Tata Monfared is the founder and president of Senses Cultural, a non-profit organization based in Sacramento, CA, dedicated to promoting the science and treatment of autism in the United States, in Middle Eastern communities, and internationally. She leads Senses Cultural research, education, travel and arts programs designed to promote the science and treatment of autism and neurodevelopmental disorders. Her vision has led to collaborations with a host of countries, universities, and research institutes, and she has personally funded programs to bring together educators in the field of autism. Through her leadership, Senses Cultural has obtained an exemption by the U.S. Department of Treasury to work in sanctioned countries. As a result, Ms. Monfared was able to take a high-ranking U.S. delegation of scientists to Iran, a country where she has held regular workshops, seminars and art exhibits to promote the science of autism and help local communities.
In 2018, Senses Cultural signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the UC Davis MIND Institute, a research center committed to the awareness, understanding, prevention, care, and cures of neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism.The MoU facilitates the exchange of academic faculty, students and information with Senses Cultural to promote joint educational, scientific and cultural programs. Together, the two organizations successfully planned the launch of an international stem cell conference in 2021. Ms. Monfared has simultaneously worked with the MIND Institute and with Dr. Alessandro Prigione at the Max Delbruck Center for Molecular Medicine based in Berlin and now at the Heinrich Heine University in Duesseldorf, Germany, to develop a proposal that provides funding for two research positions to carry out genetic studies on autism. The proposal will lead to a larger research grant.
Ms. Monfared’s life and career have been governed by an abiding passion to be a bridge-builder across boundaries of country, culture, politics and time. Previously, Ms. Monfaredworked with the University of California, Davis to promote its Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies Program (ME/SA). She served on the ME/SA’s advisory board. She was instrumental in funding an Iranian speaker series in 2009, holding a faculty symposium on autism, and securing core funding to establish an Arab studies program in ME/SA in 2010.
Through the arts, Ms. Monfared cultivated an expanding relationship between UC Davis and the United Arab Emirates, laying the groundwork for a future environmental studies center in Dubai. She supported the Empowerment of Women Photography project at UC Davis, and held two major Art for Autism exhibitions entitled Enduring Power that traveled to San Francisco State University and Iran. In June 2012, Senses Cultural produced the exhibit HeART of Iran, a display featuring the creative works of almost 50 Iranian and Iranian-American artists. Produced at the invitation of a state senator, HeART of Iran hung in the Governor’s Hallway at the California State Capitol.