American University of Armenia Delegation Visits Mass.


By Alin K. Gregorian

Mirror-Spectator Staff

WATERTOWN — The team at the helm of the American University of Armenia (AUA) made a stop at the Armenian Library and Museum of America (ALMA) to discuss the expansion of the university, including its new undergraduate program, to a packed audience.

The panel from the AUA included: Dr. Dennis Leavens, provost; Maral Chalian, vice president of institutional advancement; Ashot Ghazaryan, vice president of operations; and Gevorg Goyunyan, vice president

of finance and President Dr. Bruce Boghosian, a Massachusetts native who has led the university since 2010.

“People felt there was a need to learn more about it on the East Coast,”Boghosian said. “The AUA is really a project of the University of California. It is a gift from the entire diaspora to the Republic of Armenia.”

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The AUA was founded in 1991 as a collaboration between the University of California, the government of Armenia and the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU). Boghosian said that the same body that accredits the UC system, the Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities of the Western

Association of Schools and Colleges, accredits the AUA.

Carol Aslanian of the AGBU Central Board and Ed Avedisian, who serves on the Board of Trustees of the AUA, attended the ALMA presentation.

Boghosian discussed the innovations at the university, including the new undergraduate

program, as well as other new graduate programs.

Boghossian was the chairman of the Department of Mathematics at Tufts University for 10 years before his appointment at AUA. Boghosian received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and his doctorate from the University of California, Davis. Boghosian stressed that the goal of his team is to make AUA a world-class international institution, following in the footsteps of its sister school, the American University of Beirut.

“Our intention is to give a global education in Armenia,” he said. For that reason, he noted, searches for faculty positions stretch internationally. “The goal is to give the highest quality of education. We measure ourselves against international institutions,” he said, adding that they want to do so in a way that is “inexpensive enough” in order for students to afford the tuition.

Currently, the tuition is about $2,500 a year for local students and $8,000 for foreign students. The foreign students come from Iran, Russia, India, Europe and the US.

The actual cost for educating each student for one year is considerably higher — closer to

$10,000 — Boghosian noted. “We rely on donations to make up a large part of it,” he said. He noted that the school has a “full-need and need-blind” admission policy, meaning that a student’s inability to pay any portion of the tuition will not impact his or her admission.

Boghosian and his team spoke about the launch of the undergraduate program in September 2013, as well as getting more international students into AUA, as Armenia is 98.5 percent ethnically homogenous and the infusion of foreign students would benefit both the locals and the foreign students in terms of exposure to Armenia.

The undergraduate program got the green light in June, after a year of the approval process. Initially, the program will offer three majors and accept 300 students annually. Boghosian said by 2017, therefore, will have 1,200 undergraduate and a total number of 1,600 students, including the 400 graduate students.

In addition, the school has close to 2,000 extension students studying computers or English.

Another area in which AUA is accelerating is organizing conferences and seminars, some jointly with Yerevan State University. Among the speakers in the past six months have been Dr. Aram Chobanian, the former president of Boston University.

Boghosian said AUA students have a lower rate of emigrating than other schools, with 75 percent of graduates opting to stay in the country. Leavens spoke next, noting that he joined the school in July. “I am most excited to be in Yerevan. It is a very dynamic, very historic moment,” he noted. He praised the students, noting they are “very serious, dedicated and ambitious.”

Leavens stressed that the AUA was trying to focus on what the country needs in order to help students fill that gap. He also noted collaborations with the Armenian International Women’s Association for the women’s entrepreneurship in Armenia, as well as now providing education for 80 refugees from Syria, who thanks to two anonymous donors, are studying for free.

“We feel honored to have these people on our campus,” he said.

Leavens most recent post was at the United Arab Emirates University, where, over a period of seven years, he served as associate dean and dean of Humanities and Social Sciences. Before that, he had taught at several universities in the US.

A lively question-and-answer session followed the talk by the panelists.

Serving as master of ceremonies for the program was Katrina Menzigian of Arlington, vice president, research relations, at the Everest Group, who had been a consultant to the AUA in its early years.

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