Meet the Faculty: From art degree to education—Professor guides future educators

Meet the Faculty: From art degree to education—Professor guides future educators

G rowing up in a multicultural family in Tehran, Iran, Dr. Yeprem Mehranian always saw the importance of language and learning. 

“I’m an Armenian that was born in Iran. I grew up bilingual, initially Armenian and Persian,” said Mehranian, associate professor of foundations of education at Georgia College. “In my own family, my mom spoke French Persian and Armenian. My dad spoke Persian, Armenian and Azeri Turkish. There was always Russian around and other languages, so the whole thing of being multilingual and multicultural was around me from the time I was young.” 

He also studied English early on. “Not the best curriculum,”  he said, but he was also able to take private lessons. That knowledge helped open doors for him to attend college in the U.S.

“My dad wanted me to study medicine at the medical school in Iran, but the exams were extremely competitive,” he said. 

Dr. Yeprem Mehranian
Dr. Yeprem Mehranian

Mehranian says he sort of “rebelled against the idea of acquiescing to one’s parents’ wishes, only because it would lead one to positions of prestige and power” after coming to the U.S. in the 1970s during the youth and antiwar movement. Or, he admits, that’s at least what he thought at the time. 

“I went to college to study fine arts, much to the chagrin of my father because he didn’t know why I wanted to do that.” 

Mehranian excelled in art school, receiving his undergraduate and master’s degrees painting. After graduation, he found himself in New York City working in an art store. 

“Once you graduate with an art degree, the choices are limited. You either teach school or make a name for yourself within the art world, which it’s difficult,” he said. “I was both apprehensive about the difficulties involved in making a name in the art world and critical of the process of creative works being bought and sold.”

For a long time, there lingered in the back of his mind the thought of becoming a teacher. He was actually intrigued by the idea of being in a space—the classroom—where you could have discussions about the world with other people, students, teachers, administrators and parents.

That idea and philosophy allowed him to expand his educational portfolio with a teaching certificate where he then began teaching elementary students in New York City public schools. Over the years, he taught third through fifth grade in several locations and was a university instructor in his ethnic home of Armenia, which he had never visited before that time.

Mehranian completed his Ed.D. degree at University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and went on to serve as an administrator at a private school in San Francisco. The Armenian day school had a dual curriculum, comprised of the California State Standards and Armenian Studies. But when the Great Recession happened, he started to rethink his role in education, which led him to higher education and, specifically, Georgia College.

“My work as a teacher and university faculty member is that I want to see the highest number of students be exposed to and receive a quality education

“I would love to see it where the values of the society are less on competing with one another and seeing who could get ahead,” he said, “but they're more about collaborating with one another and appreciating the role each person plays.”

Mehranian (far left) at a discussion on religion.
Mehranian (far left) at a discussion on religion.

Mehranian expands on that belief in his undergraduate and graduate courses in the College of Education, both on-campus and online. He also teaches several GC1Y and GC2Y courses, sharing his cultures and expanding students’ exposure to ideas outside of their norm.

The GC1Y is called “Cultures and Youth of the Middle East.” The two GC2Ys are titled, “Globalization, Culture and Education” and “Reinterpreting Our Experiences of the World,” which is an art studio course that examines the intersection of visual arts and social issues.

“It’s been a great opportunity for me that Georgia College offered me the opportunity to explore some of my interdisciplinary work and share it with students in these courses,” he said. 

Teaching the art studio course actually reignited his artistic instinct and got him back drawing. He also plans to start painting again soon.

Outside the classroom, Mehranian thinks of himself as a “defender of issues of social justice” and encourages his students and others to value, embrace and practice diversity. Over the last several years, he’s been highly involved in the Social Justice Dialogue Series, sponsored by the Diversity Committee of the College of Education. The committee organizes guest speakers, lectures, film discussions and more for the campus community.

Whether in the classroom, the art studio or in his own life, Mehranian always looks to continue to learn and engage with others. He hopes his work allows others to also grow, learn and discover new ideas. 

“For all students, whatever it is that's around them, whatever it is that they're studying, I think they should be exposed to the idea of asking questions to become more critical thinkers and become a person who challenges what he or she has been taught within his or her own family and community,” he said.