Shahrzad Shams Retirement

Submitted by Rick Aguilar on

In autumn 2022, Shahrzad Shams, a beloved professor of Persian language and culture and a greatly valued member of the Seattle Iranian community, retired after thirteen years of teaching and service. During this time, Shahrzad helped to build a robust Persian-language program and forged a strong connection with the Iranian-American community in Washington State.

Her years of community organization and cultural advocacy have made the Persian and Iranian Studies program (PISP) in the MELC department a model for public-facing engagement. Shahrzad has overseen the establishment of numerous initiatives at MELC, such as the Mo Habib Translation Prize in Persian Literature. Shahrzad continues her work as president of Peyvand, a non-profit organization that supports both PISP and broader immigrant communities in Washington State.

Shahrzad was hired as a part time instructor for the then NELC Department in December of 2009 to teach elementary Persian. By 2010, the number of students doubled. As a result, the department soon offered a second elementary class. Soon after, Sharhzad became full time faculty, single-handedly managing the Persian-language program. Shahrzad successfully petitioned the dean to create both second and third year Persian language classes. In 2011, Shahrzad helped revive the Persian and Iranian Studies advisory board with Prof. Joel Walker as its director.

She has served as the liaison between PISP and the community and played an instrumental role in bringing distinguished lecturers to campus and raising money for the program through numerous fundraising events. In 2015, Shahrzad chaired the Iran Film Initiative, having raised funds to bring four Iranian films and delegates to the Seattle International Film Festival. She helped to make the Nowruz celebrations a tradition at UW, marked by annual acknowledgement from the deans and the UW President. Shahrzad got her students engaged in poetry reading at the Seattle Poetry Workshop, run by Iraj Khademi. In 2019, Shahrzad co-founded Peyvand to support PISP.  Shahrzad has been nominated for the distinguished lecturer award twice during her years of teaching at the UW. 

MELC is deeply thankful for Shahrzad's exceptional service and teaching, looks forward to future collaborations with Peyvand, and wishes her a happy retirement.

Aria Fani