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State of the University Address
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AUA President Gives the State of the University Address

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YEREVAN, Armenia — The American University of Armenia (AUA) officially kicked off the 2021 Fall semester on August 16, 2021. After almost a year and a half of online and blended learning, all academic and administrative units of the University are back on campus and have resumed business as usual. This long-awaited face-to-face opening workday was marked by AUA President Dr. Karin Markides’ State of the University address before an enthusiastic audience of faculty and staff. 

Dr. Markides presented the University’s accomplishments highlighting the key advances in education and research realized in the past year, while delineating the challenges and opportunities of the year ahead. She made particular mention of the Copernicus Assisted Environmental Monitoring Across the Black Sea Basin project, also known as PONTOS; USAID-funded Support to Control COVID-19 and Other Infectious Disease Outbreaks project implemented by the AUA Fund in collaboration with the RA Ministry of Health; The National Case Investigation and Contact Tracing Program for the Republic of Armenia; and other ongoing initiatives.

“It is time to revisit our mission and remind ourselves of who we are! We have to identify how we can get on track to fulfill our role in making Armenia prosperous. It is time to move to a stronger position as a university to enable our commitment to our mission,” remarked Dr. Markides. Among the pivotal steps for achieving that purpose, she elaborated, is the recruitment of full-time faculty with the potential to bring together research groups to advance discovery and enhance outreach to better support the educational needs of the community. She also placed emphasis on the importance of integrating academic excellence with real-life challenges; proactively continuing the pursuit of annual strategic undertakings; and restructuring the university to accommodate integrated leverage of attraction, collaboration, and impact.

“The strategic vision that AUA President Dr. Markides laid out on Monday during her first State of the University address was extremely uplifting in terms of both content and commitment,” commented PSIA Program Chair, Associate Professor Dr. Vahram Ter-Matevosyan. “For AUA to succeed and be competitive on the international stage, we as an institution need to think big and proactively promote research and scholarship. And Dr. Markides was able to reconfirm this assertion by providing a strategic roadmap on how to think beyond the horizon. The Faculty Development Hub can boost the exchange of ideas and experiences among faculty and result in publishing research products. It may also become a place where existing and new faculty would go to seek guidance on how to navigate the process and serve as a peer-reviewing hub with which to share paper drafts for feedback and comments,” he added. 

Uros Prokic, who has recently joined AUA as assistant professor at the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, underscored the importance of creating the Faculty Development Hub as a channel for fostering the professional development and retention of AUA faculty. “Employees, especially in academia, seek lifelong growth and development. More extensive research will place AUA on a global podium. No other type of indirect ‘marketing’ would promote the University better than research productivity,” he noted. “AUA is able to contribute to solving real-world problems; it is not confined to operating solely at the theoretical level. AUA can be a leader in Armenia and the region in fostering and exemplifying the good governance practices that it teaches.”

The AUA President further elaborated on the Open Centers of Excellence, Reality Labs, and university-public-private partnership opportunities that can solve common challenges. The Reality Labs, she expounded, help AUA fulfill its mission, enabling faculty and the next generation of students to grow prosperity in Armenia, applying the right balance among social, ecological, and economic needs. AUA Open Education supports the development of university-public-private partnerships in the provinces (marzer) and identifies complex challenges for collaboration through Reality Labs. The AUA Global-Local Office also plays a key role by supporting the Open Centers of Excellence and identifying opportunities and tools for making the Reality Labs creative and attractive meeting places for students, faculty, and the community.

Toward the end of the State of the University address, Dr. Markides gave a sneak peek into the planned expansion of the AUA campus with the construction of the Science and Engineering building that will be the focal point of AUA’s 30th-anniversary celebrations. Another project currently in progress is the USAID-ASHA-funded transformation of the Triangle Park into a sustainable green living lab. “The project is currently in the technical design phase. The construction is set to start sometime at the end of 2021 or early 2022. The project includes building an underground sports facility with a direct underground connection to PAB through the Student Union,” elaborated Shahan Jebejian, director of Facilities and Services, sharing a few design details of the Triangle Park project.

“A new academic year means a new strategic undertaking, and this year’s focus is to strengthen our research culture for the benefit of our students’ success,” concluded AUA President Dr. Markides. 

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.

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