Dr. Sharistan Melkonian, left, with Baydsar Thomasian

Dean Highlights AUA Advances at Los Angeles Program


GLENDALE  — On April 27, the American University of Armenia (AUA) Office of Development hosted a talk on “AUA’s Direction Forward & Up” with Dr. Sharistan Melkonian, AUA’s dean of General Education and accreditation liaison officer.

The event took place at the Armenian Society of Los Angeles and was attended by AUA supporters and members of the community, as well as alumni who shared the significance of AUA in their education and personal growth. Melkonian spoke on a range of topics, including the rising enrollment numbers, existing and developing academic programs, meaningful partnerships with other institutions, and the expansion of campus facilities, all of which highlighted how AUA is addressing the growing demand in Armenia and the region.

Sharing data that demonstrate a 177-percent increase in student enrollment since 2013, the year AUA launched its undergraduate degree program, Dr. Melkonian covered key elements of the University’s success, including its need-blind admission policy which ensures that no Armenian citizen is denied access to an AUA education solely because of their financial inability to pay tuition. Acknowledging the AUA Development team’s efforts, she added that AUA is elevating its outreach efforts to ensure that “we really get the word out so that the best students in Armenia, regardless of whether they are from Yerevan or the regions, know that this is an opportunity for them.”

Touching on AUA’s existing academic programs and those in development, Dr. Melkonian elaborated on the new Bachelor of Science in Environmental and Sustainability Sciences, which will commence in Fall 2023; the RN to the Bachelor of Science in Nursing, launched in Fall 2022, which puts AUA at the forefront of having an incredibly important impact in healthcare; and the development of other academic programs that aim to make a significant difference in Armenia’s education system. Dr. Melkonian also spoke about AUA’s commitment to the enhancement of science, technology, and engineering, and the importance of bringing in humanities at a juncture that will equip graduates with the skills to navigate challenges outside of AUA. “It’s not only about a student’s specialization or major — we want graduates to be able to navigate some of the complex problems they will face when they leave the classroom and enter the global workforce, and a combination of STEM with humanities is the answer,” she expounded.

Hayk Mamajanyan

Speaking on the importance of alumni engagement and expounding on the benchmarks of alumni success, Melkonian introduced two alumni who were in attendance: Hayk Mamajanyan (LL.M ‘12) and Areg Margarian (M.S. in Earthquake Engineering ‘95).

Mamajanyan, founder and managing attorney at HVM Law Firm, reflected on his time at AUA and how his education provided him with the legal concepts and critical thinking skills that allowed him to pave his own path forward. “I benefited a great deal from the institution, and in this age of AI revolution and with all the shifts taking place in the workforce and economy, I feel like AUA is the institution that is well prepared to address the changing needs of Armenia,” he remarked.

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Margarian, in his turn, spoke of his time at AUA as part of the university’s early years and how what he saw and experienced reinforced his resolution to proceed as a civil and structural earthquake engineer. A senior project manager at Anser Advisory, Margarian also encouraged AUA to consider bringing back the earthquake engineering program at AUA. He noted, “As a structural engineer, considering the booming construction industry in Armenia, I think that many buildings would benefit from retrofitting. It is a monumental task, even for a seismically active country like the United States, but it needs to be implemented.”

Melkonian also spotlighted the faculty at AUA, and elaborated on how the University has enhanced recruitment over the years increasing the percentage of faculty that joined the institution with teaching experience in their graduate studies. “We’re also working to provide ongoing professional development to engage faculty who may not have had that experience. One of the things that research tells us is experiential learning, project based learning, active learning, and high levels of interaction among students and faculty is a highly effective practice in education,” she added.

AUA Alum Areg Margarian

Specific partnerships that bring value to AUA students were discussed, including the StemGen program, the collaborative student exchange program with Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, and various programs realized through the AUA Entrepreneurship and Product Innovation Center where students increase their startup potential. Dr. Melkonian added that open labs and enhanced science and technology initiatives help students work even better in interdisciplinary teams to address problems in Armenia, concluding with the fact that “We can only do this given our commitment to continued improvement and quality.”

At the event, Melkonian was also awarded a Certificate of Recognition from California Senator Maria Elena Durazo’s office, presented to her by District Representative Baydsar Thomasian.


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