About Mitra Ara


(415) 338-3121


Associate Professor

Additional Title: 

Founding Director of Persian Studies


Foreign Languages & LitCollege of Liberal and Creative Arts


Humanities (HUM)



At SF State Since:



          Dr. Mitra Ara is Associate Professor of Persian and Iranian Studies and Founding Director of the Persian Studies Program in the College of Liberal & Creative Arts at San Francisco State University. As a cultural historian, she lectures in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, and Middle East Studies program where she teaches cultures of the Persianate Societies, both ancient and modern, in addition to the Asian and ancient Iranian religions including the minorities’ traditions.

          She received her B.A. in Religious Studies, her M.A. in South Asian studies, and her Ph.D. in Asian studies from the University of California, Berkeley, with a concentration on the religions and languages of West Asia. Her research interests include Indo-Iranian cultures, mythology, cosmology, and eschatology. In addition to her philanthropic efforts, her research interests have taken her all over the globe. She is an artist, photographer, translator, and single author of the books entitled Eschatology in the Indo-Iranian Traditions: The Genesis and Transformation of a Doctrine; A Lexicon of the Persian Language of Shiraz; Systematic Guide to Reading and Writing Persian Language; Quatrains of Omar Khayyam, Astronomer-Poet of Persian: Metamorphosis of Nothingness; Do You See What I See (Volumes I & II); and Ancient Roots of Creation and Afterlife Beliefs, in addition to various articles, conference presentations, workshops, colloquies, and public speaking.

          By establishing the first multidisciplinary Persian Studies Minor program in the entire California State University system, Dr. Ara hopes to provide a uniquely designed resource for understanding, studying, and appreciating Persian cultural heritage. This minor program allows students and faculty to explore Persian and Iranian history, languages, literatures, arts, and cultures in all its manifestations, and expose students to a broadly defined vision that spans and includes the diverse geographic and the linguistic landscape of both historic and modern Persian societies including Afghanistan, Iran, and Tajikistan.

          She was the recipient and principle investigator of grants from various US institutions including Department of Education, Parsa Community Foundation, Startalk, and Strategic Language Initiative, for establishing and expanding the Persian Studies program at California State University, San Francisco State University.

          In 2011, she was the faculty recipient of the Office of International Program Special Recognition Award for Outstanding Contributions, Support and Service to the International Student Community. In the same year, she was the recipient of the Strategic Language Initiative Consortium Special Award for Leadership, Dedication, and Excellence. In 2012, she was awarded the Certificate of Appreciation for Teaching and Mentorship by the Institute of International Education. In 2020, she was selected by the faculty honors and awards committee to receive the College of Liberal & Creative Arts’ Distinguished Faculty Award for Excellence in Service, at San Francisco State University.

She is currently serving on various academic boards including SF State’s Academic Senate Committee; Curriculum Review & Appeal Committee; and the Advisors Committee of the Society for Asian Art.