About the Tehran Research Unit

By Fouri 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 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 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 on 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 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.