YEREVAN, Armenia – On Saturday, June 4th, the American University of Armenia (AUA) celebrated the graduating class of 2016. Trustees, faculty, staff, students, friends, family members, and guests from around the world gathered in AUA’s Large Auditorium to honor the hard work and accomplishments of its newest graduating class, and the 25th anniversary of the University. The ceremony was led by AUA President Armen Der Kiureghian, one of the founders of the university, who has continuously supported the institution’s development since its inception in 1991.
Following the invocation and greeting from His Holiness KAREKIN II, Catholicos of All Armenians, President Armen Der Kiureghian gave his welcoming remarks, stating, “This is a special day of celebration for faculty, students, parents, and all the organizations and individuals who have worked towards the establishment and development of this institution. It is particularly special this year, as we are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the University.” He especially thanked the three main entities that helped bring AUA to life: the Armenian government, the Armenian General Benevolent Union, and the University of California. Dr. Der Kiureghian recognized the members of the AUA Board of Trustees present at the commencement – Dr. Lawrence Pitts, Chair of the Board, Mr. Berge Setrakian, Mr. Zaven Akian, Mr. Adam Kablanian, Dr. Ann Karagozian, Mr. Edward Avedisian, Dr. Haroutune Armenian, Mrs. Carol Aslanian, Mr. Vazken Yakoubian, Mrs. Suzy Missirian Antounian, and Dr. Yervant Zorian.
President Der Kiureghian also highlighted some of AUA’s achievements from the last academic year including the signings of the Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) with several universities worldwide, the AUA Digital Library (Digilib) team digitizing the works of 40 Western Armenian writers, the Acopian Center for the Environment convening the first Ecotourism Conference in Armenia, the Center for Health Services and Research completing an important study of nursing education and practice in Armenia (in collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania), the launch of the 100 Pillars of AUA campaign, AUA’s continued support to provide tuition assistance, and AUA students translating official news on the Nagorno-Karabagh War in April into over 19 languages. In addition, the construction and furnishing of the Collaborative Study Area in the Mihran and Elizabeth Agbabian Hall, the tiered classroom, the Entrepreneurship & Product Innovation Center, and the Center for Student Services have been made possible through the support of American people received from the USAID Office of American Schools and Hospitals Abroad.
President Der Kiureghian’s welcoming remarks were followed by a greeting from Dr. Ann Karagozian, AUAC Trustee, Professor, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science.
Commencement addresses were given by Mr. Levon Mkrtchyan, AUAF Trustee, RA Minister of Education and Science and Dr. Lawrence Pitts, Chairman of AUA Board of Trustees. When addressing the graduates, Dr. Pitts advised, “I urge you to pursue your passions and throw yourself into them completely. With your experience from AUA, some of your tools are technical and important to your economic well-being, and to the well-being of Armenia.”
This year’s ceremony also featured two valedictorian speeches. The Armenian address was given by Setrag Hovsepian, MA TEFL, and the English address by Shabitha Alexander, MPH, and last year’s recipient of the Vartkess M. Balian Merit Award.
Setrag Hovsepian is a diasporan Armenian from Damascus, Syria, and he, among several other Syrian-Armenian students, was also an Akian Family Foundation scholarship recipient. Setrag had been waiting for this day because it was the very first time he was able to celebrate a graduation. Back in 2000, he finished elementary school, but the former President of Syria passed away and his graduation ceremony was canceled. In 2003, he finished secondary school during the Iraqi War and he couldn’t celebrate his graduation. In 2006, he finished high school during a major conflict in Lebanon, and again, all celebrations were canceled. In 2013, he earned his undergraduate degree from Damascus University, but due to the war in Syria, he could not celebrate. The valedictorian commented, “Today is a special celebration for me, because I am celebrating my graduation in the presence of my parents and in my motherland. AUA saved my life twice, first in the summer of 2014 when I received an email saying that I was accepted in the MA TEFL program and I ran into another room to tell my mother about it when a mortar fell in the room where I had been. The second time is today, when I will finally receive a master’s degree, that will open doors wider than I ever imagined, and will allow me to build a life here in Armenia. AUA is not just a University which imparts information and teaches courses, it enriches us as humans, it shows us what transparency means, why respect matters, and how people should treat each other.”
The recipient of the 2015 Vartkess M. Balian Merit Award was Davit Karapetyan, Computer and Information Science, and this year’s Faculty Teaching Excellence prize winners were Agassy Manoukian, College of Business and Economics, and Arto Vaun, College of Humanities and Social Sciences. Research Awards were given to five faculty research projects.
The degrees and certificates were conferred to graduates in the fields of business management, economics, public health, computer and information science, industrial engineering and systems management, political science and international affairs, law, and teaching English as a foreign language. With this new cohort of 287 graduates, the number of AUA alumni will become 3,075.
At the end of the ceremony, the graduates threw their caps in the air to celebrate receiving their diplomas. The footage of the AUA Commencement Ceremony of 2016 can be viewed at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g83Z62f5HTw.
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.