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Chohre Rassekh retires from Italian Studies program with happy heart
“Every time I entered the classroom it gave me joy and I was always very happy to go to work,” says Chohre Rassekh, the senior lecturer who was in charge of SFU’s Italian Studies program until her retirement this past January. “I think that is a blessing, so I have retired with extreme happiness in my heart.”
After 25 years of teaching in the program, Rassekh says the timing is right for her to pass the torch to the newly created Department of World Literatures and Languages. The Italian Studies program was previously housed within the Department of French.
“I have great confidence in the new department and the people heading it,” she says. “I’m sure that it will flourish.”
Rassekh was born in Iran and moved with her family to Rimini, Italy when she was five years old. She studied at the University of Rome until 1968 when student unrest swept through the campus and classes were cancelled for a year. Rassekh eventually moved on to the University of Leeds in the U.K. for two years before coming to the University of British Columbia to study Italian. She graduated with an honours BA degree and then went on to get a master’s degree in comparative literature at UBC where she taught for two years before drifting into other occupations.
In 1995 when SFU was looking for someone to teach languages, UBC recommended Rassekh. She interviewed for the position and was accepted. Beginning as a sessional instructor, Rassekh would spend the next 25 years teaching in the Italian Program and helping it grow from a single-course within the Department of Interdisciplinary and Humanities into a full minor program in 2015.
As the program grew, Rassekh was promoted to a limited term lectureship, then a permanent term lectureship before becoming a senior lecturer. Through those years, she came to see teaching as an experiment in interpersonal relationships where her responsibility was to create an atmosphere where students felt comfortable expressing their opinions.
During retirement, Rassekh will continue to volunteer in accordance with one of the core tenets of her Baháʼí faith: community service. While at SFU she began an intermediate English conversation group in West Vancouver with the aim of improving the integration of newcomers to Canada. Rassekh will build on that work and is dedicated to creating a better, more diverse community on the North Shore. She’s also committed to educating youth between the ages of 11 and 14 who have challenges and want to channel their energy in positive ways.
“My focus has always been to share my passion for the language and culture of Italy with the students,” she says. “It was not a career building way of seeing things. I did my job and got promoted in my career at SFU because of the hard work, the love, the passion that I had. I stayed at SFU. I never looked to move.”