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AUA Hosts Tempus GOVERN Site Visit of its Center for Student Success

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YEREVAN, Armenia – On March 30, 2016, as part of the university’s participation in the Tempus GOVERN project the American University of Armenia (AUA) hosted 15 Armenian higher education institutions (HEIs) and agencies to a site visit and introduction to the Center for Student Success (CSS).

The purpose of the visit was to share the experience of designing and operating a center aimed at supporting students outside of the classroom, and to provide partner institutions with an opportunity to discuss the many challenges and strategies faced in doing so.

CSS, which opened in 2013, is the university’s learning environment that extends outside of the classroom to promote student success through workshops, a writing and math center, student clubs, disability services, advising and counseling.

Sharistan Melkonian, AUA’s Director of Accreditation, welcomed participants and provided a brief introduction. “Providing students with myriad support outside of the classroom to complement the university’s academics is fundamental to ensuring student success,” said Melkonian.

Garine Palandjian, AUA’s Student Services Manager, then explained how CSS was launched and developed including describing some of the challenges, such as limited space, emphasizing that CSS continues to grow each year to address the growing needs as well as numbers of students. “The Center started functioning with one full-time employee and five work-study students.  With the growing needs of students, the Center subsequently hired additional staff and expanded services,” Palandjian mentioned.  “The Center continues to enhance and improve services as there is still much room to grow.”

Palandjian introduced several key functions of CSS including organizing New Student Orientation, aimed at introducing new students to university-wide resources and support; and providing Disability Services, aimed at supporting diverse learners.

“One of the functions of the Center is to assist students with disabilities in need of academic and programmatic accommodations so that all learners can succeed,” said Palandjian.  

Nazeny Hovakimian, Coordinator of Student Services then explained how the Center promotes student activities through Student Clubs.  The Center currently oversees 18 student-initiated and led Student Clubs. Participants in the Site Visit had an opportunity to view the Armenian National Music and Dance Club in action.

Writing Consultant Armenuhi Ananyan then introduced the Center’s Math and Writing Center, which offers one-on-one consultation to develop math and writing skills.  Participants viewed a mock consultation session during which Anna Aghlamazyan demonstrated the pedagogical approach used to support students during the writing process.

Hovakimian then focused participants on CSS’s Workshop Series.  Workshops, facilitated by faculty, staff, alumni and volunteer community members, cover a wide range of topics including Reading for comprehension, APA style, email etiquette, and healthy habits.

AUA Counselor Samvel Mkhitaryan introduced participants to the university’s Counseling Services, which launched in 2015.  In order to help students overcome personal issues which may affect academic performance, the university provides individual and group counseling as well as self-development workshops and seminars. Mkhitaryan explained that “adolescence is a significant period in terms of psychological and biological transitions into adulthood. Psychological support is of paramount importance for smoothening this transition and helping students explore ways of dealing with challenges they face.”

Participants also had an opportunity to hear from two students.  Vahagn Khatchatryan (1st year student, Computational Sciences) and Alisa Melkonyan (2nd year student, Business) shared their experiences with CSS including starting and joining a Student Club, participating in workshops, scheduling a writing appointment, and participating in counseling services.

GOVERN is a three-year national project involving 22 partners from Armenia and Europe, the objective of which is to enable application of state-of-the-art management systems at Armenian HEIs in order to promote effective and efficient structural changes in line with Bologna principles, enhancing HEIs autonomy and accountability. It is one of four Tempus projects in which the university is involved and is an example of one way the university collaborates with institutions both within and outside Armenia and engages in discourse about higher education reform.

More information about GOVERN can be found at http://govern.am.

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