Celebrating 1396 and the University of Rochester’s Persian Club

Celebrating 1396 and the University of Rochester’s Persian Club
Nikki at exhibit

Nikki Rezania standing beside the New Year’s Haftsin table. 3/23/17

me with cookies

Photo: Nikki

Spending time at the University of Rochester’s Rush Rhees Library means feasting on an ever replenished smorgasbord of historical, philosophical, literary, visual — and edible — delights.

Last Thursday was a perfect example when the Persian Club held a celebration of the New Year, 1396, in the Hawkins-Carlson Room.  To my good fortune, about 100 members of the University of Rochester Persian community and friends were serving traditional cookies, treats, tea and entertaining us with ethnic dances from various regions of Iran.

treats on flag

Traditional Persian candies in box representing a mosque.

The Club Co-Founder and VP of Publicity Nikki Rezania explained what I was seeing.  As Nikki says, the fundamental purpose of URPARS is to celebrate and share the rich history of Persian culture and to shed light on how relevant the culture actually is to the Western world as well. Growing up, Nikki always found that her history books did not give the Persian Empire the recognition it truly deserves. She recalls reading pages on pages about the contributions from the Roman and Greek Empires to human civilization, while only a small paragraph was dedicated to the Persians. This in part inspired her to start URPARS.

Nikki says starting the club was not an easy process; it was a long, but comical, journey. Through social media, Nikki became acquainted with another Persian U of R student, Ali, the summer before entering her freshman year, and they contemplated starting a Persian student organization. Once she set foot on campus, her “Persian radar” kicked in. Nikki attracted some of her first members by simply overhearing a Farsi conversation in the Starbucks on campus. After immediately recognizing her language, she rushed over to the group of students and introduced herself. The Persian students were slightly taken aback by the eager freshman who didn’t look Persian.


Left to right: Yasaman’s mother, Yasaman (President of URPARS), and her sister Maneli.

Nikki’s radar continued to pull in more and more members as she persistently scouted out as many seemingly Persian students she could find. With time, URPARS finally became an established student organization at the U of R. URPARS is currently comprised of both undergraduate and graduate students, including faculty of the medical and dental schools.

At the New Year’s celebration, Nikki was quick to express her love of traditional Persian culture.  Nikki was raised in Chicago by her parents who came to the United States before and shortly after the Iranian Revolution of 1979.  In Chicago, Nikki, was immersed in the food, music, and humor that comprise Persian culture.  As she says, her dad taught her the proud history of her origins almost as soon as she was out of the womb.

nikki with flags

Nikki under the Iranian flag (top, middle) in Hirst Lounge in Wilson Commons.

Nikki learned that the Persian king Cyrus the Great (559 – 530 B.C.) codified the doctrine of human rights, written in cuneiform on baked-clay tablets.  In 1971, The UN hailed it as the first charter of Human Rights in the world.  The Cyrus Cylinder served as a model for religious tolerance in a multi-national state, inspiring many political thinkers, such as Thomas Jefferson when writing the US Constitution of 1787.  Her father also regaled her with stories of famous Persian women who ruled domains and won battles in Ancient times.

When we went to for a photo-op of Nikki under the Iranian flag in Hirst Lounge in Wilson Commons, I asked her what constitutes being Persian today. To be Persian means to carry with you centuries of mathematicians, Sufi poets, and polymaths like Avicenna. For Nikki, another defining characteristic of Persians is excessive hospitality and generosity. This notion in Farsi is called “tarof.”  Nikki remembers dinners at local Chicago restaurants where her father and uncle would heatedly insist on picking up the check — even bickering in the bathroom.  This generosity was on display in the Hawkins-Carlson Room as we we loaded up on the cookies and tea.

On Persian humor

Debut of “This Iranian-American Life” at Boulder Cafe


2016 Rochester Open a smash hit at the Robert B. Goergen Athletic Center. And the debut of ZOOM.

Red Ryder, The Stockholm Syndrome and a glimpse inside the University of Rochester Theater Community

Score one for love at Meliora Weekend

Envoyé de mon at Meliora Weekend

Fur is not yet dead at the University of Rochester

Print is not dead yet at the University of Rochester

As the University of Rochester’s Fauver Stadium moves forward, its rich football tradition lives on

For you, Talker buys the D & C digital archives. And Noam Chomsky

Celebrating 40 years of BOA editions in the Rush Rhees Friedlander Lobby. And W. D. Snodgrass’ The Führer Bunker

Imaginary languages made real at the University of Rochester

Blessing the Boats and a statue where history was made at Edgerton Park

“What would Dr. Lasagna do?” Abby Glogower displays the thoughts and life of a humanist scientist at the University of Rochester

In search of “Progressive Rock” in the mid-70s at Brighton High School with the University of Rochester’s John Covach

Bringing back the mid 19th Century at the University of Rochester. Nanotechnology meets local history

“Ring out, Wild Bells”

From Daphne with love

What the new East will and will not be

Promoting Wellness through softball at the URMC

A personal tour of the URMC during Meliora Weekend with Dr. Ruth Lawrence, URMS ’49. And still on the active faculty.

In search of Julie Andrews at the George Hoyt Whipple Museum

About The Author


Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


Like what you see on our site? We’d appreciate your support. Please donate today.

Featured Posts