Traveling in Iran Today

John Lorentz, Douglas Meyer, Norma Lee Nichols-Mahdavi, Thomas M. Ricks. Moderator, Ann Johnston.

Join four experienced travelers as they share their recent journeys in Iran. You’ll be amazed at how much has changed, yet remained the same, in the past 50 years. Get your questions about traveling to Iran answered, and learn tips for your own next adventure!

To view a video of this presentation provided by Nathan Lorentz, click here.


 Lorentz, John

John was a Peace Corps volunteer in the early 1960s (Iran Group I) and has returned three times since to do research on a PhD dissertation, a visit as a Senior Fulbright-Hays Research Fellow (1975-76), and most recently as the tour scholar for a Distant Horizons Cultural Tour in April-May of 2014. He has a PhD from Princeton University in Near Eastern Studies (history) and earned his MA in Middle Eastern Studies from Harvard University. From 1971 to 1984 he held teaching and administrative positions at Portland State University before becoming the executive director of American Aid for Afghans and working as a consultant involving trade development and political risk analysis in the Middle East. In 1990, he joined Shawnee State University where he became Founding Director of the Center for International Programs and Activities and taught Middle East history. For the past six years he has been Associate Provost for International Education. He is fluent in Farsi and is the author of various articles on Iran and the books, The Historical Dictionary of Iran and The A to Z of Iran.

 Meyer, Doug

Three months before entering Peace Corps training in Fresno, California, Doug Meyer knew little about Iran, but he did know agriculture and wanted to live the Kennedy dream. The Peace Corps invited him to training in February 1967, and he began his service in Iran in July. After a year in Semnan, he transferred to the Agricultural Experiment Station in Karaj where he spent four months, leaving in October 1968. During that time he saw most parts of northern Iran. After leaving Iran for a half-year of backpacking in South and Southeast Asia, he returned to the United States, where he completed his studies in computer science. Since then he has lived four years in the Philippines and traveled to Europe and Africa numerous times. One of his more recent journeys was back to Iran, and to Semnan, in April 2014.

 Nichols-Mahdavi, Norma Lee

Norma Nichols-Mahdavi lived in Iran from 1959 to 1966, at the time married to an Iranian. She was president of the Foreign Wives Club and on the board of directors of the Tehran School of Social Work. In 1962 she established a cross-cultural consulting firm for foreigners moving to Iran. In the United States she continued with the Rockefeller Foundation. Other jobs have included marketing director for the Iranian National Tourist Organization and Iranian Handicrafts Center in New York; production of official government travel and cultural information for distribution world-wide; and, since 2007, association with On May 12, she will return from leading her seventh sneakers-on-the-ground tour. Her degrees are in International Cultural and Development Studies (Cornell University and the New School in New York City).

 Ricks, Thomas

Tom served in the Iran III TEFL program in Mashhad (1964) and in Mahabad (1965-66). He came back to the United States for graduate studies at Indiana University (Bloomington), with a master’s degree in Persian Studies and a PhD in Middle East History. He returned to Iran in 1971 with his wife, Janice, to work on his thesis; eventually, they both taught at the Tehran International School (Iranzamin). In 1973, he and Jan returned to the States to continue their academic careers in Minnesota, in the D.C. area, and in Philadelphia. Tom also taught for two years at Birzeit University in the West Bank, Palestine before both retired from teaching. Tom has published a number of books and articles on the social and cultural history of modern Iran and Palestine. He is currently completing works on Howard C. Baskerville and Tabriz during the Iranian Constitutional Movement, and on the life of Sarah Wright McDowell, for nearly 40 years a social worker in Iran.

 Johnston, Ann Buessing

Ann was an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher in eight girl’s high schools in Shiraz from 1965-1967 as a member of the Iran VI group. She worked with Iranian ESL teachers to improve instruction, taught demonstration classes for faculty, and developed summer programs for girls. Returning from Iran, she taught English as a foreign language for a number of years until, in 1981, she began the party supply business she has owned and managed for 34 years. Ann’s experiences in Iran led her to become active in local politics, serving thirteen years on a local school board, eight years on the Stockton City Council, and four years as mayor of Stockton, California.