American University of Armenia

The American University of Armenia (AUA) (Armenian: Հայաստանի ամերիկյան համալսարան, ՀԱՀ; Hayastani amerikyan hamalsaran, HAH) is a private, independent university in Yerevan, Armenia that is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission. It is the first U.S.-accredited institution in the former Soviet Union that provides undergraduate and graduate education.[7]

American University of Armenia
AUA official logo.png
AUA visual identifier
MottoAspire, Inspire, Achieve
TypePrivate
EstablishedSeptember 21, 1991; 31 years ago (1991-09-21)[1][2]
AccreditationWASC
PresidentArmen Der Kiureghian
Academic staff
267 (fall 2021)[1]
Administrative staff
219 (fall 2021)
Students2,231 (fall 2022)[3]
Undergraduates1,811 (fall 2022)[3]
Postgraduates420 (fall 2022)[3]
Location,
Armenia

40°11′35.85″N 44°30′16.26″E / 40.1932917°N 44.5045167°E / 40.1932917; 44.5045167Coordinates: 40°11′35.85″N 44°30′16.26″E / 40.1932917°N 44.5045167°E / 40.1932917; 44.5045167
CampusUrban
Colours    [4]
AffiliationsUniversity of California[5]
Websiteaua.am
University rankings
Regional – Overall
QS Emerging Europe and Central Asia[6]301-350 (2022)

It was founded in 1991, Armenia's first year of independence, by the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU), the University of California (UC), and the Armenian government. The university is the country's first institution modeled on Western-style higher education, committed to teaching, research, and service; it offers 11 master's and 7 bachelor's degrees.[8]

HistoryEdit

OriginsEdit

The idea of opening an American-style institution of higher education in Armenia originated in the late 1980s. When Armenia was struck by a devastating earthquake in 1988 the country, then still part of the Soviet Union, was opened to unprecedented international humanitarian and technical assistance. A number of earthquake engineers from the West helped in the reconstruction of the disaster zone. In 1989, Yuri Sarkissian, then rector of the Yerevan Polytechnic Institute, suggested to Armen Der Kiureghian, Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, that an Armenian technical university based on the Western model ought to be established to foster educational progress in Armenia. The proposition was narrowed to the creation a graduate university on the American model. Der Kiureghian and another earthquake engineer, Mihran Agbabian, Professor Emeritus at the University of Southern California, set out to realize the goal. A number of American and Armenian academics supported the concept of the university. Der Kiureghian and Agbabian, along with the late Stepan Karamardian, formerly Dean of the A. Gary Anderson Graduate School of Management at the University of California, Riverside, presented their proposal to the Armenian government.[9][10] Agbabian became the founding president in 1991 and served until 1997.[11]

The Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) and the University of California (UC) helped realize AUA. The Armenian government—in particular the Ministry of Higher Education and Sciences (now the Ministry of Education and Science)—offered financial and logistical support for the university despite the turbulent political and economic circumstances in Armenia between 1989 and 1991. The AGBU underwrote a significant portion of the operational funding; when the UC was asked for its assistance in founding the university, its president David P. Gardner appointed a task force led by Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs William R. Frazer to evaluate the possibility of an affiliation between AUA and UC. After the task force's visit to Armenia in July 1990, the Regents of the University of California voted unanimously in favor of an affiliation, through which UC provides technical support and experience for the growth of AUA and collaborates with AUA in preparing its faculty.[9]

First yearsEdit

The university was formally established on September 21, 1991,[1][2] the day Armenia held an independence referendum, and opened two days later.[12] AUA began instruction with 101 students,[9] who were enrolled in an intensive English-language program and later allocated into three graduate degree programs.[13] In 1993, AUA's first commencement took place when 38 people graduated with master's degrees in Business and Management, Industrial Engineering, and Earthquake Engineering.[13] The AUA Extension, a program offering short courses and training programs, was established in 1992.[13]

ExpansionEdit

The university introduced an undergraduate program in 2013.[8] That year some 300 students were accepted.[14]

Campus and estateEdit

 
Locations of AUA buildings in central Yerevan

The university's two central buildings, the Main Building and the Paramaz Avedisian Building, are located at 40 Marshal Baghramyan Avenue in central Yerevan.[15]

