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CSUN’s Dr. Dianne Philibosian Visits AUA To Discuss Collaboration Between the Two Universities

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philibosian photoYEREVAN, Armenia – Dr. Dianne Philibosian, faculty member at California State University Northridge (CSUN) and former director of CSUN’s Institute for Community Health and Wellbeing, visited the American University of Armenia (AUA) from November 16-25. The goal of her trip, which she took with her colleague and husband, Tom Seifert, was to seek potential areas of collaboration between the two universities, as agreed to in a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between AUA and CSUN in October.

“It’s been a one-year process and it all came together beautifully,” Philibosian said, referring to a process of negotiations and discussions that culminated in the signing of the MoU and her trip to Armenia with the purpose of “putting CSUN people in contact with AUA people.”

During her trip, during which Philibosian met with AUA directors, and heads of programs and departments to discuss their needs and possible areas of contribution, she discovered many potential areas of collaboration. “I am most appreciative for the generous outpouring of time, expertise and talent from the many faculty, administrators, and staff with whom we met.  It was most gratifying to discover so many areas of potential collaboration between our two institutions; and I look forward to the follow-up with each one of you,” Philibosian wrote in a letter following her visit.

While still in Armenia, Philibosian, a veteran of 40 years in the field of higher education, had already formed some initial ideas about how to start the collaboration as quickly as possible.  During an interview at AUA, she said that it might be possible to begin in areas that do not necessarily need much funding, such as connecting AUA and CSUN students in classes with mutual interests, using email and Skype. “Distance is not an issue and we can move into collaboration quickly,” she said. More formal exchanges of faculty and students would require more time and planning.

In that spirit, Philibosian held meetings with Director of Accreditation Sharistan Melkonian, and discussed with her collaboration paths in the area of teaching, learning, and assessment methodologies. With Director of Admissions Arina Zohrabian, she talked about summer courses and AUA’s Study Abroad program. With Varduhi Petrosyan, Dean of the School of Public Health, many issues were discussed, including the possibility of collaboration in the area of nursing. A nursing and other certificate programs were discussed with Arpi Balian, Director of Extension at AUA. Collaboration in tourism, entrepreneurship, and non-profit management is a possibility with the College of Economics and Business.  She also met with many other staff and faculty members at the university.

Beyond the academic opportunities, what struck Philibosian the most was the vibrancy that she experienced among AUA students and faculty. “AUA is vibrant at a whole different level,” she said. She experienced it again when she visited the Turpanjian Rural Development Program’s (TRDP) Gyumri office. “There’s passion here, and out in the regions too,” Philibosian said.

At TRDP, she and her husband witnessed a business plan training session where new entrepreneurs, mostly women and representing all age groups, eagerly presented and talked about their plans. TRDP’s Gyumri Chief Zorair Kirakosyan connected emotionally with mentees and encouraged social responsibility and giving back to the community, according to Philibosian. The TRDB-supported businesses collaborated with each other and formed a network to support each other’s businesses.

When still in California, Philibosian witnessed a similar spirit of investment on the part of AUA President Armen Der Kiureghian during the signing of the MoU in October. Philibosian said that he showed genuine interest towards representatives from CSUN’s Armenian Students Association.  “He was invested about everyone, especially students. He talked to students, which was very gracious of him. He made them feel very special,” Philibosian said.

“A most heartfelt thank you to President Der Kiureghian for creating such a rich environment of scholarship, teaching and learning where everyone thrives in the passionate pursuit of education and creativity.  We felt truly welcomed and at home and look forward to many future visits and a productive and rewarding partnership between our two institutions,” Philibosian wrote.

CSUN boasts the largest Armenian student population, about 4,000 students, among four-year colleges anywhere in the world. Philibosian will continue to work with representatives from AUA and CSUN to develop a formal process of student and faculty exchanges, and joint research programs between the two institutions.

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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