The Baskerville Institute is guided by a dedicated Board of Advisors, whose members come from diverse backgrounds and experiences. They share a passion for fostering understanding and cooperation between the Iranian and American peoples, and upholding the legacy of Howard C. Baskerville. The Board of Advisors includes scholars, diplomats, business leaders, and activists who bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the Institute’s work. Together, they help to ensure that the Baskerville Institute remains at the forefront of efforts to build bridges between Iran and the United States, and promote mutual understanding and respect.
Janet Afary holds the Mellichamp Chair in Global Religion and Modernity at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she is a Professor of Religious Studies. She is a historian of modern Iran and has a PhD in History and Near East Studies from the University of Michigan, where her dissertation received the Distinguished Rackham Dissertation Award. Her books include: Sexual Politics in Modern Iran (Cambridge UP, 2009, winner of the British Society for Middle East Studies Annual Book Prize) and The Iranian Constitutional Revolution: Grassroots Democracy, Social Democracy, and the Origins of Feminism (Columbia UP, 1996, winner of Dehkhoda Institute Book Award)
Reza Aslan is an internationally-renowned writer, commentator, professor, and religious scholar, whose NYT bestselling books. A recipient of the prestigious James Joyce award, Aslan is the author of three internationally best-selling books, including the #1 New York Times Bestseller, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth. No god but God: The Origins, Evolution and the Future of Islam, God: A Human History, and How to Win a Cosmic War.
Aslan is a professor at U.C. Riverside, where he teaches creative writing. Among Aslan’s many community leadership and service positions, he’s on the board of the Chicago Theological Seminary and the Yale Humanist Community. His producing credits include the acclaimed HBO series The Leftovers and the upcoming Chuck Lorre comedy, United States of Al. He is the host and Executive Producer of Rough Draft with Reza Aslan.
Jonathan Freedman is the president and CEO of World Trade Center Utah, where he helps Utah companies grow through international trade and investment. He is a seasoned entrepreneur and international business leader with over 30 years of experience.
Prior to joining WTC Utah, Freedman co-founded and grew Downeast, a clothing and furniture retail chain, to 64 locations with 1,100 employees. He has also served as honorary consul of Ukraine in Utah since 2007, leading the effort to support the Ukrainian community in Utah and promote cultural exchanges between Ukraine and Utah. In September 2023, he was awarded the Order of Merit by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the highest honor given to a non-Ukrainian citizen.
Freedman also serves on public and private boards and commissions, including the state of Utah’s Unified Economic Opportunity Commission, the Economic Development Corporation of Utah, and the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce.
He is a passionate advocate for international trade and investment and believes that global engagement is essential for economic growth and prosperity. He is also committed to building bridges between cultures and promoting understanding and cooperation between people from all over the world.
Miles Hansen is the President and Board Director of the Stirling Foundation, an organization dedicated to working with governments, organizations, and individuals to address challenges facing families, communities, and nations. Their mission is to provide the resources, collaboration, and expertise to expand our partners’ impact throughout the human family – now.
Hansen was most recently the President of the World Trade Center, and previously the Director for Gulf Affairs at the National Security Council in the White House. Prior to that, he served as a staff aide to the State Department’s Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs. A speaker of Russian, Farsi and Arabic, Hansen has firsthand experience in more than 70 countries and is a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Benjamin was most recently the Director of Salt Lake City’s Department of Economic Development where he oversaw the City’s economic development efforts, including arts and culture and business development. Prior to serving with Salt Lake City, Benjamin served as Senior Advisor to the Executive Director of SelectUSA, the government-wide initiative to attract and retain foreign business investment in the United States. As an official with SelectUSA, Benjamin provided guidance to the Executive Director to create jobs, spur economic growth, and promote American competitiveness. Before joining SelectUSA, he was dedicated to the development of Afghanistan’s war-torn economy as an official in the U.S. Department of Defense. Benjamin’s projects focused on stabilizing the war-torn country through economic development initiatives in the cashmere sector. Benjamin has a MBA with an emphasis in globalization and international trade from Georgetown University, and a Bachelor’s in Philosophy from Utah State University.
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iran in the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. He is a veteran U.S. diplomat and a former official at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, where he was held captive during the Iran hostage crisis. He received his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. all from Harvard University. His Ph.D. was in History and Middle Eastern Studies.
Charles Randall Paul (Ph.D., University of Chicago, Committee on Social Thought, 2000; M.B.A., Harvard University, 1972) is board chair, founder, and president of the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy. He has lectured widely and written numerous articles on healthy methods for engaging differences in religions and ideologies. He is on the board of editors for the International Journal of Decision Ethics.
Shannon received her BA in Political Science and Liberal Arts and her MA in Political Science from USU. In 2003, she received her Ph.D in International Relations from the Ohio State University and a post-doctorate in Marketing and Management from Tulane University in 2011. In addition to teaching in political science and international economics at USU, Shannon created and directed the Huntsman Scholar Program in the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business for 9 years. Before coming to USU, Shannon worked for the Commission of the European Union in their Washington DC Embassy and Samsung’s International Business division in Seoul, South Korea. Her research and teaching interests revolve around human rights, humanitarian interventions, international economic development, environmental politics, decision making, and trade and social responsibility. She has been recognized for her teaching, mentoring, and advising of students and currently works to expand global opportunities for USU students.
Lawrence Wilkerson’s last positions in government were as Secretary of State Colin Powell’s Chief of Staff (2002-05), Associate Director of the State Department’s Policy Planning staff under the directorship of Ambassador Richard N. Haass, and member of that staff responsible for East Asia and the Pacific, political-military and legislative affairs (2001-02). Before serving at the State Department, Wilkerson served 31 years in the U.S. Army and was an advisor to General Powell. He has also taught national security affairs in the Honors Program at the George Washington University. He is currently working on a book about the first George W. Bush administration.