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Q&A with Dr. Arpie Balian: Why Should We Support the AUA for Syrian Armenians Campaign? Part II

3 min read

YEREVAN, Armenia – Earlier this month, we sat down with Director of AUA Extension Dr. Arpie Balian to learn more about the importance of the AUA for Syrian Armenians Campaign. In this part of the interview, Dr. Balian explains the value of AUA Extension’s assistance program, “Learning for a Better Future,” to Syrian-Armenian refugees and why it is important to support the AUA for Syrian Armenians Campaign.

What would you say is the most valuable thing that Syrian-Armenian refugees get out of this program?

Education and networking!  I think education is key to personal development for individuals, as well as for groups (in this case, groups of refugees). Being in class with local Armenians, they get accultured to the local Armenian culture. It’s very difficult to deal with the problems of displacement, let alone learn new skills, learn how to do business in Armenia, get the answers to so many how’s and why’s. But I think this program provides the best setting to get the answers ¾ the right medium for networking with graduates from AUA and other universities, with other Syrian Armenians who may be in similar situations, and with people who are interested in helping. For example, in the Women’s Entrepreneurship Program, Syrian-Armenian participants came into contact with experts who coached them in becoming more self-confident, a banker who offered to help them get loans for their small business start-ups, and former graduates to network with.

What is the impact of offering two courses in the Extension program? Isn’t it better to provide a scholarship for a student in one of AUA’s degree programs?

In fact, many of the refugees that come to AUA Extension already have graduate degrees. They need to refresh their education and get employed right away, without waiting two years to complete a degree.  Many of these refugees get back on their feet quicker than others; some have already found work or started their own businesses; others are still working on finding their niche. The courses, for example Project Management, Marketing, or HR Management, teach skills that one can use right away ¾ use when looking for a job, to find the right job, and succeed in the job one finds.

AUA Extension courses are designed to meet the demands of the local market. Particularly in a small country like this, the market changes very quickly. If the market today is showing a higher demand for marketing experts, that may change in two years to HR specialists. That is the reason why we have designed AUA Extension courses to be more flexible, so we are able to offer courses that give participants skills that provide the tools necessary for meeting market demand. In fact, in the HR Management course that I taught recently, there was a Syrian-Armenian lady who had had a long career as a teacher, but she wanted to change her career based on local market demand. So she turned to AUA Extension to develop new skills.

In your opinion, why should people support the AUA for Syrian Armenians campaign?

Supporting the AUA for the Syrian-Armenians Campaign means contributing to something that has a proven track record. This is an investment in a Syrian Armenian’s future. Our program is particularly helpful for those Syrian Armenians who have chosen to stay here in Armenia. For those who will eventually return to their home in Syria or go elsewhere, the program helps alleviate anxiety while teaching them English language skills and other professional Western-style knowledge that will be beneficial wherever they go. However, it appears that most of the Syrian Armenians that have come to AUA Extension are those who will stay in Armenia. We are reaching out to them by getting them started on a better course for their future here.


To learn more about the AUA for Syrian Armenians campaign, please click here.  

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.



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