Feature Stories 2023: Meet the UMassD Iranian Students and Scholars Association

Mechanical engineering student and ISSA founder Farnaz Feyli in the library
Feature Stories 2023: Meet the UMassD Iranian Students and Scholars Association
Meet the UMassD Iranian Students and Scholars Association

The Iranian Students and Scholars Association (ISSA) is building cross-cultural connections at UMassD.

Founded in October 2022, the Iranian Students and Scholars Association (ISSA) is building cross-cultural connections at UMassD. Their founder, mechanical engineering student Farnaz Feyli '23, explains what it means for the group to be part of the UMassD community.  

Meet ISSA Founder, Farnaz Feyli '23 

Farnaz completed her bachelor's degree in her native country of Iran. She then lived and worked in Denmark for 4 years as a mechanical engineer before coming to UMass Dartmouth for her master's degree. "I saw this as the 'land of opportunity' where I could pursue limitless experiences," she says.  

Farnaz works as a research assistant in the Fluid Structure Interactions (FSI) Lab with Assistant Professor Banafsheh Seyed-Aghazadeh. "We have such a good lab here in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. UMassD has provided a good path for me, opened up exciting opportunities, and prepared me to attend another top-ranked university for my PhD. I'm proud to be a member of this lab that produces high-value and high-level research."  

Farnaz was accepted to multiple PhD programs and will be attending Northeastern University in fall 2023.  

What's your favorite thing about UMassD? 

"The campus is very international, and there is a strong respect for diversity. Everyone is welcome. I love that a group as small as ours can feel like an important part of the community. For example, when Chancellor Fuller comments on our Instagram post and recognizes who we are, that makes me think, 'I'm in the right place.' 

"In another example, when we invited Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Kimberly Scott to our Nowruz (Persian New Year) celebration we weren't really expecting to hear back, but she replied right away. Not only did she attend our event, but she also emailed the entire campus community on our behalf. We had music and Persian food at the Grove; Arnie even came and took photos with us. Those moments make me happy I'm here and make me feel it was worth leaving everything familiar behind to come here." 


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Why was the Iranian Students and Scholars Association founded? 

"There are two main reasons. First, there are 12 Iranian faculty and 24 Iranian students at UMass Dartmouth. Most are engineering students, and one is in the College of Business. All are graduate students. We are so few, and many of us are far from our loved ones. Our families are back in Iran, and our visas don't allow us to leave the country and re-enter. It can be lonely at times. When our holidays come around and nothing is happening, we want someone to celebrate with. Creating this group gives a sense of community, home, and family on campus. 

"The other reason is that we want the opportunity to share our culture with the rest of the community. I appreciate all the American holidays and other cultural celebrations, and we want to contribute our own as well.  

"Our group now has 3 core missions: Promoting and sharing our culture with the campus community, supporting Iranian students who are new to UMassD, and providing a space to help Iranian students feel at home."  

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What has it been like starting a new student organization? 

"The opportunity to start something from a blank slate is very exciting. For me personally, managing the executive board and organizing events has been a learning experience. It has been challenging for me to reach out to people on campus for help or support. But I remind myself that nothing bad will happen if I hear 'no,' and I just might get a 'yes!'" 

What is something you would like the rest of the campus community to know? 

"Iran has a rich history that is thousands of years old. We post about Iranian literature, language, art, and culture on our Instagram to share things about the country's history, but also about the great things successful people from Iran are doing on a global level today."  

Cooperation, not competition 

"One of the challenges of starting ISSA is that we are few and we are new! We have small resources but big motivation. So, we decided to collaborate with other organizations on campus to expand our reach. We've decided to work together instead of competing against each other. For example, we joined up with the Popcorn Society to have a movie night showing Iranian films with English subtitles. By working together with other groups, we all benefit." 

Find ISSA on Instagram @umassd_issa