University officials hope Mote's trip, which he says is non-political, will extend its ties to Iran and improve educational relationships between the two countries. The trip, which begins today and will last a week, was organized by the Association of American Universities, which is made up of 62 of the largest research universities in the United States.
The university already has some ties to Iran. The Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute Center for Persian Studies was founded in 2004, and the university houses one of the first Persian studies majors in the country.
Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak, the head of the center, said the high-level trip could make future educational exchanges possible. Unlike most foreign language students, he said students studying Persian, or Farsi, are unable to study abroad in their language's country of origin.
"One of our tasks is to make Iran concrete to our students," Karimi-Hakkak said. "And study abroad would do miracles towards making that happen."
The university could also benefit if the highly educated population of Iran, which has about an 82 percent literacy rate, could study in the United States. Karimi-Hakkak said, the lack of a US embassy in Tehran usually means Iranians have to travel to Istanbul or Dubai to take the GRE and TOEFL or get a visa. Instead, he said, they end up studying in Australia, New Zealand, England, Germany and Canada.
Besides benefiting the university, Mote and Karimi-Hakkak believe the trip can help ease tensions between Iran and the United States, much in the way cultural and scholarly exchanges with the former-Soviet Union and China eased tensions with those nations in the 1980s.
"A lot of the coming together will be through universities," Mote said.
Regarding the visit to Iran, Mote said he has received mainly positive feedback, including a letter of support from Abe Foxman, the president of the Anti-Defamation League.
Furthermore, Mote said, the trip is apolitical.
"There's going to be no contact with high-level government," he said. "This is a higher education mission."
There are about 60 Iranian natives enrolled at this university, Mote said, and about half of those are graduates from the Sharif University of Technology in Tehran, one of the country's leading science institutions and the host of the trip.
Sharif University's president, Saeed Sohrabpour, was a graduate student in mechanical engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, when Mote was professor there.
The presidents of Carnegie Mellon University, Rice University, the University of Florida, Cornell University, and the University of California, Davis will also be on the trip.