Welcome! Here you'll learn more about me and my work, my recent articles and books, and how to get in touch with me.

I am currently the President of the University of La Verne. My approach to higher education has been informed by my personal journey as an Iranian-American woman growing up in the U.S., as well as my training as an anthropologist.

I have focused my academic career on diversity, inclusion, human trafficking, migration, sexuality, human rights, feminism and public health.

Latest works

Book of Queens: The True Story of the Middle Eastern Horsewomen Who Fought the War on Terror

The untold story of generations of Middle Eastern freedom fighters—horsewomen who safeguarded an ancient breed of Caspian horse—and their efforts to defend their homelands from the Taliban and others seeking to destroy them. "A breathtaking book that revisits nearly one hundred years of Iranian history, highlighting the power and beauty of women who refuse to be subdued.” ―Alison Hawthorne Deming, author of A Woven World Book of Queens reaches back centuries to the Persian Empire and a woman disguised as a man, facing an invading army, protected only by light armor and the stallion she sat astride. Mahdavi draws a thread from past to present: from her fearless Iranian grandmother, who guided survivors of domestic violence to independent mountain colonies in Afghanistan where the women, led by a general named Mina, became their country’s first line of defense from marauding warlords. To the female warriors who helped train and breed the horses used by US Green Berets when they touched down in October 2001, with a mission but insufficient intelligence on the ground—women whose contributions were then forgotten.

Opinion: DeSantis' defunding of diversity programs threatens college life as we know it

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill Monday that promises to defund diversity, equity and inclusion programs at public colleges throughout the state. The bill has drawn criticism from policymakers and free speech advocates, and it also raises concern from higher education administrators like me. Without these programs, graduates will be less prepared to enter the workforce.


What would creativity look like if it were part of the resistance? In Iran today we are seeing how a series of creative sparks have ignited a revolution that is unfolding in real time on the streets of Iran. For months, the world has been watching with bated breath as the murder of a young woman at the hands of the morality police spurred an outpouring of resistance on the streets of Iran, with dissenters communicating their politics through song, art, poetry, and fashion, and in many cases, being punished for it. Hundreds have died in the ongoing protests whose slogan “women, life, freedom” has caught fire around the world. And as their defiant and creative activism continues, the world watches as creativity sparks a revolution to unseat one of the world’s most elusive regimes.

TEDxURI 2023: The Creative Spark - April 1, 2023

Pardis will be speaking at the TEDxURI 2023: The Creative Spark Event hosted by The University of Rhode Island April 1, 2023 1-3 p.m. Edwards Hall 64 Upper College Road Kingston, Rhode Island TEDxURI brings big ideas to the world stage through the inspirational voices of our community and beyond, and our speakers challenge us to think bigger than ourselves, participate in shaping the future, and do our part in protecting the planet. TEDxURI 2023 theme is all about sharing inspirational, enlightening stories about creativity and the creative spark that started it all. Creativity is everywhere in the human experience. It is not a skill reserved solely for artists and designers. It is a skill that is useful to everybody, no matter what you do or where your passions lie. Developing, nurturing and sharing our creative spark is more important than ever.

Women, Life, Freedom: Inside Iran's New Revolution - Pardis Mahdavi

It has been over four months since Mahsa Amini's death under suspicious circumstances in Tehran. Arrested for allegedly not wearing the hijab, her death activated wide-spread protests across Iran. Despite brutal pushback from the Iranian regime, the protestors, including women and girls, did not back down. They continue to seek new ways to speak their truth and to speak out against the regime. Drawing on over two decades of research on sexual politics in Iran, as well as her personal experiences at the hands of the morality police, Pardis Mahdavi, professor of anthropology and provost and executive vice president at the University of Montana, will give a front-row seat to the dramatic changes happening in Iran today.

Women. Life. Freedom. Film Screening

Please join the Pepperdine Graziadio Institute for Entertainment, Media, and Sports and the Center for Women in Leadership for an exclusive screening of the documentary short Women. Life. Freedom. followed by a roundtable discussion led by filmmaker Poppy Farsijani (MBA '10) and a reception to support Iranian Women. Special guests include Provost and Executive Vice President at the University of Montana, Pardis Mahdavi, PhD, Iranian-American comedian, actor, producer, and director, Max Amini, and Mehrdad Bahri, the 1st U.S. Iranian reporter to travel internationally to cover and send live reports from inside Team Melli’s Base Camp. As an investigative journalist, author, and former female reporter in the Middle East, Poppy Farsijani (MBA '10) zooms in on the human rights violations being committed by the Islamic Regime against their female athletes and all those who support them with her first documentary, Women. Life. Freedom. Stand in solidarity with Iranian women and imprisoned Iranian athletes.

