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BSUN 2021 Congress: AUA Takes a Leading Role in Black Sea Universities Network

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YEREVAN, Armenia — On October 13-15, the American University of Armenia (AUA) hosted the Black Sea Universities Network (BSUN) 2021 Congress and the 14th Conference of Rectors of universities in the Black Sea Region. The BSUN 2021 Congress, which is a part of the BSUN initiative, was held in hybrid mode, realizing larger attendance of participants both virtually and in person. The Congress kicked off with a welcome reception on October 13, bringing together local and global university leaders for the official opening of the Congress.

BSUN comprises more than 120 member universities from all 12 member states of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization: Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, and Serbia. AUA is one of four Armenian universities in the network.

This year, the BSUN 2021 Congress convened under the theme Universities’ Role in Solving Complex Challenges. On October 14, renowned experts, university partners, and industry leaders delivered keynote speeches and held panel discussions on universities’ leadership role for integration and transformation, public-private-university partnerships, establishing solution-driven university alliances, and strategies for addressing complex challenges in society. The conference keynote address was made by Dr. Daron Acemoglu, professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The Congress also featured the following distinguished keynote speakers: Professor Antonio Loprieno, president of the European Federation of Academies of Sciences and Humanities (ALLEA); Dr. John Holmberg, professor of physical resource theory, and UNESCO chair in education for sustainable development at Chalmers University; Professor Line Gordon, director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University; and Dr. Saleem Ali, Blue and Gold Distinguished Professor of energy and the environment at the University of Delaware. 

“There are major complex challenges, many of which are captured in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to which almost all countries have committed themselves. Universities have an important role in enabling resilient solutions to these challenges,” remarked AUA President Dr. Karin Markides. “With this conference, we engaged in a conversation among members of the Black Sea University Network on the role of universities, and what it takes to develop creative solutions to complex societal challenges — solutions that are often found outside of the comfort zone of a traditional mindset.” 

AUA, in collaboration with the EU4Sevan project, organized a hackathon for students and young researchers on October 14-15. As a practical component of the BSUN 2021 Congress, the Sevan hackathon aimed at better understanding the underlying drivers leading to the recent appearance of harmful cyanobacterial blooms in Lake Sevan and developing tools for the long-term monitoring of the water quality of the lake.

At the close of the BSUN 2021 Congress, the BSUN General Assembly meeting was convened at AUA. BSUN President-in-Office Professor Pericles A. Mitkas presented the activity report followed by the presentation of the BSUN activities for 2018-2021 by Professor Eden Mamut, BSUN secretary-general. AUA President Dr. Markides was elected to serve as president of the BSUN Executive Board for a two-year term, her leadership taking effect at the conference. 

Hosting the BSUN 2021 Congress allowed Armenia to lead constructive and proactive conversations among BSUN members on the crucial role that the 21-century universities have in solving complex societal challenges. Through this dialogue, the AUA has built trust and encouraged collaboration to enable transformative change and make a lasting impact in the region. The BSUN activities aim to transform the Black Sea Region, through mutual cooperation, into a region of peace, freedom, stability and prosperity.

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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