Education – News and Events

UC administrators return from successful trip to Iran

May 04, 2004
Originally found at http://www.californiaaggie.com/article/?id=4036

By LISA BO FENG
Aggie Staff Writer


Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef discusses the positive reception of the UC Davis delegation, which recently visited Iran. The group intended to help increase student exchange with Iran.

Back from a weeklong tour of Iranian universities, the six-member delegation of senior UC Davis administrators held a press conference Monday to share highlights of their trip and detail plans to expand relations with the country’s universities.

Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef said the trip was a “fruitful first step” toward re-establishing collaboration between UCD and Iranian universities such as the Sharif University of Technology and the University of Tehran.

Vanderhoef said the delegation was treated “warmly and graciously by adults and with curiosity by children.” He noted social issues such as unemployment, terrorism and gender disparities. However, women in Iranian universities are “just as prevalent as men.”

He said travel visas are the “biggest problem” in beginning the collaboration process, due to tense relations between the United States and Iran.

Since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, visas to visit either country have been difficult to obtain. UCD’s trip was facilitated by Mohammad Mohanna, a Sacramento businessman and member of the UCD Foundation Board.

“A return to normalcy may start by removing barriers of academic exchange,” Vanderhoef said.

Agricultural and technological similarities between Iran and California, as well as the quality of Iranian scholars were what made the visit important, he said.

Neal Van Alfen, dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, said access to the rich array of genetically diverse plants that grow in the Iranian wilderness would assist research to develop plants with more health benefits. Alfen also noted similarities in climate, crop growth, irrigation and environmental issues.

Another objective of the visit was to reconnect with UCD alumni in Iran.

UCD alumni in Iranian universities are “easily the best ambassadors for the country,” Vanderhoef said.

According to Bob Kerr, director of International Visitors and Alumni, about 75 to 100 UCD alumni currently reside in Iran. Bill Lacy, vice provost of University Outreach and International Programs, has said that there are 10 to 12 alumni who hold faculty positions at Sharif University of Technology.

However, Lacy said he was concerned that UC leadership in Iranian universities would decrease as visas become more difficult to obtain.

Vanderhoef said he would like to establish a “2 and 2 program” in which Iranian students can spend two years in their home university and two at a UC campus. He said he hopes the initial two-year period in Iran would allow for visas to process.

Another possibility would be a summer study program for UC students in Iran. Vanderhoef said that he would present updates as the process continues.

Mohanna, a naturalized Iranian, said he was proud to be a part of the delegation.

“These men have courage to step forward on a road that was less traveled,” he said. The group was the “most significant delegation to go to Iran since the revolution.”