMES offered Vietnamese classes prior to the upcoming fall semester was the 2005-2006 academic year. Once taught by Professor Emeritus Eric Henry, Vietnamese was eventually phased out of the curriculum as interest in the Chinese language program boomed and funds were rerouted to support that growing interest. Dr. Henry, who also taught Chinese, was compelled to devote his time to teaching Chinese language and content courses. His other courses about Vietnamese culture, like “The Social History of Popular Music in East Asia” and “Introduction to Vietnamese Culture through Music and Narrative,” became fond memories for alums of the program.

Dr. Henry retired in 2012. He still visits campus often, however, and maintains a steady presence at local cafes and coffee shops. He’d doubtless be delighted to know that Vietnamese is rekindling within the department, soon to enthrall a new generation of college students.

What’s next for Vietnamese?

Starting this fall, DAMES will be offering VIET 101 and, in the spring, VIET 102, both semesters of Elementary Vietnamese. Next fall we’ll also be offering VIET 203 (Intermediate Vietnamese) in tandem with Elementary Vietnamese, which means that anyone who starts taking Vietnamese in Fall 2021 will be able to take the courses necessary to fulfill their foreign language requirement.

After that, only the horizon awaits. As always, student enrollment, interest, and funding will determine the path forward for Vietnamese, and with luck, Dr. Henry will pay the new classes an occasional visit to provide invaluable wisdom for the program’s future success.