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Hrair Cabayan: Expanding Women’s Professional Development in the Regions of Armenia

3 min read

Dr. Hrair Cabayan comes from a family that has placed great importance on education. Growing up with two siblings, he recalls his father’s assiduity with which he ensured that his sister received a great education as he and his brother did. With such values instilled in him at an early age, Dr. Cabayan’s future experiences working with women further reinforced his belief in the significance of women’s education, which formed the basis of his decision to establish a program in memory of his father. Thus, the Sarkis Cabayan Small and Emerging Business Development Program in Armenian Provinces with Scholarships for Women is particularly intended to promote regional advancement through educational scholarships for women participating in courses within the American University of Armenia’s (AUA) Open Education program. 

Dr. Cabayan’s grandparents were originally from Cilicia. They had escaped the atrocities of the Armenian Genocide fleeing to Syria. His father was born in Damascus, where he spent his childhood, subsequently pursuing his education in Paris and returning home to take the position of director of finance for the electric company of Syria. After meeting his wife, they were married and raised their three children. Providing them with the best education was of utmost importance to them and, surely, all three attended university and subsequently graduate schools.  

“My father was very focused on making sure my sister received the highest quality education as a woman could during that time,” remembers Dr. Cabayan. “She did very well, and that always stayed with me.” Dr. Cabayan himself attended the American University of Beirut, receiving two degrees (B.S. in Science and B.S. in Engineering), then earning a Ph.D. in Mathematical Physics from the University of Illinois. He began his career as a mathematics professor at New York University and McGill University before joining the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and subsequently working in an advisory capacity within various private and public institutions. 

Reinforcing the values instilled in him at home, his work association with numerous women throughout his extensive career placed added emphasis on women’s capacity to make a difference in their surroundings and the value they bring to the workplace. “Specifically in the social sciences, I learned from many women who helped me visualize the different aspects of projects from different angles. Women were absolutely essential in that sense, especially given their ability to empathize,” he says, emphasizing the importance of ensuring that a country’s female population receives a high quality education to ensure a bright future for that country. 

In 2017, in collaboration with the Armenian General Benevolent Union, Dr. Cabayan funded a Women’s Empowerment program in Armenia for women to start their own businesses. After a few successful years, he began to realize the necessity of a university-led program offering not only degrees, but also certificates for women who want to succeed in entrepreneurship. 

Given his prior friendships with AUA founders and former presidents Dr. Mihran Agbabian and Dr. Armen Der Kiureghian, along with his existing support for the University’s scholarship program, Dr. Cabayan felt that AUA would be the best institution to establish a certificate program that would reach out widely through the regional offices of Open Education. Thus, the Sarkis Cabayan Small and Emerging Business Development Program is established for the regions of Armenia and is geared towards training women in business, trading, and finance, helping them gain the necessary knowledge to succeed in entrepreneurship. The program is particularly beneficial for women who may not be able to dedicate four years to complete a degree program, but still want to build a strong business foundation and gain the practical skills and tools for realizing their entrepreneurial ventures. 

Dr. Cabayan believes that AUA Open Education’s networks within the regions of Armenia, now with the advantages and potential benefits of Reality Labs, will catalyze the overall advancement of the country. He is also considering the higher likelihood of retaining talented women to stay and flourish within the country by ensuring that women are able to be actively engaged in business pursuits within Armenian — he is confident that by educating them and making this and similar programs accessible to them will significantly and steadily contribute to the development of the Armenian nation. 

AUA is deeply grateful to Dr. Hrair Cabayan for his support in helping the University expand its educational reach and scholarship support throughout Armenia. For more information on AUA Open Education and its impact, visit:

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.