Did You Know? Spotlight on Iranian-American Student Organizations: Emory University

Iranian-American organizations at universities across the country flourish because of the young generation’s commitment and dedication to their heritage and communities. These communities are often started from the ground-up and require hard work and a strong love for Iranian culture. This can be seen no better than at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia through their Persian Cultural Association – the PCA. The PCA was inactive for several years before being re-chartered by students Anisa Hofert and Sana Matloub in late 2018. Sana, co-President of the PCA, is a senior majoring in Human Health and minoring in Persian Language and Literature.

Members of PCA with Emory’s Iranian Graduate Student Organization in 2019

As a member of the Iranian-American community, Sana felt it was necessary to have a cultural hub at her university. In the process of re-chartering the student organization, she spoke to Emory University’s student college council about the need for the cultural space. “Persians have a deep connection to their roots and when they are away from family it makes it hard to celebrate cultural events such as Nowruz. Persians just enjoy being around others and spreading [their] beautiful culture.” With tireless work from both Sana and Anisa to create the club, PCA was re-born. As the club is more involved and active than ever, the PCA holds monthly meetings where students meet and spend time together. Sana explains that members “watch Persian films, have chai, do homework, hold general body meetings, or [host] lectures (e.g. the Persian professor at Emory was willing to come in and lecture on calligraphy).” On a larger scale, the student group holds events to commemorate holidays like Nowruz. As the group has grown substantially over the past few years, their first Nowruz party was supposed to happen this Spring but was canceled due to pandemic.

Starting from scratch, the PCA highlights the Iranian-American community’s will and devotion to creating spaces for gatherings. While there are structural barriers, especially in smaller universities and smaller towns, this commitment to Persian culture is forever present. As Sana and Anisa highlighted, their university experience would not be the same without a Persian community. Though Sana is graduating in May, she feels hopeful about the PCA’s growth. Especially with the heartbreaking end that the pandemic has brought to many students’ spring semester, Sana still has hope for the group’s future. “I’m hopeful that PCA will grow next year and the years to come since we have raised so much money for large events [that should]attract more members to create a larger Persian community.” As evinced by the dedicated work of Iranian-American students at Emory University, this is only the start for PCA.

By Ariane Sharifi