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Recognizing Arpie Balian’s Contributions and Long-Time Service to AUA

YEREVAN, Armenia ‒ On May 25, 2018, the American University of Armenia staff and faculty gathered in Akian Gallery for a farewell reception to recognize Professor Arpie Balian’s outstanding contributions to the University and long dedicated years of service.

Dr. Balian first came to AUA in June 2000 serving as Director of International Development for a year. In 2012, she returned to the University as a professor and was the Director of AUA Extension until 2016. Most recently, Dr. Balian has been a full-time professor in the Political Science and International Affairs (PSIA) program.

“What is really remarkable about Arpie is that she has a soft spot for AUA and a soft spot for Armenia. You ask her to do something for AUA, she just cannot say ‘No.’ […] She has a soft spot for Armenia as well, as you can see in many positions that she has worked including USAID Armenia Mission Deputy Director for Economic Restructuring and Energy,” said AUA President Armen Der Kiureghian as he expressed the University’s gratitude for her service to the institution and to her nation.

During her professional career, Dr. Balian held a number of leadership positions in the area of strategic consulting both in Armenia and abroad, such as the Managing Director for Strategy Consultants, the Country Director for the Children of Armenia Fund (COAF), the Deputy Director of Economic Restructuring and Energy for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Armenia Mission, the Director of Planning, Budget, and Evaluation of the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Executive Director and President of the Armenian Relief Society, and the Director of Administration at McMaster University. Dr. Balian has taught in several universities in Armenia, among which are AUA, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Academy of Public Administration. Throughout her teaching career, she has taught courses in international development programs and conducted more than 100 workshops in Argentina, Europe, North America, and the Middle East. Prior to her years as a professional, Dr. Balian received a Master’s degree in Executive Leadership from the American University in Washington, D.C., and a doctorate in policy, planning, and development from the University of Southern California (USC). The main areas of her research and teaching specialization include public administration, policy, planning and development, and gender studies.

At the farewell reception a number of honorable guests shared their love and admiration for Dr. Balian. AUA President Emeritus Dr. Haroutune Armenian recalled his first visit to Armenia, organized by Dr. Balian, just a month after the earthquake in 1988. They worked on several projects together, including an earthquake follow-up study. Dr. Armenian highlighted, “I don’t think anybody else would have understood the importance of doing research when everybody was doing humanitarian aid. And she was able to get the funding, something like $200,000, for us to start a multiyear experience. This research is still continuing today. Nothing like this has been done in the world in post-earthquake follow-up with regards to epidemiology and public health.” With regard to Dr. Balian’s role in the community, Dr. Armenian echoed professor of epidemiology Kerr White’s words that “epidemiology is about evaluation, efficiency, effectiveness, efficacy, education ‒ E for Epidemiology.” He continued, “so, I would like to say that every one of those terms, effectiveness, efficacy, education, and evaluation, are what characterize Arpie. I would add excellence, and I would say ‒ E for Arpie.”

While being the Director of AUA Extension, with support from the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU), Dr. Balian launched the program of leadership courses for officers of the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Armenia (MoD RA). She gradually developed good relations with the current Minister of Defense, Davit Tonoyan, who was the first Deputy Minister of Defense at the time. Not being able to attend the reception in person, he sent his representative Colonel Zhirayr Amirkhanyan, Head of the Defense Planning Division of the Defense Policy Department of MoD RA, to convey his message to the guests.

“The leadership of the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Armenia, deservedly appreciating your dedicated and long-standing contribution to the military education of our country, conveys its profound gratitude for your diligence and commitment demonstrated in our cooperative endeavors. […] I wish you every success in your follow-up professional and personal undertakings and stand assured of your continued participation in education and research for the sake of both the security of the Republic of Armenia and Artsakh. Your competence, character, and commitment make this assertion crystal clear,” wrote Tonoyan in his letter of appreciation for Dr. Balian.

AUA Provost Dr. Randall Rhodes, who has worked very closely with Dr. Balian, shared a few thoughts on her supreme perfectionism: “She is so driven by the need, by the compulsion to do the job with utmost excellence and utmost propriety that, obviously, you respect her for that level of professionalism. And you understand that sense of urgency always in her voice and that sense of perfection and the need to address issues because the most important thing is moving the agenda forward, whether it’s the Extension, whether it’s on behalf of AUA or whether it’s a larger issue that needs to be resolved.” In addition, Dr. Rhodes underlined the love and commendation AUA students have for her.

During the reception, Dr. Der Kiureghian revealed to some of the guests that Dr. Donald Fuller, Interim Dean at the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHSS), was Dr. Balian’s superviser while she was working on her doctoral dissertation. “Being her adviser is a challenge,” Dr. Fuller joked, adding that ever since they met they have learned a lot from each other.

Several other guests also shared memorable moments they had experienced with Dr. Balian and the valuable mentorship and wisdom they received from her. AGBU Papazian Library Director Satenik Avakian took the chance to thank Dr. Balian for her generous donation of over 200 books, which will be available in the library for students’ use.

AUA Assistant Vice President Anahit Ordyan shared the experience she had with Dr. Balian while preparing a grant submission to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)’s office of American Schools and Hospitals Abroad (ASHA). “I just want to thank Arpie for those wonderful four-five months, which were very challenging, very difficult but most enjoyable,” added Ordyan.

“Working at AUA has been a privilege, a chance to contribute, and a place to discover.  My students have been my raison d’etre, my passion and inner strength. There are so many of you to thank and so much to remember and cherish. That’s what makes AUA a place one never leaves,” remarked Dr. Balian. She finished her talk with a few words in Armenian, “the language of my heart: Remember me with a smile, remember me with love and remember me with dedication to this land and to our statehood! I love you.”

Following the cordial speeches, three AUA students Hripsime Muradyan (E&C ’21), Sona Karganyan (BAB ’19), and Rafayel Avagyan (BAB ’20) entertained the guests with their musical performances. They had prepared pieces by Armenian composers taking into consideration Dr. Balian’s warmth towards the Armenian culture.

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.