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Deborah Grieser, USAID Armenia Mission Director, and Tina Balin, USAID/ASHA Program Analyst, Visit AUA

YEREVAN, Armenia ‒ On July 19, 2018, the American University of Armenia (AUA) hosted Deborah Grieser, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Armenia Mission Director, and Tina Balin, Program Analyst at the USAID American Schools and Hospitals Abroad (ASHA) program. They were accompanied by Kristina Sargsyan, the USAID Program Development Assistant. The aim of their monitoring visit was to meet the ASHA-funded projects management team and personally see the impact that ASHA’s support has had on AUA and its larger community.

The guests were welcomed to AUA by Assistant Vice President Anahit Ordyan, who introduced them to the exciting evolution of the University since its establishment in 1991, emphasizing the important role of ASHA. A subsequent meeting with AUA President Dr. Armen Der Kiureghian and Vice President of Finance Gevorg Goyunyan informed the guests about AUA’s expanded academic and outreach programs, civic activism and professional accomplishments of its students and alumni, programs for women’s empowerment, increased percentage of students from rural areas and other countries, plans for further development and more.

Not built to accommodate an educational institution, the building AUA started in was originally the Congress Hall of Armenia’s Communist Party. It has since become a state-of-the-art facility with modern classrooms and labs, a renovated library, and meeting and conference rooms, furnished with the latest tools and equipment to ensure productive study and work environments.

The role of USAID/ASHA in this development has been remarkable. As stated by Dr. Der Kiureghian, “AUA would not have been anywhere near to where it is now without the generous support of the American people through USAID and its ASHA program since University’s first days of establishment, for which the AUA community is most grateful.” Indeed, through services of the AGBU Papazian Library which is open to community at large, and through multiple lectures, conferences, seminars and other events open to public, visitors have the opportunity to utilize the resources available to them for studies and research, as well as to learn more about best practices and innovations in higher education.

The group toured the ASHA-funded facilities in the Main Building, including the AGBU Papazian Library, the Collaborative Study Space, and the Entrepreneurship and Product Innovation Center (EPIC) with its prototyping lab, as well as several integrated technology classrooms and the solar energy monitor in the Paramaz Avedisian Building (PAB). Of special interest was the visit to the construction site of the Student Union, Faculty Center and Open Amphitheater adjacent to PAB, to be officially opened in September. The construction of these much-needed facilities was made possible due to the generous support of $650,000 granted by USAID/ASHA.

The USAID Armenia Mission Director was impressed with the progress made. “We are proud of our continued collaboration in support of AUA’s current and prospective students through the USAID American Schools and Hospitals Abroad program, helping AUA transform into a comfortable, state-of-the-art learning and research space for both students and faculty. Nothing will better ensure Armenia’s long-term prosperity than quality education,” Grieser said.

Later in the day, Balin and Grieser met with the ASHA projects management team of the University. Vice President of Operations Ashot Ghazaryan also joined the meeting via Skype. They discussed current ASHA projects, the system in place for their effective management, monitoring and evaluation, the positive impact of the upgraded facilities on the studying and working conditions of the AUA students, faculty and staff, and the importance of grants for leveraging the funds. Mnatsakan Mkrtchyan, the Director of Financial Services at AUA, who has witnessed the university’s growth from day one, noted: “The change is tremendous… Absolutely no comparison with what we had when we started.”

“I am honored to have witnessed in person the many years of USAID/ASHA and the American people’s critical partnership with AUA. A strong education is the cornerstone of a strong society, which AUA has been steadfast in providing these past two decades,” remarked Balin.

The discussion about students’ different experiences at AUA, about the need for the student residence and the impact of AUA alumni in the economic development of the country continued during lunchtime and the tour to Dzoragyugh ethnographic district where the student residence will be constructed with the recent $999,000 award received from ASHA program.

At the end, expressing enormous gratitude for the continuous support to her beloved alma mater, Ordyan stated: “It was exciting to study at AUA in the early 90s, but it is further exciting to see what study conditions AUA offers now. Many alumni coming back to their home institution express a wish to get another degree just to enjoy these wonderful facilities.”

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.