Former Iranian Student Association president attempts to overcome social struggle, educate community


Tanat Maichan

Parsa Kianpour is the former Iranian Student Association president.

When most college students hear the words “get involved,” activities like Greek life and sports are among the first things to come to mind. For Parsa Kianpour however, the idea of getting involved meant much more than enriching his own college experience.

Originally from Iran, Kianpour’s interest in aerospace and industrial engineering led him to Wichita State,where he has been since August 2015. Shortly after classes began that fall, he discovered the Iranian Student Association — a group that has shaped his collegiate and personal life.

The group consists of both international Iranian students of Iranian heritage born in the United States.

Within a month of moving to the United States and joining the student association, Kianpour was elected vice president for the 2015-2016 academic year. Last year, he was elected president.

“At the time, I was getting my masters in management, so I really wanted to get some practice as a leader,” Kianpour said. “I get very happy when the people around me are happy.”

One of the association’s primary missions is to help international students get settled in and adjusted to life in America, but Kianpour said the group is also a place for students to seek support.

“We have meetings when things come up or when big things happen,” Kianpour said. “When the travel ban thing happened and that became a concern for many students, some of them wanted to go back and visit their families and some of them were waiting for families to come in,” Kianpour said. “We had a meeting to basically help them relax. We couldn’t really do anything else, but we wanted to be there to talk with them and to help them.”

The association hosts a number of cultural events each year in an effort to educate the community about Iranian culture and engage community members on a personal level. While some of these events, like Interfest, are held on campus, most are held in other parts of Wichita.

In previous years, the mayor of wichita and many WSU staff members including President Bardo have been invited to attend the student association’s events.

“Something I’ve experienced is that if you tell people where you’re from, not necessarily from Iran, but just from the Middle East, they kind of step back or put up a guard,” Kianpour said. “But these same people, when you give them the chance to get to know you, their idea about you completely changes.”

“I can’t really go up to any one person and tell them who we are. As an association, we try to show that. That we don’t care about the politics, just that we live here, that we respect the rules, and that we’re friends.”

Though no longer a leader of the association, Kianpour is still heavily involved in the Iranian Student Association, and said time with the group was fulfilling.

“Since I left, the association got a new president with new ideas,” Kianpour said. “Maybe even ideas that I don’t know about, so it’s still a good place to learn. … It’s always good to learn how other people do things, so you can learn if those things are good.”