U.S. Ambassador Lynne Tracy Visits AUA
YEREVAN, Armenia ‒ On May 14, 2019, the American University of Armenia (AUA) hosted US Ambassador to Armenia Lynne Tracy and members of her delegation. This was the ambassador’s first official tour of the University. She also met with AUA students, faculty, and staff, gave a short presentation, and took questions from the audience.
AUA President Dr. Armen Der Kiureghian, Provost Dr. Randall Rhodes, and other representatives from the University welcomed Ambassador Tracy at the entrance to the University. Dr. Der Kiureghian briefed the guests on AUA’s history and led the tour of the campus, including the AGBU Papazian Library, the Collaborative Study Space, computer and prototyping labs, the Entrepreneurship and Product Innovation Center (EPIC), the Large Auditorium, and the Student Union. The ambassador was particularly interested in the library collection. Director Satenik Avakian explained that the library is open to the public and promptly presented her with an AUA library card.
Ambassador Tracy was very interested to hear about AUA’s EPIC startup incubator. She was given a tour of the prototyping lab in the Main Building and was briefed by EPIC Director Dr. Michael Kouchakdjian on the center’s projects and showed her around the facilities on the sixth floor. Dr. Kouchakdjian described the opportunities the center provides and spoke about several successful startups, such as Currencii and Breedge ‒ both of which began as EPIC incubator projects. She was especially interested in the practical knowledge and hands-on experience that participants gain during the 12-week EPIC Startup Incubator Program. Dr. Kouchakdjian added that participants are better able to “overcome the fear of failure … and failure is just one additional piece of experience that you need for success.”
The ambassador inquired about the level of the University’s cooperation with the Armenian government. Dr. Der Kiureghian spoke about AUA’s current projects being implemented in cooperation with the government ‒ including the recent tuberculosis awareness campaign, the mining legislation reforms, and the development of inclusive education curricula and teacher trainings in public schools. “More and more the government is coming to us and asking us to support them,” said Dr. Der Kiureghian. He also described the Manoogian Simone Research Fund, which is managed by AUA and provides funding to researchers to work on projects of high priority for the government.
Following the tour, Ambassador Tracy joined students, faculty, and staff in the Akian Gallery to give a short presentation and to answer questions from the audience. She emphasized the uniqueness of the University and elaborated upon her educational background and the importance of universities such as AUA, saying, “Education is something that nobody can take away from you. You invest your time and effort in preparing for your future, and that education belongs to you.” Speaking of her professional experience, she remarked: “It’s important to develop competence and expertise … but you should always be looking for the next challenge ‒ looking at how you can get outside of your comfort zone. That’s how you’re going to grow. That’s what will make you valuable in the workplace as somebody who is seen as creative, flexible, and resilient. Those are skills that will serve you well no matter what you are doing.”
Ambassador Tracy also spoke about the U.S. government’s support of Armenia’s agenda for the future: “If there’s a word that is important for the future of Armenia, it is sovereignty. Sovereignty means the ability to make choices.”
She then answered several questions posed by AUA students, faculty, and staff regarding Russia’s reaction to the Velvet Revolution, Armenia-U.S. trade and business relations, the IT sector in Armenia, relations between Armenia and Turkey, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and other topics.
Ambassador Tracy was sworn in as U.S. Ambassador to Armenia on February 19, 2019. She is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service having served the U.S. government for 25 years. Her most recent position was Senior Advisor for Russia Affairs in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.
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.