My name, Sahar (سهر/سحر/Səhər), means "before sunrise." My middle name is the English translation of my first name ("Dawn"). So my love story with the sun began in my mother's womb. I am a daughter of refugee settlers of Azeri and mixed Iranian and Persian heritage, who arrived on Turtle Island in order to escape persecution and avoid further injustices they and their future children would have faced. Had my mother and father decided to stay, I would not have had the right to access higher education (as a student, researcher, or faculty member), so I am beyond grateful and humbled to be born in a place where I have the privilege and right to access higher education as both a learner and an educator, ultimately leading me to arrive where I am now and where I continue to go. An unrelenting desire for Justice and equity have been designed into my DNA.
My parents' religious identities as Bahá’ís living in Iran—the largest religious minority group in the country—was the government’s justification for their persecution, including later barring their access to all higher education institutions nationwide and basic rights all human beings deserve. My parents' experiences, along with countless others who were (and still are) denied such an opportunity in Iran and globally, heightened my awareness of and commitment to the need for justice and equity, for social transformation in the U.S. academy/higher education system and greater society, especially plans for the journey in pursuing formal higher education to advance justice.
The unconditional sacrifices of my ancestors, mother and father, and countless others made me privy to pursuing formal educational degrees they were systematically denied access to. Being a first-generation U.S. "American" and PhD graduate, therefore, has been humbling for me in more ways than one, for which I am indebted. This is the context that frames my pull towards justice through higher education. It has never been an individual journey, but rather, an ever-evolving collective one.
Currently, I am an assistant professor of higher education within the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies (ELPS) at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) on the ancestral, traditional, and contemporary lands of the Caddo, Comanche, Jumanos, Kickapoo, Tawakoni, and Wichita peoples (Arlington, TX) and a research associate at the Chair for Critical Studies in Higher Education Transformation (CriSHET) at Nelson Mandela University on the traditional and contemporary lands of the Khokhoi, San, and AmaXhosa (Port Elizabeth, South Africa). I study comparative higher education and knowledge systems, human rights, media, science and technology, and activism/social movements through an integration of critical justice-oriented frames globally and transnationally. I have a Ph.D. in International Education Policy from the University of Maryland, College Park. My dissertation can be accessed here. But like many academic citizens, my heart and mind have continued to evolve since then. Some work that is currently in progress and/or forthcoming can be found on the "Research" page of this site.
Living and working in one of the most linguistically, racially, and religiously segregated parts of South Africa, I have been exposed to diverse opportunities to translate my research and teaching into practice. Experiencing, observing, and studying disenfranchisement in several parts of the globe have likewise helped me better integrate critical and so-called “Global South” scholarship into traditionally Euro-American/“Western”/"Global North"-dominated disciplines, traditions, and methodologies in my research projects and courses I teach. My work in these areas have further expanded my understanding of how learned discrimination, prejudices, and other forms of injustice (in their various forms) migrate between and across countries.
As part of my global critical ethnic and race studies work, I also conducted investigative research for Gay McDougall, Independent Expert on the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) (who previously served as the first Independent Expert on Minority Issues). In addition, I consulted for Minority Rights Group International (MRG), an international non-governmental organization that has consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and observer status with the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR).
In a COVID-19 pandemic-free world, I play football (known as "soccer" in a few parts of the globe) and futsal. I also write spoken word (and sometimes perform, when pressured to do so) and dabble in self-taught, novice graphic design; and as a lover of dance, oftentimes, I attempt to reenact dance routines from our hip hop and step dance crew days.