How US universities can future-proof skills education to boost graduate employability

Offering microcredentials, “backward-designed” courses focused on skills, and embedding the latest technologies into curricula can help universities nurture job-ready graduates for the future workforce. Experts from academia and industry joined a recent Times Higher Education round table, held in partnership with Adobe, to discuss methods of adapting skills education to create more employable US college graduates.

Temple University Press: Transformations Books Series

With a focus on narrative storytelling, the Transformations Books series explores issues of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion as shaped by the lived experiences of authors and grounded in specific locations domestically and globally. Taking geography and justice as broad mapping coordinates, these short, elegant books of 25,000 to 30,000 words engage a cross-section of popular and scholarly readers with powerful, compelling moments of change—exploring all the pain, joy, promise

Decoding Protest Fashion in Iran

When Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, stepped off the train this past September for her vacation in Tehran, she wore a loose, black chiffon headscarf with five strands of hair showing. The hair was a statement—the five strands symbolizing bold defiance of the regime, en route to a removal of the headscarf altogether. She chose a deep red gloss to cover her lips, a decision that seemed to foreshadow the bloodshed that came next. Within minutes, she was taken aside by the Guidance Patrol

What to Know About Iran's Morality Police

In 2007, Pardis Mahdavi was 13 minutes into her lecture at a university in Tehran about gender and sexuality in post-revolutionary Iran when the morality police stormed through the auditorium doors. “Pandemonium erupted. I was…pulled off stage. I was frozen in a state of suspended animation and…turned to look at one of them who had raised a hand and then I blacked out,” Mahdavi says. Iranian authorities charged Mahdavi, who is provost of the University of Montana, with trying to foment a revolut

Protests continue over the death of Mahsa Amini

A tragic loss of life has sparked a nation to demand their basic human rights following decades of strict laws. Town Square with Ernie Manouse airs at 3 p.m. CT. Tune in on 88.7FM, listen online or subscribe to the podcast. Join the discussion at 888-486-9677, questions@townsquaretalk.org or @townsquaretalk. For a month now, protests have raged on in Iran following the brutal death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini by the morality police for allegedly failing to meet the requirements of the country's

Iranian women have been rebelling against restrictions since the Islamic Revolution in 1979 – with renewed hope that protests this time will end differently

Shouts of “death to the dictator” and “woman, life, freedom” are reverberating throughout the streets of Iran following the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman, while in custody of the “morality police” in Tehran. These protests have echoes from past resistance movements. For the past two decades I have been studying gender and sexual politics in post-revolutionary Iran through on-the-ground ethnographic fieldwork. For some 40 years following the Feb. 11, 1979, Iranian Revolution, when Ay

Opinion | When Iran’s morality police came for me

Audience members ran every which way. I should have been shredding my lecture notes, running from the lectern into the nearby street. But the sight of a dozen bearded men in dark green uniforms rooted me to the floor. Two of the thugs climbed the steps to the stage; one raised his hand above my head, and then everything went black. When I came to, in the back seat of a car, their voices reverberated in my aching skull. “You are a ruined woman who is here to ruin our country,” one growled at me.

26: Hyphen (with Pardis Mahdavi) – Because Language

It joins, it divides. It’s disappearing in some places, but it’s stronger than ever in others. For this episode, we’re talking to Professor Pardis Mahdavi, author of Hyphen, an exploration of identity and self as it concerns this confounding little mark. We couldn’t do what we do without the support of our patrons! They give us show ideas, valuable feedback, and the wherewithal to provide transcripts for all our shows. Become a Patreon supporter yourself and get access to bonus episodes and mo

"Hell on Earth": Feminist Lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh Returned to Iran's Qarchak Prison

Nasrin’s family, her advocates, and Nasrin herself won’t be silenced. On Wednesday, as celebrations erupted around the world in response to the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, Nasrin Sotoudeh, the Iranian human rights attorney, was quietly moved back to Qarchak women’s prison—known as one of the worst and most harrowing carceral institutions in the world—after a brief respite in the hospital where she was seeking medical care. While Jan. 20, 2021 was a lar

Young women and children particularly vulnerable to Taliban violence

As we continue to monitor the situation in Afghanistan, many are concerned about the safety of women and young children in the country. Taliban fighters are notorious for taking young women, particularly as their brides. Dean Pardis Mahdavi is the head of social sciences at ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and has family connections in Afghanistan—we talked about the ordeal earlier.
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