Senior Program Advisor of USAID/ASHA Gary Barrett Visits AUA

YEREVAN, Armenia – On September 22, 2016, the American University of Armenia (AUA) hosted Gary Barrett, Senior Program Advisor of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) American Schools and Hospitals Abroad (ASHA) Office, along with Deborah Grieser, Mission Director, and Mervyn Ellis, Supervisory Program Officer of the USAID Armenia Office. They visited the University to see first-hand the positive impact that ASHA’s generous support has had on AUA and its larger community.

The day began with a tour of the newly renovated facilities in AUA’s Main Building led by Vice President of Operations Ashot Ghazaryan and Assistant Vice President Anahit Ordyan. During the tour, the guests visited the AGBU Papazian Library, the Collaborative Study Space, the Entrepreneurship and Product Innovation Center (EPIC), as well as multi-purpose labs on the ground floor, and the cafeteria. Throughout the tour, the guests were able to put the renovations into perspective by comparing before and after pictures, directly demonstrating the impact of ASHA’s support.

The guests were especially impressed by the latest addition, the EPIC. The creation of the EPIC was made possible with a generous award of $566,500 by ASHA and was fully implemented with additional support from Ms. Zaruhy Chitjian of Los Angeles. Dr. Armen Mkrtchyan, the Director of EPIC, and Manager of Operations Aram Keryan led the guests on a tour of the facilities that are dedicated to multidisciplinary projects aimed at innovation and technology incubation. The guests were impressed to see the newly acquired state-of-the-art equipment, including a 3D scanner, 3D printers, a vacuum casting machine, and top-of-the-line workstations. Mr. Barrett was amazed to learn that all the furniture in EPIC’s offices, including an expandable glass wall, was locally manufactured.

The guests also visited the Paramaz Avedisian Building (PAB), including a trip to the roof, where solar panels are installed. Mr. Barrett was pleasantly surprised to learn how much more energy efficient the University had become since the installation of the panels. The guests also visited the AUA Acopian Center for the Environment (ACE), as well as the Alex and Marie Manoogian Hall.

Later in the day, Mr. Barrett met with AUA leadership, students, faculty, and staff. In a meeting with Dr. Armen Der Kiureghian, AUA President, and Dr. Randall Rhodes, AUA Provost, USAID/ASHA representatives discussed the University’s needs-blind, transparent admissions policy and reputation of the University as the leading higher education institution in Armenia. Following this, AUA deans and directors met with Mr. Barrett to discuss new perspectives for development and also discussed the student make-up of each college and school. Mr. Barrett commended the School of Public Health for the ethnic diversity of its student body.

When meeting with current students, Mr. Barrett led a frank discussion in asking how ASHA could help improve the University. The students remarked that they looked forward to more collaborative spaces and a greater variation of facilities such as a sports complex. They also expressed excitement for the day when AUA would offer Ph.D. programs. Afterwards, in a free exchange of ideas with AUA alumni, Mr. Barrett was pleased to learn about the role the University played in their successful careers.  

Overall, Mr. Garrett’s visit to the University was a wonderful opportunity for the AUA Community to show its appreciation for ASHA’s continued support. “I was very impressed with what AUA has achieved with the modest funding received from ASHA. It is truly a testament to the hard work that the university team has put in to make AUA a world class institution for learning. I was greatly impressed to hear the dreams and aspirations of the current students. They are the future leaders that will help to continue to transform Armenia. The alumni’s stories took me on a journey from the school’s early start, with no power and little resources, to the high tech, leading institution that it has become.”

The American University of Armenia (AUA) has been receiving support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) American Schools and Hospitals Abroad (ASHA) Office for many years. Past projects have included the renovation and expansion of the University library, remodeling of the cafeteria, creation of integrated technology classrooms, replacement of university windows and Main Building elevators, among others.

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