YEREVAN, Armenia – As the American University of Armenia (AUA) continues to celebrate a year of culminating achievements, the AUA Community is constantly enriched by its faculty and staff from diverse professional backgrounds who leverage their experience to encourage students to affect positive change in Armenia and the region. This August, AUA Extension Program Director, Sergey Tantushyan published a trailblazing study in Harvard Business Review that explores the balance between social purpose and entrepreneurship in Armenia.
The case study uses the Homeland Development Initiative Foundation (HDIF) as an example in demonstrating the hurdles and possible solutions for finding harmony between social responsibility and entrepreneurial sustainability. One aspect the study is the vague definition of social entrepreneurship and how such ambiguity often leads to faulty strategies. In the research, Dr. Tantushyan focuses on the Armenia-based HDIF organization as a rare instance of a social entrepreneurial organization seeking sustainability. HDIF concentrates its activities in three areas: selling handicrafts; tourism development through organizing festivals; and, empowering rural communities in Armenia. As with many non-for-profit organizations the dilemma is whether to continue down the same path and remain heavily dependent on the continuing financial investments or shift to a new and economically promising area of ecotourism in order to become financially sustainable.
Sergey’s recently published research reflects the fusion of his experience in consulting for-profit and non-for-profit organizations. An AUA alumnus himself (Master in Comparative Legal Studies, ‘2003), and a Brandeis MBA, from 2014-2016 Sergey has served as Deputy CEO at IDeA Foundation and returned to his alma mater as Director of AUA’s Extension Program in July 2016. The case study is available at Harvard Business Publishing and will prove especially useful for AUA’s students and alumni who use the knowledge and skills they acquire at the University to provide impactful solutions to social problems. As both a staff member and an active professor of Business Strategy at AUA, Sergey provides a unique perspective to the University and next generation of entrepreneurs and innovators:
AUA: What made you decide to return to AUA?
Sergey: Actually, I never left. Upon my return from New York City in 2012, I started teaching at AUA and continued both as BAB Program Chair, and Deputy CEO at IDeA. Even before, while I was studying to receive my MBA in Boston I was teaching for AUA Extension in summers. After the successful Aurora Prize event at IDeA, I felt ready for another challenge and joined AUA as Extension Program Director. AUA’s Extension is a unit within the University that has a unique mix of business and academic components. This is an interesting project for me professionally and personally an important destination, which I will hopefully add value to. The former Director Dr. Arpie Balian has always been as senior colleague and mentor to me, so having her support, as well as the support of the Provost and the President became important factors in making this decision.
AUA: How do you see yourself impacting the University?
Sergey: Within the Extension Program I plan to offer a wider range of professional development courses, along with General English and other language courses that generate most of the participant flows. We currently offer courses such as Project Management Professional Test prep (AUA has the only PMP certified testing center in Armenia), Speaking English with Confidence, The Art and Science of Success, Digital Marketing and many more, all reflecting the current market demand. More emphasis will be placed on our Certificate programs in Strategic Management, as well as in Tourism and Hospitality, both in Yerevan and the regions. Our activity in the regions is developing in the direction of offering standardized exam prep classes and more professional courses, all with generous support from the Turpanjian Foundation.
This week we will be traveling to Artsakh with a group of world-class instructors, to deliver StartUp Entrepreneurship, Business Writing, Project Management and other courses, supported by AGBU and the Government of Artsakh. We are actively extending the list of our corporate customers. The AIWA-sponsored Women’s Entrepreneurship and Leadership programs were a major success, and are currently being improved further. There is a lot to be done still, and I am very enthusiastic about the Extension Program.
AUA: What is one trait you would like to see more of in today’s students and generation of young professionals?
Sergey: My experience teaching AUA students, both at graduate and undergraduate levels, has been very rewarding. Many are very bright, they are holders of the new culture of entrepreneurship, are politely assertive, know what they want, and are curiously innovative. I’ve learned a lot from them, and adjust my teaching methods to benefit them most. My request, and I would even say a demand from them, is to participate in class more actively, and to add value to the discussion. Since my teaching is case-based, I assume the role of the moderator, and well-informed, courteous, and smart participation is the key to the learning experience to be positive. That is what I want to see in my students most.