Wednesday, November 15 was anything but boring for Chase students in grades 8-12. Instead of the normal daily routine, students spent the day deeply immersed in Iranian culture and history as part of this year’s International Day celebration. The day began with three one-hour breakout sessions covering topics from a wide range of disciplines including Iranian style wrestling, traditional music, Ancient Persia, US-Iranian Relations, Backgammon, and poetry.
Chase Alumna Nicole Haghpanah ’12, a recent graduate of the University of Connecticut, played a critical role in this year’s festivities. During her time at UCONN, Nicole, who presently resides in California, was instrumental in bringing courses in Farsi, the predominant language in Iran, to the University. Nicole grew up in a bilingual Farsi and English household and rose to the role of President of the UCONN Iranian Student Association, an organization that focuses on sharing the Iranian culture with the broader university community.
As President of the association, Nicole noticed that although understanding Farsi has become increasingly relevant in today’s global political climate, the University of Connecticut’s Critical Language Program did not offer the language as a course option. After a year of petitioning various professors, fundraising through the club and educating the school community on the importance of having the language present on campus, Nicole received word that the University would be allocating space for a for-credit language course in Farsi.
When Upper School History teacher and International Day coordinator, Jim Wigren saw a post Nicole shared celebrating the new language program, he reached out to see if she would be interested in assisting with this year’s International Day. Nicole was eager to help out and jumped at the chance to return to Chase to share the culture she loves with current highlanders.
As part of her role in the day’s festivities, Nicole was able to connect Mr. Wigren with esteemed University of Connecticut Professor, Fakreddin Azimi, who agreed to assist with the day. Azimi, who teaches numerous courses pertaining to Iranian History and is a Fellow of the Yale University Iran Colloquium, brought a team of graduate students (many of whom are also affiliated with the Iranian Student Association) with him to take part in educating Chase kids during breakout sessions.
Following the breakout sessions, Chase was honored to have esteemed, internationally known, US-Iranian relations expert, Dr. Trita Parsi. The award-winning author shared his experiences and expertise with students during an enlightening keynote speech. Capping off the immersive experience, a tasty Persian lunch was served by Iranian-born chefs from Greenleaf Caterers LLC , allowing students to enjoy one of the most important aspects of any culture, the food!
Chase Kids and Faculty who participated in this year’s International Day 2017 relished the experience of being immersed in a culture different than their own and owe a debt of gratitude to Nicole Hagpanahb’12, Jim Wigren and the numerous volunteer educators who worked tirelessly to spread the rich culture and storied history of Iran.
Check out photos from International Day 2017 here!