Afshar was born and raised in Tehran, completed high school in England and immigrated to the United States to pursue her education. She received her Ph.D. in Sanskrit and Indo-European Folklore and Mythology in 1988 from Harvard University, where she also received her MA in ancient Mesopotamian Religions and Literature. In addition to her graduate work, she has received diplomas in film and TV production from the BBC, London, and ORTF, Paris.
PAAIA’s incoming executive director brings two decades of experience in management at such institutions as the Getty Conservation Institute, ARCH Foundation/Austria, the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, X PRIZE Foundation and the National Geographic Society.
Babak Hoghooghi, the current executive director, will join the Board of Directors as a regular director.
The change in leadership will also bring a change in the organization’s base; its current Washington, D.C., headquarters will be moved to southern California, where Afshar resides. The organization will maintain its Government Affairs Office in Washington.
After accepting the position, Afshar said, “I feel like I’ve won a prize—I must have done something good in my life! Beginning with my work at NIRT [state broadcasting] in Tehran and the Festival of Arts in Shiraz, my career has been a series of close encounters with creative and innovative people who have wanted to give back to society, to share, because they care. Well, that’s also the profile of the PAAIA board, its staff, the local chapters, and our more than 2,200 members.
Afshar told the Iran Times, “I feel so honored to be trusted with developing the PAAIA story, Chapter II. To me, PAAIA is about helping us strengthen our roots in the U.S. as Iranian-Americans, while enhancing our appreciation and awareness of how we got here. It’s about doing what we can so our youth grow up proud, knowledgeable, self assured and supportive of one another, and united in a mission to advance Iranian-Americans as a community and as members of a larger society. We want to contribute to building a legacy that future generations of Iranian Americans can be proud of. We can’t do that except by putting the community first. So, that’s what I’m going to work on every minute on the job.”
Before being appointed executive director of PAAIA, Afshar worked as the vice president for development at the National Geographic Society. Earlier, she worked for five years as director of endowment at the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, where she helped raise $100 million to secure the organ-ization’s financial future.