Main buildingEdit

The university's main building, informally known as the "old building" (հին մասնաշենք),[16] housed the Political Enlightenment House of the Central Committee of the Armenian Communist Party during the Soviet period.[17] It was granted to the AUA on September 21, 1991, by the government.[2][18] It has six floors and originally had lecture halls, auditoriums, laboratories, library facilities, and offices.[19] After the construction of the Paramaz Avedisian Building in 2008, it has been used for administrative and non-academic purposes.[20] The main building has solar panels on its rooftop, which have a capacity of around 50 kilowatt hour (kWh) and photoelectric capacity of 5 kWh, which secures the continuous operation of the whole system.[21]

Paramaz Avedisian BuildingEdit

Construction of the Paramaz Avedisian Building (PAB) began in 2005.[13] It was designed by Gagik Galstyan[22] and was dedicated on November 1, 2008. Located next to the main building,[23] it has 100,000 sq ft (9,300 square metres) of space, which accommodates classrooms and seminar rooms, laboratories and research centers, and faculty offices.[20] The AUA Student Union adjacent to the Paramaz Avedisian Building (PAB) was constructed in 2018.[24]

AUA CenterEdit

The AUA Center is located at 9 Alex Manoogian Street in central Yerevan.[15] It is a multiple-use rental facility suitable for business or not-for-profit organizations. It has two conference and meeting rooms and a large auditorium.[25] The center was established in 1999 through financial support of the U.S. government.[12]

AUA Vartkes and Hasmig Barsam BuildingEdit

In 2005 the AUA acquired the Hye Business Suites Hotel located at 8 Mher Mkrtchyan Street in central Yerevan. It was donated to the university by Vartkes Barsam and is used to house visiting faculty and students, and provides additional income for the university.[26][27] United States Agency for International Development (USAID) invested US$300,000 to renovate and upgrade the building.[28]

Dzoragyugh BuildingsEdit

Two buildings were donated to AUA by philanthropists K. George and Dr. Carolann Najarian in 2016. Upon successful completion of the first building, AUA Student Residence, the construction of the Najarian Center for Social Entrepreneurship started in mid-April 2021 and is set to open its doors in Summer of 2023.[29]

AGBU Papazian LibraryEdit

The AGBU Papazian Library came into existence in 1991 when AUA was established. It is named after the Papazian family, who were generous benefactors of the AUA.[30] As of June 2015 the library contained 31,426 printed books and 482,350 digital books, journals, and CDs, DVDs, and audio and video cassettes.[1] Several notable Armenian Americans, including historian Richard G. Hovannisian who donated 1,338 books to the library and academic and educator Vartan Gregorian who donated over 600 mostly English-language titles in 2014, have donated books to the library.[31]

AccreditationEdit

The AUA was accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission in 2006. The university had received the candidacy status for accreditation in 2002,[32] becoming the first university in the former Soviet Union to be accredited by a U.S. educational institution. Accreditation means degrees issued by the AUA have a status equal to those issued in the U.S.[33] By 2013, the university had received accreditation from WASC and a license from the Armenian Ministry of Education and Science to offer four-year education.[34]

Notable alumniEdit

  • David Akopyan, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative a.i. in Syria, graduated from Master of Business Administration (MBA) program in 1993
  • Emil Babayan, Deputy Prosecutor General (since 2013) who holds a degree of Master of Laws from 2001[35]
  • Sedrak Barseghyan, Adviser to Minister-Chief of Government Staff of Armenia (since 2013). Class of 2009.[36]
  • Lilit Galstian, a member of parliament from the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (2007–2012) who graduated from the faculty of Political Sciences and International Relations in 1996[13][37]
  • Tevan Poghosyan, a member of parliament from Heritage party (since 2012) who graduated from the faculty of Political Sciences and International Relations in 1996[38]
  • Hovhannes Avoyan, chief executive officer and Founder of Picsart, who graduated as a Master of Political Sciences and International Relations in 1995.
  • Artashes Emin, translator, former Honorary Consul of Canada. Graduated as a Master of Law in 1999.[39]
  • Anahit Avanesian, Armenian Minister of Health
  • Anna Simonyan, Federal MP Candidate for Bloc Quebecois & Commission Members and founder of Clove a start up with offices in Yerevan, Montreal and San Francisco. Graduated with an MBA in 2001.
  • Dalita Avanesian, Armenian singer and actor.

