In Artsakh, For Artsakh: AUA Student Internships in the Homeland3 min read
In the summer months of 2021, three students of the American University of Armenia (AUA) had the unique opportunity to intern for the Artsakh Government working on three separate projects. This tailored internship was organized by AUA alumnus and Principal Adviser to the State Minister of Artsakh, Dr. David Akopyan (MBA ‘93).
Dr. Akopyan initiated the internship in his new position in the Office of the Artsakh State Minister, where he detected the significant need for qualified and motivated individuals to fulfill multiple functions in Stepanakert, as well as in other towns and villages of Artsakh. As one of the very first AUA graduates himself, Dr. Akopyan believed that the internships in Artsakh would provide AUA students with the best opportunity to gain real-life experiences and launch their professional careers.
Angelina Aghajanyan (BAB ‘24), Lilit Beglaryan (BSCS ‘23), and Lilit Shahverdyan (BAEC ‘24), all from Artsakh, embraced the opportunity with great determination and motivation to contribute to the rebuilding efforts of their homeland in the post-war reality. With different backgrounds and passions, these students were enthusiastic to work in those sectors that were of high interest to them and gain an in-depth understanding of the primary issues in Artsakh that required immediate solutions.
Focusing on the adverse impact of the Artsakh War on agricultural production, Angelina Aghajanyan worked on a tailored technical capacity building project designed to support rural residents in Artsakh in producing high-value vegetables off-season in household greenhouses.
“It has been a pleasure to work on this project, as I have gained a lot of practical knowledge about the Artsakh agricultural sector. I am thrilled that I was able to make a tiny contribution to the recovery of my homeland. Aside from immediate humanitarian and social support, Artsakh is in great need of long-term development projects in all sectors to be implemented on the basis of their respective priority,” notes Angelina.
With a major in Computer Science, Lilit Beglaryan worked on the “Digital Artsakh” project for strengthening the connection between education and technology. As a member of that team, she was involved in the project’s endeavors to transfer knowledge and skills in the basics of programming, robotics, marketing, design, math, physics, as well as English. Lilit was responsible for converting large amounts of data and files into succinct documents that could be presented to potential donors.
“I believe my work in this project was very important. I am glad that I gained so many skills and expanded my network. I was very despaired by the war, but this project gave me so much hope. I believe that the young generation will have the chance to get involved and solve many of the problems in Artsakh,” remarks Lilit.
For the third intern, Lilit Shahverdyan, supporting women affected by the Artsakh War was the foremost contribution she wanted to make. Getting involved in organizing a Women’s Association in Artsakh offered the perfect opportunity for helping widows and mothers of fallen soldiers to heal by being a part of a community that provides psychological assistance, legal advice, as well as education and leadership skills. Lilit notes that her overall experience working with the Artsakh Government was a rare and unique opportunity to learn new skills on the job and advance her fundraising skills.
“The youth of Armenia are the foremost changemakers today. They must be provided with such opportunities more often. I have a better vision of my own future now, which is and always will be connected with Artsakh. I would like to network with more humanitarian organizations to help rebuild my homeland,” says Lilit.
Dr. Akopyan is pleased with the success of the internships he organized, noting that the project would not have been possible without the involvement of AUA Professor in the Manoogian Simone College of Business and Economics and Director of the Entrepreneurship and Product Innovation Center (EPIC), Dr. Michael Kouchakdjian, and AUA alumna Hasmik Ghevondyan (MBA ‘93) who helped to identify the interns and provided financial assistance to cover their compensation. The interns far exceeded his expectations, Dr. Akopyan adds, producing quality work products despite having no prior experience in their respective assignments.
“I would be more than happy to organize this internship in Artsakh again. It is important to practice what you have learned at a young age in real-life circumstances,” notes Dr. Akopyan.
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.