November 2, 2022

Peacebuilding Initiative Gets Substantial Gift, New Name

President Noelle E. Cockett and alumnus Mehdi Heravi sign documents for the naming of the Heravi Peace Institute

President Noelle E. Cockett and alumnus Mehdi Heravi sign documents for the naming of the Heravi Peace Institute during a reception on Nov. 2. (Photo Credit: USU/Levi Sim)

By Andrea DeHaan, CHaSS Communications Editor

The College of Humanities and Social Sciences Peace Initiative at Utah State University will now be known as the Heravi Peace Institute 

Alumnus Mehdi Heravi has made a sizeable gift to name the institute, which will bring additional resources and raise its profile ahead of hiring an inaugural director. Heravi’s donation also includes a generous endowment to subsidize institute students. Those who receive support from the endowment will be known as Heravi Peace Scholars.   

The USU President’s Office held a reception on Wednesday, Nov. 2 to honor Heravi’s gift to CHaSS and to formally recognize the launch of the Heravi Peace Institute, which will be the first of its kind in the Intermountain West. Heravi’s contribution to the institute represents his largest single commitment to the university to date. His philanthropic legacy at USU dates back to the 1960s when Heravi was still a student.  

“This is an important milestone for USU,” said CHaSS Dean Joseph Ward, calling it, “the culmination of many conversations among the faculty, staff, students, and, of course, our dear friend, Dr. Mehdi Heravi.”  

Founded in 2022 as an interdisciplinary initiative in CHaSS with ties to academic departments in the college, the Heravi Peace Institute brings together multiple certificates and the Conversational Space Makers program aimed at preparing students to enter the workforce as changemakers adept at cultural peacebuilding, conflict management, and nonprofit work. At their most recent meeting, USU’s Board of Trustees approved changing the designation from initiative to institute.  

“The Heravi Peace Institute will empower Aggies to go out into the world and make a difference,” says Interim Director Colin Flint, distinguished professor of political geography. “Aggies have always been engaged with the wider world; the institute will help them develop a range of peacebuilding skills that transform their sense of self and enhance their ability to make positive change.”  

The mission and purpose of the Heravi Peace Institute is to promote direct, structural, and cultural peace through a four-fold approach involving teaching, research, praxis, and public outreach. Certificates offered include global peacebuilding, interfaith leadership, conflict management and facilitation, leadership and diplomacy, and nonprofit organizations and social entrepreneurship. Its current advisory board is comprised of faculty from the disciplines of religious studies, history, communication studies, social work, sociology, languages, and journalism representing USU’s main and statewide campuses.  

A longtime advocate of peace and community in the face of differences, Heravi came to USU from Iran, earning undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science. His generosity has already enabled the largest individual number of named scholarships at the university, and to honor his commitment to philanthropy at USU and within CHaSS, the college recently named its latest building project the Mehdi Heravi Global Teaching and Learning Center.   

“If we don’t change, change will be forced upon us in this rapidly changing world, and I’m hoping that our students will be the changemakers,” Heravi said. “With this institute…we’re not going to be actors of peace; we’re going to be authors of peace.”  

Flint agrees and says students will pursue the opportunity to arrive at real-world solutions while gaining a job-ready skillset.  

“A range of employers are seeking people with peacebuilding skills, and the Heravi Peace Institute will empower our students to be professionals with the ability to enact positive change. In today’s world, it is easy to be fearful and defensive. Instead, the institute will help students transform our world by building empathy and dialog.”

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