Colleges and schoolsEdit

  • Zaven & Sonia Akian College of Science & Engineering
  • Manoogian Simone College of Business & Economics
  • College of Humanities & Social Sciences
  • Gerald & Patricia Turpanjian School of Public Health

Undergraduate programsEdit

  • Bachelor of Arts in Business
  • Bachelor of Arts in English and Communications
  • Bachelor of Arts in Politics and Governance
  • Bachelor of Science in Computer Science
  • Bachelor of Science in Engineering Sciences
  • Bachelor of Science in Data Science
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing
  • Bachelor of Science in Environmental and Sustainability Science[40]

Graduate programsEdit

  • Master of Business Administration
  • Master of Science in Economics
  • Master of Science in Management
  • Master of Engineering in Industrial Engineering and Systems Management
  • Master of Science in Computer and Information Science
  • Master of Political Science and International Affairs
  • Master of Arts in Teaching English as a Foreign Language
  • Master of Laws
  • Master of Public Health
  • Master of Arts in Human Rights and Social Justice

Certificate ProgramsEdit

  • Graduate Certificate in Teaching English as a Foreign Language
  • Graduate Certificate in Translation
  • Graduate Certificate in Finance
  • Graduate Certificate in Data Analytics
  • Certificate in Hotel and Hospitality Management
  • Executive Certificate in Management

PresidentsEdit

  1. Mihran Agbabian (1991–1997)[11]
  2. Haroutune Armenian (1997–2009)[41][42]
  3. Bruce Boghosian (2009–2014)[43]
  4. Armen Der Kiureghian (2015–2019)[44]
  5. Karin Markides (2019-2022)
  6. Armen Der Kiureghian (interim, 2022-)

Rankings and reputationEdit

The American University of Armenia is widely considered one of the top universities in Armenia. It has been described as such by former Education Minister Armen Ashotyan (2009–2016),[45] the U.S. Embassy in Armenia,[46] Armenian Weekly,[47] the Armenian service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty,[48] independent news agency CivilNet,[49] and other media outlets.[50][51] AUA has been ranked second in the country behind Yerevan State University in at least two rankings:

Year Source Rank nationally Rank globally
2014 Armenian government[52]
2
2015 Webometrics Ranking of World Universities[53]
2
3887

According to a 2009 business report by the Michigan State University, "according to those interviewed, the only reputable MBA program in Armenia is offered in Yerevan at the American University of Armenia".[5] According to a 2004 report titled "Corruption Levies Heavy Toll on Armenian Universities" by the Embassy of the United States to Armenia, the AUA is seen by its alumni as the only "clean", non-corrupt university where "students' assessment is performance based" in Armenia.[54] As of 2004, the AUA was one of four universities in Armenia teaching public administration.[55]

At his 2015 AUA Commencement Speech, U.S. Ambassador Richard Mills stated; "AUA is like no other university in Armenia. At no other school are you challenged to think critically like you are here. As an extension of our well-regarded University of California system, AUA has planted and nurtured informed, critical thinking skills that will stand you in good stead throughout the rest of your lives."[56]

At a June 1994 fundraising banquet for the AUA, U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Harry Gilmore stated that the university was one of the "islands of light" in an Armenia caught in war and economic hardship, where people had been living without heat and light for several years. Gilmore praised the university as follows:[57]

To me, the American University of Armenia exemplifies what is best about Armenian education. When you walk in the doors of the American University, you feel a sense of energy, of purpose. When you look in the computer lab, and see the students at work stations, you could be in any American University. But I think there are very few universities in the United States where the students work with such dedication and enthusiasm. There is another difference--when you talk to the students, you learn they are not there just for themselves, they are there because they want to make Armenia a better place to live for future generations.

Notable visitors and speakersEdit

Notable individuals who have visited the university and/or have given lectures include:

PoliticsEdit

Several months after the violent crackdown of opposition protests on March 1, 2008, AUA, among other prominent institutions, refused to rent meeting space to opposition groups and democracy advocates under government pressure, according to Joseph Pennington, Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan.[67]

On May 2, 2018, during the Velvet Revolution, a long list of AUA faculty members signed an open letter "unequivocally support[ing] the Armenian people's peaceful movement to restore social democratic values and fair, transparent elections." The letter added: "We support the students, workers, and other citizens of Armenia who are collectively saying no to oligarchic rule, corruption, a biased judiciary, and other socio-economic injustices."[68]

GalleryEdit

See alsoEdit

Other foreign universities in Armenia
Other American universities

ReferencesEdit

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