The 7th global reunion of Sharif University of Technology Association (SUTA), with over 250 delegates coming from all across the World, has been jointly held with Shiraz University Association (SUA) in Ottawa from 13th to 15th of July 2012. The delegates have arrived from Canada, the USA, Iran, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and Australia. This was the second time that the two associations had some collaboration on their reunions; the first instance of this collaboration was in 2000 in San Diego, California, where the two associations had their reunions simultaneously and shared the venue (but were separate in all functions). The 2012 reunion in Ottawa, Ontario is the first time that the two organizations actually have a joint reunion, as all functions were common among the two associations, except for the AGMs.
The two organizations decided to join their efforts in having a joint reunion back in August 2011, on a proposal of SUTA’s Senior Adviser, and longtime SUTA veteran, Dr. Fredun Hojabri, and consequent approval of the two boards of directors.
Ottawa has been chosen among a few cities that have been nominated for the site of this reunion, based on its attractions, its proximity to centers where the associations’ members reside, the perception of comparatively easier visa process for those traveling from Iran, and the access to a pool of volunteer resources to run the reunion. While the two associations’ boards of directors were legally responsible for the reunion, an Organizing Committee (OC) of local volunteers has also been set up, as of late 2011, to take care of all the details of the event planning.
2.1 Opening Ceremony
Reunion of SUTA-SUA 2012 officially started with the National anthems of Iran and Canada. Mr. Mahdavi, the president of the Organizing Committee, started the session by welcoming all guests and alumni members. He presented a brief summary of the organizing committee work before and during the reunion and introduced the key members of his committee. His introductory speech led to a short welcome address by Mr. Ramin Behzadi, the vice president of SUTA, followed by a welcome video from SUTA president, Mr. Farrokh Malihi. Likewise, Dr. Farideh Tehrani, SUA President, came to stage to welcome alumni members.
The opening ceremony then continued by a speech from Professor Fazlollah Reza, former president of SUT. During his speech, cultural and social attributes of Iran were discussed. He also focused on Iranian professionals, especially those living in foreign countries.
2.2 Technical talks
The program continued on Saturday morning and then on Sunday morning by the following technical talks:
Dr. Hamid Jorjani talked about “Culture and Innovation”;
Dr. Hamid Mostaghaci made his presentation on “A Smart Grid Vision-Innovation in Energy Industry”;
Mr. Hossein Amanat gave a talk on “Contemporary Architecture and Legacy of Persian Past” with some memories of the foundation of Sharif University of Technology (formerly known as Aryamehr University of Technology), and the Azadi Tower (formerly known as Shahyad Tower);
Mr. Farrokh Pebdani gave a talk on “the Future of Fossil Fuel”;
Dr. Masood Khatamee gave a talk on “New Advances in Human Reproduction”;
Dr. Shahla Masood had her presentation on “Cancer Care in 21st Century”.
- President’s Report, Mr. Behnam Kamrani and Mr. Ramin Behzadi
- Treasurer’s Report, Ms. Negin Sadr
- Open Discussion and Q&A
After the mid-day break, each association and their members held their Annual General Meeting. SUTA AGM initiated with brief presentation on SUTA’s mission, vision and activities as well as a report on financials. Then, representatives of the BoD had a chance to introduce themselves to the members and left an open discussion for questions and answers. During the Q&A, the following items have been discussed:
· The board gave a brief report on its activity and the financial status of the association.
- The issue we had with visa and attendance of guests has been discussed.
- Next location for the reunion 2014 has been discussed; A suggestion from the audience was to choose a location for future re-unions that is more viable for members from Iran to participate. The current location in Ottawa, ON (Canada) required a visit visa for many Iranian members and due to difficulties in applying for and getting the visa, many members were not able to attend the event despite their willingness.
- Reviewing member’s expectation and helping out-of-country student members.
- Suggestions how to attract younger members and how to assist the university both academically and financially, without infringing the boycott laws.
● One suggestion from the audience was to increase and give more importance to fundraising activities within the association in order to raise its financial ability and be able to fund further events and to provide help to its members.
● For the upcoming BoD elections the current BoD likes to invite candidates to come forward and particularly representatives from all active chapters are asked to bring in their enthusiasm and their vision.
2.4 Award Ceremony and Gala Night
After a long day of speeches and meetings, all members and their guests were relaxed into a gala night setting on Saturday night. At the beginning of the night, a video message from Dr. Hojabri was projected welcoming the guests.
