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Veronika Zonabend and the Future of Education: UWC Dilijan College Co-Founder Speaks at AUA

YEREVAN, Armenia – On March 5, 2015, the American University of Armenia (AUA) hosted Veronika Zonabend, co-founder of the UWC Dilijan College in Armenia and RVVZ Foundation, for a presentation on the challenges facing education today and the RVVZ Foundation’s role in addressing them.

Ms. Zonabend began by emphasizing just how big a role education plays in all areas of life, not just in the classroom. “If we think about the two professions that can have the biggest impact on a society, they are doctors and teachers. One heals the body, and the other heals the soul,” she said.

She explained that, even though many people recognize the importance of education, not many people recognize that the educational system currently in place does not adequately serve the needs of 21st century students. “Education in the 21st century is a mutual dialogue between teacher and student, whereas before it was just instruction,” she said.

Ms. Zonabend cited globalization and rapidly changing technology as some of the key reasons why the current educational system is obsolete and separated from reality.

The RVVZ Foundation, which Ms. Zonabend co-founded with her husband, Ruben Vardanyan, is a family foundation that implements philanthropic sustainable development projects throughout Russia and Armenia, with a heavy emphasis on education. Their mission is to find new models of education that will promote ideas such as creativity and entrepreneurship in the classroom, which are more sustainable methods of learning in today’s world. 

Of course, many challenges exist, such as recruiting and training qualified and motivated teachers, establishing the proper curriculum, and finding students who are willing to learn. The RVVZ Foundation believes that by supporting social enterprise projects in the education sector, they can work to change the system from the inside.

In addition to her work with the RVVZ Foundation, she is a Founding Partner and Chair of the Board of Governors of the UWC Dilijan College in Armenia and is actively involved in philanthropy. During the early 2000’s, she worked as an entrepreneur and undertook projects in diverse sectors such as hospitality, film distribution, and production. Ms. Zonabend was awarded the Order of Friendship in October 2014 by directive of the President of Armenia for fostering educational development and international collaboration in science and education, as well as for substantial efforts in building the international school in Dilijan and implementing academic programs.

The presentation was followed by a Q & A session in which AUA President Armen Der Kiureghian asked questions that had been submitted by the audience.

Founded in 1991, the American University of Armenia (AUA) is a private, independent university located in Yerevan, Armenia and affiliated with the University of California. AUA provides a global education in Armenia and the region, offering high-quality, graduate and undergraduate studies, encouraging civic engagement, and promoting public service and democratic values.