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Dinner Held to Celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the AUA PSIA’s First Graduating Class and the Establishment of the TCPA

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YEREVAN, Armenia – 2015 marked the 20th Anniversary of the first graduating class of the American University of Armenia (AUA) Political Science and International Affairs (PSIA) program, and of the establishment of the Turpanjian Center for Policy Analysis (TCPA). A formal dinner, organized jointly by TCPA and PSIA staff, was held at the elegant Tufenkian Hotel’s Kharpert Restaurant in Yerevan on February 5 to celebrate both occasions. Top AUA administrators and staff, current and former PSIA faculty members, current and former TCPA staff members, as well as PSIA alumni and students joined the celebration.

“When PSIA was established in 1994 and TCPA in 1995, Armenia was at its earliest period of post-Soviet transformation,” TCPA research associate and event organizer Valentina Gevorgyan said. “PSIA was established exactly at a time when there was an urgent need to develop  a new political system by allowing Western traditions of freedom of thought, access to diverse views and sources of information, and the publication of academic research to flourish,” Gevorgyan added.  

The dinner event started with a welcoming and a congratulatory note by AUA President Dr. Armen Der-Kiureghian. He was followed by PSIA Program Chair and TCPA Director Simon Clarke who spoke about the successes of the program, highlighting data on PSIA alumni who have been employed by important organizations and government bodies, including the Armenian government, the United Nations, the European Union, the World Bank, various embassies, and private businesses and start-ups. Dr. Clarke also spoke about possible future plans of establishing a PSIA PhD and undergraduate programs. PSIA Assistant Professor and TCPA Assistant Director Yevgenya Jenny Paturyan presented TCPA‘s history and milestones. A fun auction of vintage TCPA items concluded the event to celebrate the Center’s history and raise funds for additional books for the TCPA  library. “The event was a great opportunity for former PSIA students and faculty to get together with current faculty and students to celebrate the achievements of twenty years of PSIA and TCPA,” Dr. Clarke said.

Both PSIA and TCPA have contributed to the growth of Armenian democracy: PSIA producing trained political scientists with master’s degrees, while TCPA contributing to the country’s development through the provision of independent research in a variety of fields. Many PSIA alumni have made and continue to make important contributions to Armenian democracy.

Tevan Poghosyan, PSIA class of ’96, is currently president of the International Center for Human Development (ICHD) and a deputy at the National Assembly of Armenia. “At the time I applied to the PSIA program, I had a clear vision–to serve my country. I was a candidate to become the representative of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) to the US. I enrolled in PSIA in order to prepare for this position—to gain the necessary skills and knowledge to execute the job professionally,” Poghosyan said.

Starting in October 1997, Poghosyan served as NKR representative to the US for two years. Since then, he has held high positions with important organizations in Armenia, including ICHD and Armenian Atlantic Association. Poghosyan believes that in order to make a difference in society, one has to push his or her vision forward. “AUA is definitely a part of my educational background and knowledge, and has therefore played an important role in the formation of my vision. It’s very difficult to say exactly which part of my knowledge and vision AUA can receive credit for. Regardless, it’s an indispensable part,” Poghosyan continued.

Poghosyan’s relationship with AUA has expanded to include other members of his family–a daughter who is currently an undergraduate at the University and another daughter who wants to follow her sister’s steps. The PSIA alumnus would like to see AUA as the leader of new methods and knowledge in Armenia and hopes that the University maintains its high quality of education.

Along similar lines, Varuzhan Hoktanyan, MPSIA class of ’95 and currently executive director at Transparency International-Armenia, views AUA and PSIA as important forces in Armenian society. “AUA should become the true leader of the Armenian higher education system,” Hoktanyan said. His interest in politics and in bringing his contribution to the formation of the new Armenian political-economic system in Armenia is what had initially brought him to PSIA. Following his graduation and as PSIA’s top student, he was offered the position of research assistant at TCPA.

Now that he is in a senior leadership position with Transparency International, Hoktanyan sees great value in supporting PSIA. He wants to make it possible for PSIA students and alumni to get involved with his organization and gain additional experience. According to him, AUA’s greatest contribution is knowledge, which he advises students to fully absorb and use. “Study well and build your knowledge base which will be very important in any future career,” Hoktanyan’s advice to AUA students is.

Armine Hovhannisyan,  MPSIA class of ’98, was a professional cellist prior to enrolling in the PSIA program. Once the Soviet Union collapsed where the performing arts had enjoyed large-scale state support, it was no longer easy to pursue her career. Hovhannisyan discovered AUA through her brother, a student at the University at the time, and decided to switch careers. “PSIA was a window of opportunity into a new world, a new way of thinking, a new philosophy, and new approaches. I saw PSIA as a great opportunity to be part of and to contribute to building a new Armenia, using newly learned skills and knowledge,” Hovhannisyan said, who has been working for the past 13 years with the United Nations Development Program as gender focal point and results-based management program associate.  

During the celebratory dinner, the names of those who played a pivotal role in establishing both PSIA and TCPA were mentioned, including Dr. Nikol Shahgaldian, Dr. Lucig H. Danielian and Dr. Douglas H. Shumavon. “I am a proud PSIA alumna and a member of the AUA Community. It was important for us to celebrate the two occasions, to invite the people who have been with PSIA and TCPA for many years, and to remember everyone in a warm and friendly environment. It was a beautiful evening and a pleasure to see that all the participants enjoyed the celebration,” Gevorgyan concluded.

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 US-style 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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