SF State announces $5 million gift to establish the Center for Iranian Diaspora Studies

A black and white image of a smiling Neda Nobari

"Mass migration is one of the most pressing global challenges of the 21st century," says SF State alumna and Iranian-American philanthropist Neda Nobari.  

Center to explore impact of mass migration through arts & culture

San Francisco State University has received a $5 million gift from alumna and Iranian-American philanthropist Neda Nobari to establish the Center for Iranian Diaspora Studies (CIDS).

This endowment establishes SF State as an academic pioneer in the field of Iranian diaspora research. Under the leadership of the Neda Nobari Distinguished Chair, CIDS will 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. 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 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.

"This generous gift from Neda Nobari will have an enormous impact on the University's mission to prepare globally minded students for the 21st century, and we are honored to launch the first center of its kind," said SF State President Les Wong. "The Center will prepare a new generation of policy makers, business leaders, artists and cultural ambassadors to effectively understand and engage with people of Iranian heritage. San Francisco State University is the perfect home for such a bold initiative since it represents a very diverse community and has a legacy of supporting progressive, innovative and under-studied fields."

"Mass migration is one of the most pressing global challenges of the 21st century," said Nobari. "It's also an opportunity to learn. Nearly 37 years have passed since the Iranian Revolution and migration of Iranians across the globe. The diversity of these cross-national communities and their cultural evolution provides a window for scholarship and research into their impact on the Iranian socio-cultural identity and the relationship between individuals and different communities around the world. This center will be a catalyst for understanding and studying the Iranian diaspora in the larger global context."

Nobari emigrated from Iran to the United States in 1978 at the age of 15. She graduated from SF State in 1984 with a bachelor's degree in computer science and earned a master's degree in liberal studies from Dartmouth College in 2015. Her graduate research at Dartmouth focused on the intersection of diaspora and cultural identity of Iranian-American women. From 1985 to 2006, Nobari served as the director and vice chair of bebe stores, Inc. After transitioning away from the for-profit sector, she established the Neda Nobari Foundation. As founder and president, Nobari guides the private foundation in supporting organizations and initiatives associated with the arts, film and education in service of social justice and cultural awareness. In addition to her philanthropic support, Nobari also serves on the board of directors of the San Francisco State University Foundation.