Iran Dialogue Initiative (IDI)

About this Program

IDI’s mission is to facilitate educational dialogue and exchange between Tufts University students and students at the School for International Relations (SIR) in Tehran. This is a non-polemical and non-political initiative. In 2004, IDI organized the first official U.S. university visit to Iran since the 1979 revolution, where ten Tufts students spent two weeks traveling through Iran and meeting with their peers at SIR as well as at Mofid, a religious university in Qom.

Why Iran: Rationale

Iran's 1979 revolution severed all government ties, as well as most non-governmental ties, between Iran and the United States. Twenty-five years later, the countries and their people still know little of each other, allowing room for stereotypes, misperceptions, and misrepresentations. As the U.S. seeks to broaden its engagement in the Middle East, Iran will be a pivotal player. Building bridges between peoples from Iran and America on issues ranging from politics to music, from public health to education, and exploring avenues of fostering greater understanding between both peoples will be important to both countries. Our current status as Iranian students at Tufts University presents us with a unique opportunity to expose our fellow Tufts' peers to the realities of contemporary Iran, beginning with an annual trip to Iran (the pilot trip to Iran concluded in June 2004).

As part of the Tufts student group -- New Initiative for Middle East Peace NIMEP) -- the Iranian Dialogue Initiative derives from NIMEP's goals of being a resource and model for progressive research, discussion, and engagement with the Middle East; creating a vibrant educational environment, reflective of NIMEP's diverse student constituency, that is conducive to respectful intellectual exchange; and providing students with unique opportunities for rigorous, immersive, and experiential education.

In the short-term, the goals of IDI are:

  • to offer Tufts students, both undergraduate and graduate, the opportunity to experience Iran first hand and engage with various players in Iranian society, including academics, students, politicians, journalists, artists, and medical professionals through the pilot trip to Iran
  • to provide a collective cross-cultural experience
  • to have each Tufts student pursue a distinct research topic on Iran
  • to create formal and informal networks for beginning a long-term relation between students, institutions and non-government organizations
  • to have the Tufts students return to the campus prepared to incorporate a new perspective from Iran into our campus dialogue, through their independent research and post-trip campus events, such as community outreach projects and speaker series on cutting-edge issues related to Iran and US-Iran relations.

While, as a student initiative, IDI's long term goals will evolve from the trip feedback and the contributions of students in both the US and Iran, some possibilities based on our discussions in Iran include:

  • inviting a select group of students from Iran to Tufts in spring 2005 to participate in events organized by the Institute for Global Leadership, including the Education for Public Inquiry and International Citizenship (EPIIC) program and NIMEP events
  • creating an interactive web site to enhance the dialogue process and to serve as a platform for students to exchange research ideas, resources and to coordinate on joint field work
  • linking faculty and researchers in Iran with counterparts in the United States who have common areas of research, particularly on international relations, water resource management, environmental economics, and community health
  • designing and instructing a Tufts' Experimental College course in spring 2005 for students interested in participating in the 2005 trip; the curriculum could be designed in cooperation with Iranian and Tufts faculty
  • expanding the initiative to involve undergraduate and graduate students from other U.S. universities