“I feel so at home here,” said Azar Nafisi, visiting professor and the director of the School of Advanced International Studies Dialogue Project at the Foreign Policy Institute of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, DC, as she accepted the Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Woman of Courage Award at Seton Hill University on Thursday, March 5.

“Dr. Nafisi is a true woman of courage because she has faced several challenges and taken several risks throughout her life, and she has shown impressive resiliency throughout all,” said Jacquelyn Johns, junior communications major and vice president of the JoAnne Boyle World Affairs Forum. “As she has expressed many of these challenges in her writing, I will say yes, her writing is definitely an aspect of her courageousness. But her bravery also extends beyond her writing. In the face of adversity she not only stood by her convictions, but rallied, taught and inspired others, and spoke for those who could not speak for themselves. That is why we were truly honored to award her the first World Affairs Forum Woman of Courage Award.”

The Woman of Courage Award is presented to a woman, who, like Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, faced adversity and personal risk, committed herself to demonstrate in action what she believed in spirit, and accomplished the extraordinary through ordinary work.

Nafisi’s appearance on campus was part of the 2008-09 “Portrait of Survival” Lynch Lecture Series. Nafisi presented a lecture titled “The Republic of Imagination.”

Nafisi spoke about her bestselling book, "Reading Lolita in Tehran," a portrait of the Islamic revolution in Iran and how it affected one university professor and her students, and her current work entitled “Republic of the Imagination,” which is about the power of literature to liberate minds and people.

“Literature enables a shock of recognition not of how different we are, but how alike we are,” Nafisi said. “People are able to share feelings and passions through books. There is an intimate personal relationship between writers and readers. We share a curiosity and a sensual urge to know and question not just the world, but ourselves.”

“Literature is a medium that can truly foster communication and community, which are the seeds of change. Through literature, we expose our minds to a limitless number of new and challenging ideas. The most diverse groups of people can find common bonds through reading,” Nafisi explained.

“We need to pay attention to imagination and thought so we can open our eyes to the similarities of human beings. Books and imagination clears the dust and makes us look at the world through new eyes,” Nafisi concluded.

The JoAnne Boyle World Affairs Forum believed Nafisi’s visit to campus would provide both the University community and local community with an opportunity to listen, learn, and be inspired.