WCIT 2019 participants at AUA
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Global Tech Leaders, Innovators and Entrepreneurs Hosted at AUA

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YEREVAN, Armenia – On October 6, 2019, the American University of Armenia (AUA) hosted a number of tech leaders, innovators, and entrepreneurs, who were in Armenia for the World Congress on Information Technology (WCIT) 2019. Among the distinguished visitors were Caroline Winnett, executive director of UC Berkeley SkyDeck; Al Eisaian, co-founder and CEO of IntelinAir; Dr. Mary Papazian, president of San Jose State University; Emma Arakelyan, CEO and co-founder of Orion Worldwide Innovations, LLC; Hovig Safoian, founder and chairman at SADA Systems; Rafi Baghdjian, CEO of IDeA Foundation; Lusine Yeghiazaryan, vice president and chief audit executive at GoPro; Kim Bardakian, director of media relations at Kapor Center; and Todd Fabacher, lead developer and CEO of Digital Pomegranate.

Presenting EPIC to WCIT 2019 participantsAUA Provost Dr. Randall Rhodes welcomed the guests and led a brief tour of the University while acquainting them with the University’s history, mission and current initiatives. They then gathered in the Small Auditorium where the guests had the opportunity to learn more about AUA’s Entrepreneurship and Product Innovation Center (EPIC), the Acopian Center for the Environment, and the bachelor’s program in Data Science (DS) housed within the Akian College of Science and Engineering (CSE). The presenters were Director of EPIC Dr. Michael Kouchakdjian, Director of Acopian Center Alen Amirkhanian, and DS Program Chair Habet Madoyan.

“AUA places great importance on STEM programs both on the undergraduate and graduate levels. A focus on the Internet of Things, AI, as well as Data Science will provide a curricular foundation to prepare graduates and professionals who will meet the needs of local and global industries and help them grow and prosper,” noted Dr. Rhodes.

Round table discussionConcurrently with the tour, AUA organized a round-table discussion to brainstorm on the model and role of an open National Center for Artificial Intelligence Research to be established at AUA. As the host university, AUA initiated this conversation following the recommendation of the panel of distinguished scholars and experts engaged in the Study on Armenia’s Technological Future. The study was carried out in 2018-2019 by AUA with the support of the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU). The round-table discussion centered on the best practices of the involvement of academia in AI development, fostering AI driven transformation through partnerships and collaboration across disciplines, and with the private and public sector. The importance of an international perspective, a local transformative development in regional clusters, and the prospective role of Government and community leaders were also on the agenda.

“In the digital society, universities will need to rethink their purpose and how to solve complex challenges by cross-disciplinary collaboration. This was the frame of the round-table discussion where building trust, providing incentives for transformative development, and enabling mind-set shift were identified as essential ingredients. A dynamic open center in artificial intelligence and deep learning was concluded to be a possibility that Armenia needs to embrace. AUA is prepared to host this development and will make sure that the center provides intersections where collective intelligence develops digital tools together with solving complex challenges in regional private-public partnership,” concluded AUA President Dr. Karin Markides.

During a reception held at the Faculty Center, members of the AUA community had the opportunity to network and socialize with the guests.

“I am thrilled to collaborate with my University of California colleagues here at the American University of Armenia to support and nurture the talent in Armenia. As the head of the UC Berkeley startup accelerator, I am really excited to meet entrepreneurs from Armenia,” said Winnett, who was a panelist at WCIT 2019.

Founded in 1991, the American University of Armenia (AUA) is a private, independent university located in Yerevan, Armenia, affiliated with the University of California, and accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission in the United States. AUA provides local and international students with Western-style education through top-quality undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs, promotes research and innovation, encourages civic engagement and community service, and fosters democratic values.