Presidential address of Mehrzad Boroujerdi, International Society for Iranian Studies, 22 Nov. 2014, Washington, DC
The text of the presidential address of Mehrzad Boroujerdi, delivered at the Annual General Meeting of the International Society for Iranian Studies, 22 November 2014, in Washington, DC.
Published on: Mar 4, 2016
Transcripts - Presidential address of Mehrzad Boroujerdi, International Society for Iranian Studies, 22 Nov. 2014, Washington, DC
President’s End-of-Term Report, 2012-2014
22 November 2014
For the last two years, I have had the honor of serving the International Society for Iranian
Studies as president. Leading a large and prestigious academic organization devoted to studying
Iranian history, culture and society came with a great deal of responsibilities -- but much joy
also. As a teacher and administrator prone to evaluation, I shall give myself a passing grade after
reflecting on the society's accomplishment during my term. The true credit, however, goes to the
membership for their unfailing support and to the various office-holders who worked tirelessly
behind the scenes. In particular, no one has been able to match the dedication of Rivanne
Sandler, our able Executive Director and Treasurer. Rivanne, it has been a pleasure and honor to
work with you these last two years.
I started my term as president promising myself to follow the footsteps of my predecessor,
Houchang Chehabi, who was astute enough to recognize that ISIS needed to become more
institutionalized. Houchang and I are both firm believers that the prime benefits of codifying our
rules and procedures are uniformity and transparency. As our society has become larger and
more diverse, codification has become an imperative (integral to our identity and strategy as an
institution). Toward that end, during my tenure we adopted written policies on the appointment
of honorary members and established guidelines for choosing the recipients of the Lifetime
Achievement Award and the newly launched Mehrdad Mashayekhi Award. Furthermore, a set of
bylaws for our journal, IRANIAN STUDIES, was drafted and approved by the vote of the ISIS
Another initiative was to have more substantial interaction with our members on the Internet.
Therefore, we revived the ISIS Newsletter (in electronic form) in June 2013 (after a nine-year
hiatus) and published three additional issues (Fall 2013, Summer 2014, Fall 2014). We also
managed to put online the entire archive of this newsletter spanning 35 years (1969-2004), in
addition to the Society’s biennial conference programs dating back to 1998. We created a new
Facebook page for the Society in May 2013, and it has so far been liked by over 1,900 people.
The Facebook page features a photo gallery section with past and present scholars of Iranian
Studies, and our website offers select videos of our Montreal conference. We made numerous
improvements to the website, such as listing past award recipients and former ISIS Presidents,
and facilitating online nominations for all awards. I thank Mirjam Kunkler and Pendar Yousefi
respectively for their work on the newsletter and the website.
A third concern was to insure the financial solvency of the organization through some belt-tightening,
increasing membership, and forging new partnerships. I am happy to report that
thanks to raising more than $57,000 from donors and sponsors to defray the expenses of our
biennial conference the Society is in good financial shape moving forward.
As I reported in the October 2014 newsletter, our society has now set a record for regular
membership (over 700). We currently enjoy a healthy mix of membership types (individual,
student, independent scholar, lifetime, and institutional), and the fact that 35% of our members
are students bodes well for the future vitality of our society. Soon after becoming president I
reached out to various universities and foundations to become institutional members of ISIS and
I am happy to report that the number of such members has increased from 6 to 23 during the last
two years. We also decided to properly recognize our honorary and lifetime members by putting
their names on our website (http://iranianstudies.com/membership/life-members). In recognition
of his substantial contribution to the field of Iranian Studies, ISIS bestowed honorary
membership on Professor Gilbert Lazard in November 2013.
II. Iranian Studies
Under the able editorship of Dr. Homa Katouzian, Iranian Studies continued to publish six issues
a year and has seen an improvement in its impact (determined based on the number of journal
articles cited in two previous years). During this time period, one assistant editor passed away
and another had to resign for personal reasons. However, equally qualified colleagues have now
replaced both. One initiative undertaken this year pertaining to the journal was to draft a set of by
laws. An ad hoc committee consisting of professors Touraj Atabaki, Ali Banuazizi, Rudi
Matthee, Rivanne Sandler, and Mohammad Tavakoli-Targhi was tasked to draft these. After
extensive discussions the bylaws were approved by the Council and will guide all future
activities of Iranian Studies. Moreover, after consulting with our publisher Taylor & Francis
about ways to improve the journal, we made the decision to switch to an online submission
process starting in 2015. We expect this new system to make the article submission and
publication process much more efficient and transparent. Finally, we will soon be signing a new
renewal contract with Taylor & Francis.
III. Biennial Conferences
Undoubtedly the most significant accomplishment of the last two years was the holding of our
Tenth Biennial Conference in Montreal from 6th to 9th August 2014. This was the second largest
conference in the history of our organization as over 400 participants-presenters from over 20
countries took part. To put this in perspective, consider the following fact. Ten years ago when
we met in Bethesda, Maryland our conference consisted of 45 panels and 202 presenters. In
Montreal, however, we had 100 panels and over 420 participants. In other words, a normal ISIS
conference is now double the size of what it was merely a decade ago. Beyond these impressive
numbers, what added to our sense of accomplishment was our ability to provide travel support to
a record number of graduate students and to attract ten prestigious academic and commercial
publishers (Brill, Cambridge, Harrassowitz, I.B. Tauris, Ilex, Iran Nameh, One World, Palgrave,
Routledge, Syracuse). Special thanks are due to our Program Chair, Marta Simidchieva, whose
extraordinary attention to detail enabled us to have a worry-free conference.
Our Eleventh Biennial Conference which will take place in Vienna, Austria from 2-5 August
2016 will surely enable us to expand our internationalization drive even more.
In 2014 we added a new dissertation award named after the late Mehrdad Mashayekhi (1953-
2012) in memory of his dedication to the cause of democracy and social justice in Iran.
Established by the Mehrdad Mashayekhi Foundation, this award is to be presented biannually to
the author of an exceptional Ph.D. dissertation dealing with the broad themes of politics and the
public sphere in Iran, written in any language. Speaking personally, this award is close to my
heart as Mehrdad was one of my closest friends for over three decades. It was only fitting that he
and twenty other scholars of Iranian studies who passed away over the course of the last few
years were commemorated with a special video tribute in Montreal. This touching video is now
available on the ISIS website.
The rapid expansion of our organization has substantially augmented the administrative
responsibilities of ISIS officials such as the President, Executive Director, Conference Chair, and
Webmaster. Our organization is clearly in need of full-time professional staff if it wishes to
engage in long-term strategic planning and improve member services. This will require a
reexamination of our vision and mission philosophy, a comprehensive SWOT (strength,
weakness, opportunity and threat) analysis, and, last but not least, a sustained fundraising
I wish my good friend, colleague, and successor, Touraj Atabaki, great success in the coming
years as he tackles these important issues and opportunities.