During the gala night, guests had the chance to network and socialize, and to take pictures. Also, both SUTA and SUA used this opportunity to present the award winners of their association.
SUTA’s 2012 award winners have been introduced for Dr. Amin’s Lifetime Achievement Award, SUTA’s Service Alumni Award and SUTA’s Alumni Award, respectively as Dr. Saeed Sohrabpour, former president of SUT, Dr. Alinaghi Mashayekhi, and Dr. Behrokh Khoshnevis. The last two awards have been introduced in 2012, while the first award dates back to the 2010 reunion in Sweden.
Dr. Behrokh Khoshnevis was present and was handed his award by Professor Reza. The other two awards will be presented in an upcoming local reunion/ award ceremony at SUT. The award ceremony was then followed by an interesting presentation by Dr. Khoshnevis on Automated Construction.
Towards the end of the dinner, performers from Mamak Khadem team came up to stage to play their songs for audience. Sang by Mamak herself, the concert was an axiom of choice type with a Persian folkloric theme that was welcomed by the guests. The concert brought a lively atmosphere to the gathering where many of the guests danced on the floor.
Report of the discussions
Panel on “Challenges Facing Higher Education in Iran” - Part I
Panelists: Dr. Mohammad Behforouz, Dr. Homayoun Shahriari and Dr. Bahram Zahir
● One main concern as stated by the panelists is that the institutions in Iran give more importance to the “quantity” of publications as opposed to their “quality”. In recent years, despite the fact that there has been a significant increase in the number of papers published by students in higher education institutions from Iran, unfortunately the same cannot be said about the average quality of those papers.
● Another concern that may cause some damage to the reputation of such publications is the fact that some of the papers do not fully comply with anti-plagiarism rules. One of the panelists brought an example of a paper from an Iranian university which was quite similar to the one being published earlier by a student under supervision of the panelist.
● Also the importance given to the quantitative development of the university capacities in Iran (in terms of number of students accepted), has overshadowed the need to improve the quality of education, and emphasize on performing research that solves real problems of the society or the industry.
● The difficulties faced by Iranian scholars living in Iran to create a dynamic and independent scientific community, that can play an influential role in the society were discussed and as a way to create such a community out of Iran, the creation of a new Iranian university abroad (most probably in North America) has been proposed.
Panel on “Higher Education in Iran” - Part II
“Collaboration among Iranian University Associations”
Panelists: Dr. Reza Moridi, Dr. B. Khoshnevis, Dr. Farideh Tehrani and Dr. Bahram Zahir.
● This reunion was one of the first events of its kind bringing alumni and students from two major universities in Iran; Sharif University of Technology and Shiraz University under one roof. All panelists agreed on continuing effort to organize similar events and encourage other likewise higher education institution alumni associations to take part as well.
● One suggestion offered by one of the panelists, Dr. Bahram Zahir, was to shift the focus to more collaborative work between all higher education institutions in Iran and even establish an “Umbrella Association” that covers all such associations for more organized cooperation.
● A point of such collaborative efforts will be the help provided to Iranian students overseas with their continuing education and also providing help to students within Iran to be able to better pursue their educational goals.
Panel on “Higher Education in Iran” - Part III
“Innovation and Entrepreneurship”
Panelists: Mr. Mehdi Mahdavi, Dr. Behrokh Khoshnevis, Ramezan Benrashid, Mr. Afshin Matin, Mr. Keith Johanns
● According to one of the panelists, Dr. Behrokh Khoshnevis, there are many Iranian students in North American universities who are engaged in entrepreneurial activities. One example of such was the work being supervised by Dr. Khoshnevis in developing a technology called “Contour Crafting” which is considered as a revolution in construction of different structures, mainly multi-unit residential houses,
● All panelists agreed on the importance of having more collaborative efforts by similar associations in recognizing interested students and alumni and providing consultation and execution help to those groups.
SUTA and SUA had a successful joint reunion in Ottawa, Ontario, in July 2012. The two associations, while keeping their independence, like to invite other likewise associations (such as the ones made of Tehran University, Amir Kabir Polytechnique, … alumni) to join for the 2014 reunion, to have an even greater joint event and in the passage evaluate the possibility of founding an umbrella organization, with the declaration of the goals, timelines, rules and agenda. Also such an umbrella organization can act as a support for a potential Iranian university abroad.
PS: The audio recordings of most discussions and talks of the reunion are available at:
Board of Directors of Sharif University of Technology Association (SUTA)