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The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) has a long history of academic exchange with Iran. Ernest L. Bogart, the prominent Head of the Department of Economics in the 1920s and 1930s, assisted the Persian Government in 1922-23. By the 1960s, many UIUC faculty members were engaged in research on Iran, and a large number of Iranian students were attending the University at various levels. This led to the establishment of the University's Tehran Research Unit in 1965, which greatly facilitated the exchange of faculty and students between UIUC and Iranian universities.  Since that time, dozens of Iranian scholars have served as faculty members at the university and have maintained the tradition of research exchange with Iran. Also, hundreds of Iranian Ph.D. students have been trained at the UIUC.

Daily Illini, November 29, 1938

Head of the Department of Economics, UIUC, 1920-1938,

President of the American Economic Association, 1931,
Member of Persian-American Association,

Advisor to Iran Government, 1922-23


UIUC and Iran

By Hadi Salehi Esfahani

Tehran Research Unit

By Minoo Archer

The core plan for setting up an office as a link (or liaison) between the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) and the University of Tehran started in the mid-1960s at the UIUC in connection with the research of the pioneer psycholinguist, Charles E. Osgood. His project involved almost all major language-cultures accessible to researchers in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. At the same time, Joseph McVicker Hunt, another prominent psychologist at UIUC, was pursuing a research project involving language acquisition in orphanage children in the same regions. Considering the vastness of the distance, it was decided that having a "Field Office" closer to the East would be helpful, especially if it facilitated the collaboration of UIUC departments with their counterparts in those countries. Of the several locations under consideration, for a variety of reasons the University of Tehran was eventually deemed more favorable. Since both projects were related to psychology, the "Field Office" was located in the Department of Psychology, which was in a separate area from the main campus of the University of Tehran. After many meetings with different committees, professors, and administrators at both universities, the "Field Office" was formally established in 1965 and named the Tehran Research Unit.

My husband, William K. Archer, became the first Director of the Unit in early 1966. Smoothing out all the wrinkles and dealing with numerous bureaucratic agencies, even then, was not easy. One of Osgood's International conferences was held in Raamsar. Getting visas for the invited members from the Eastern European countries proved a nightmare! From Feb. 1966 to Sep. 1972 we were in Tehran.

In the late 1960s, when Dr. Mofidi became the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Tehran, he suggested a mirror arrangement at the UIUC. Under that agreement, new names were chosen to distinguish between the two offices. Tehran Illinois Research Unit (TIRU) in Tehran, and Illinois Tehran Research Unit (ITRU) in Urbana-Champaign. After that, a number of Iranian professors and administrators spent their sabbaticals in Illinois. Many UIUC faculty members in different departments also developed research projects related to Iran and carried them out with support from the TIRU.

Before long, the program generated interest at other universities in Iran resulting in similar collaboration. Not only many Iranian students received their Ph.D.s from this university, but some UIUC doctoral candidates did their research in Iran. Many M.A. students of the UIUC’s graduate program in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) did their practical portion of the degree by teaching the Iranian students at the University of Tehran under the supervision of UIUC professors. They also took courses in Farsi while they lived in Iran.

The Unit was closed down in 1978 following the Islamic Revolution in Iran. A list of the activities of the TIRU and ITRU in the 1960s and 1970s can be found here.

A list of the activities of the Tehran Research Unit in the 1960s and 1970s can be found here.


William Kay Archer

Director of Tehran Research Unit 1966-1972

Member of Society for Ethnomisocilogy in the 1960s and 1970s

Memorial Citation of W.K Archer by Bruno Nettl

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