By Mihran Aroian
Special to the Mirror-Spectator
YEREVAN — Two years ago, the Office of the High Commissioner for Diaspora Affairs launched a program to engage the Armenian diaspora in the growth and strengthening of Armenia. The program is called iGorts and this September will mark the third year of professionals who will spend a year in Armenia bringing their skills, talents, energy and intelligence to make our homeland strong. It is an initiative of the Armenian government to integrate professionals from the diaspora to work in a governmental agency in Armenia or Artsakh for a year. The purpose is that by bringing expertise, experience and knowledge from Armenian professionals in the diaspora, Armenia can tap into skills and talent that can help Armenia solve problems and bring about new opportunities. If you are so inclined to want to bring your expertise to the Armenian government, it is one way of contributing to the success of Armenia. This year, nearly 300 Diaspora Armenian professionals from 31 countries applied for participation in the iGorts program, and I was one of them!
It has been a dream of mine to have a more active role and involvement in Armenia. Teaching at the American University of Armenia (AUA) has always been rewarding but having an opportunity to have an impact on a larger scale appealed to me. I had learned about iGorts from two students that I had at AUA and decided to apply prior to the May deadline this year. To my pleasant surprise, I received five Zoom interviews. Two were with the Ministry of Economy, one with the Office of the Prime Minister, the National Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and with the Armenian National Interests Fund (ANIF).
My first interview lasted all of two minutes. My second interview was fascinating. The opening question to explain my background never got answered but what we did explore was my motivation for wanting to work in Armenia. A 30-minute scheduled Zoom discussion ended after 90 minutes, when I was invited to visit with the Office of the Prime Minister. Since I am in Yerevan for the summer, I went in for a visit and we had another 90-minute discussion about how to increase cooperation between the various ministries and what such an effort would entail. As a professor of management at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin, this is one of my specialties. If I can help to increase synergy in the Armenian government, that will be a positive contribution. We also spoke about something I am very passionate about which is getting the diaspora more involved in the future of Armenia.
My third interview was with the Armenian National Interests Fund. It is a newly created investment fund controlled by the government and managed by professionals, to make equity investments in projects that will have an economic impact on Armenia. Given my background as an investment professional in the venture capital industry in Texas, they too would like to meet in person.