YEREVAN, Armenia – This year, the American University of Armenia (AUA) Extension is proud to mark its tenth year of fruitful collaborations with the Armenian International Women’s Association (AIWA). With generous support and sponsorship from AIWA, the AUA Extension continues to organize and offer successful programs geared toward women empowerment. The goal of these efforts is to promote and enrich the social, economic and personal advancement of Armenian women through educational and other community activities that unite women and promote gender equity.
Advancing Women Leadership in Leadership and Decision-Making is a leadership module dedicated to equipping participants with the mechanisms and skills needed to empower women in society, break stereotypes, and create equal opportunities. The program launched in 2015 and proved to be in high demand with courses led by Dr. Irina Ghaplanyan, a political analyst and published author who has worked in a number of international organizations and think tanks including the UNDP, Eurasia Foundation, and Georgetown University.
The Women Entrepreneurship Program (WEP) has had over 200 graduates and continues to serve as a platform for business entrepreneurship. The program enables women to strategically plan and articulate their business vision and assume the roles of successful entrepreneurs. In 2008, the program inspired several graduates to establish the Women’s Entrepreneurship Promotion and Empowerment Center (WEPEC). WEPEC was launched by WEP alumni and is currently coordinated by Anahit Ghazaryan. The organization is dedicated to women entrepreneurs who have completed the WEP training and are pursuing their passion in starting or expanding small and medium businesses. WEPEC is also open to those graduates who have decided to seek other employment or avenues, but are still interested in being part of the WEP Family and share common goals as WEP Empowered Women.
WEP brings top-notch experts together with aspiring businesswomen and uses a unique business model canvas to develop individual organizational skills, as well as the ability to identify business challenges and make respective decisions. This year, 19 participants were admitted after a rigorous selection process. Instructors and mentors of the program continue to be prominent qualified experts in their respective fields. The 2016 WEP featured instructions from Armen Avagyan who currently serves as counsel to the Prime Minister of Armenia. In addition, participants also visited BioFarm, a company founded by AUA alumnas Karine Sargsyan and Narine Badanyan. Their example of a flourishing business proved very confidence-inspiring to all trainees.
At the end of the program, each participant was given the opportunity to present their business plan to a jury comprised of representatives from banks, private companies, and AUA’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Center (EPIC). Three of the best proposals were selected to be further developed within the framework of the EPIC’s startup incubation program. A farewell party was also held for participants at Ingredient cafe, a company founded by a 2016 WEP participant and graduate Vardanush Petrossian. After a healthy and delicious dinner everyone played the well known Aylkerp (Other-way) board game, a business project initiated by another 2016 WEP participant, Sofya Khachatryan. The successful startup environment provided a great atmosphere and opportunity for entrepreneurial networking.
Currently, the University is working to expand both WLP and WEP modules. In coordination with AIWA Executive Director Jennifer Phillips, AUA Extension will incorporate greater alumni participation in the selection process, as well as involve a professional selection committee. By pairing applicants with specific mentors throughout the AIWA and WEPEC networks worldwide, applicants will have access to expertise and key mentorship. This will allow participants to form more targeted business plans according to the trends in industry, retail and service organizations in Armenia.
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.