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AUA-WPI Partnership Bears Fruit for the Second Year Running

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YEREVAN, Armenia — On May 13, 2021, 14 students from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in Massachusetts presented projects which they had been working on throughout the past semester. Their presentations marked the second year of the partnership between the American University of Armenia (AUA) and WPI, which brings together students and faculty from both universities to solve problems that society is facing, both here in Armenia and worldwide, through interdisciplinary approaches. 

“The AUA-WPI partnership provides our students and faculty with the opportunity to collaborate on real-world problems facing our communities. And when students and faculty collaborate across the globe, communities prosper,” noted Dr. Sharistan Melkonian, dean of General Education at AUA. 

Dr. Aram Hajian, dean of AUA’s Akian College of Science and Engineering (CSE) added that “The collaboration is our most vivid example to date of inter-institutional Project-Based Learning; we are witnessing our students learning by doing.”

Due to conditions imposed by Covid-19, the four teams worked on projects remotely, where each addressed issues in Armenia, including designing an application for pediatric eye care in Armenia; designing a greenhouse addition for the Armenia Tree Project’s (ATP) backyard nurseries program; evaluating the feasibility and effectiveness of duckweed phytoremediation in Lake Sevan; and creating an active learning classification structure for improving STEM education in Armenia. The project sponsors — ATP, AUA, Armenian EyeCare Project, and the AUA Acopian Center for the Environment — attended the event remotely and got acquainted with the outcomes of these student projects. 

Norayr Ben Ohanian, AUA adjunct lecturer, who has been supervising the students over the past months, reflected on this semester’s experience: “It was my great pleasure working with the WPI students throughout this semester. They have been working hard, in close coordination with the project sponsors to solve related complex issues in Armenia and present high-quality work, while having a unique learning experience.”

Dr. Aaron Sakulich, WPI associate professor and faculty supervisor, noted “This is the second year I’ve been involved with the collaboration between AUA and WPI. As unusual as the year was, it’s always a pleasure to work with AUA and our friends in Armenia. I know that the students learned a great deal, and they produced some excellent work that will be of value to their project partners. It was very heartening to hear how much the project partners enjoyed working with the students during the final presentations, and I look forward to many years of productive collaborations and exchanges.”

One of the initiators of this partnership, WPI adjunct instructor and director of the WPI Armenia Project Center, Professor Michael Aghajanian, said: “The partnership between AUA and WPI has exceeded our highest expectations and proven to be a great opportunity for our respective students. AUA students experience the benefits of project-based learning, pioneered by WPI more than 50 years ago, and WPI students experience a deep cultural experience and the ability to work with AUA student teammates and faculty to complete projects that have a meaningful and high impact on Armenian society.”

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.