The Center for Middle East and Islamic Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is participating in Connecting Carolina Classrooms with the World (CCCW), an initiative launched by the Office of the Vice Provost of Global Affairs in May 2020, in collaboration with the College of Arts & Sciences. The initiative creates a wider portfolio of global education opportunities for all Carolina students. As a result, the Center for Middle East and Islamic Studies currently supports faculty seeking to incorporate virtual collaboration with colleagues at universities in the Middle East.
Dr. Claudia Yaghoobi, Roshan Institute Associate Professor in Persian Studies in the Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at UNC, received support to internationalize two courses in the fall semester: ASIA/CMPL 258 Iranian Prison Literature, and ASIA/CMPL 256 Love in Classical Persian Poetry. In both courses, UNC students collaborated with students enrolled in similar classes at Shiraz University (Shiraz, Iran) and Shahid Beheshti University (Tehran, Iran). Collaborative efforts in these courses included group projects in blended groups of American and Iranian students, moderated asynchronous discussion posts, as well as communication outside of the classroom through different apps.
The course on Iranian Prison Literature focused on Iranian literature written in prisons or about prisoners, particularly under the Islamic Republic. Throughout the semester, students read novels and watched films on the topics of social justice, human rights, and the judiciary system in Iran. “The collaboration with Iranian faculty and students allowed us to explore the judicial system and social justice, particularly the current protests regarding racism in the U.S. to provide students with a rare comparative perspective,” Dr. Yaghoobi shared. In the latter half of the semester, students engaged in a collaborative project to conduct research and present a comparative view of social and political injustices in both the United States and Iran.
In the course on Classical Persian Poetry, UNC students collaborated with their Iranian peers to practice poetry recitation in Persian. The students also worked together to write lines of poetry in Persian calligraphy. The activities allowed for peer-to-peer conversations about poetry, culture, and other shared interests that would have otherwise been hard to come by. A student in the course reflected, “We met with the Iranian students a few times outside of class time – they were really helpful in teaching us how to recite and write our poems.”
The Connecting Carolina Classrooms with the World initiative will continue to open doors for UNC students beyond the pandemic. “Since we do not have a study abroad program in Iran, I strongly believe that this was a rare and unique experience for my students,” Dr. Yaghoobi reflected. “This collaborative teaching allowed me to provide my students with the “humanity” of Iran rather than what they see on news or social media. They have made friends with Iranian youth and are excited to maintain their friendships.”
Abdulrahman Sarsour ’24