Dr. Alina Gharabegian

Dr. Alina Gharabegian Appointed New AUA Provost

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YEREVAN/NEW YORK — The American University of Armenia (AUA) in May announced the appointment of new Provost Dr. Alina Gharabegian. Occupying various teaching roles since the age of 19, Dr. Gharabegian taught in California and New York — at California State University in Los Angeles and throughout four of the City University of New York’s campuses, teaching both literature and composition/rhetoric — before she was hired into a tenure track position at New Jersey City University (NJCU) in 2009. She served as chair of the English department at NJCU from 2014-17, vice president of NJCU’s Union for a term, and interim dean of AUA’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHSS) during her Fulbright stint in the 2018-19 academic year.

“We are delighted to welcome Dr. Gharabegian to the role of provost of the American University of Armenia,” said AUA President Dr. Bruce Boghosian. “She brings a wealth of experience in academic administration, combined with familiarity with the AUA community from her time as acting dean here. As our chief academic officer, she is well equipped to raise the level of teaching and research at this institution to the next level. All of us on the AUA executive team are very much looking forward to working with her.”

Gharabegian holds B.A., M.A., and M.Phil. degrees in the field of English literature, as well as a PhD in English, with an emphasis in Victorian poetry and poetics, from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY), the largest urban university system in the United States. There, she also underwent extensive training and developed expertise in composition/rhetoric theory and pedagogy, in addition to her primary training in 19th-century British literature. We asked Dr. Gharabegian about her vision for the role of provost, her motivation to return to AUA, and more.

What is your vision for your role of provost?

AUA has articulated for itself a sacred mission, in my opinion. Guarding the integrity of this mission is, in part, the provost’s responsibility. As chief academic officer, the provost is charged with maintaining the academic standards and facilitating the academic growth of the institution, so I see my role primarily as serving those twin purposes. I hope to foster a greater sense of community and collaboration among the academic units, and one way to achieve a sense of community is by unifying people, which I take to be part of my charge, as well. I’m a humanist, first and foremost, so I intend to model humanistic conduct — to privilege ethics and rationality, honor and inspire individuals, and expect social responsibility from all. It’s also part of my role, I think, to learn from others and to teach. The provost’s position, if I may be allowed to use an analogy, is that of a conductor who relies on every single individual in the orchestra to make the magic happen — together!

What motivated you to join AUA?

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As I mentioned, I hold AUA’s mission sacred and near to my heart. The university’s formation — its very existence — is like a miracle. It has overcome some quite significant odds and obstacles in its history. And so, of course, this makes AUA a particularly special place. It’s an honor, I think, to be part of an institution that has met and conquered challenges and continues to grow. The year I spent at AUA as interim dean of CHSS was, despite its attendant difficulties, the most spiritually rewarding year of my academic career, so a potential return to AUA was an easy decision to make. And of course, as a Diasporan, I want very much to contribute in my own small way to nation-building; given the synergies between AUA’s current needs and my training and experience, I think this is an ideal role for me. I feel that work at AUA is meaningful work.

What are some challenges you foresee in this new role?

Generally speaking, as in any undertaking in life, I think the greatest challenge is reconciling the gap between the ideal and the real. What do we hope for, desire, or aspire to, and what do we achieve in the world, by contrast? It’s challenging to negotiate the psychological space in which you have to accept that what you want and what you can have are often different things. So I imagine there will be things I will hope for, work toward, and then have to relinquish. The second challenge — a related challenge — concerns what is arguably our greatest commodity: time. I believe I will not have nearly enough time to do all I would want to do for the institution.

More specifically, AUA is on a huge growth trajectory, and where there is growth, growing pains are inevitable. I think that in the years ahead, there will be many challenges associated with that growth, which the provost’s office will have to face.

What do you enjoy most about working in education?

An educational institution is a place that brings together people who are constantly involved in the multifaceted enterprise of learning-teaching-investigating-discovering-sharing. It’s a fascinating place, in a sense. And for those of us who remain with it past the mandated 12-year period, this enterprise involves love, to some degree. I’m a curious person, so I think the academy is the best place for me. However, I think my greatest curiosity (even my curiosity about history and literature) concerns people. (Etymologically, “curious” comes from “care.”)  I’m curious about what makes people tick, what their interests and desires and hidden capabilities are, what inspires them, what and how they think, and so forth. So, discovering what motivates individuals and then helping them find their way to achieving what they want is a rewarding pursuit for me. As educators, we have the privilege of facilitating this discovery process for and with our students. My experience is that this paradigm holds true for people with whom one works in a leadership capacity, as well.

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