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Public Forum on the Power of Education

3 min read

YEREVAN, Armenia — On July 25, author, lecturer, lawyer, politician, business woman, and human rights advocate Anna Astvatsaturian Turcotte shared her thoughts on the Power of Education at a public forum at the American University of Armenia (AUA).

In dialogue with Dr. Sharistan Melkonian, dean of General Education, Astvatsaturian Turcotte reflected on her early life in Baku at a time when the Soviet Union was on the verge of collapse; the difficult situations she and her family faced as refugees in Armenia and subsequently in the United States; her diverse educational attainment and the challenges that have informed her choices. 

Astvatsaturian Turcotte shared how she kept a journal as a young girl, documenting her life in Baku, fleeing Baku in the fall of 1989 amid the ethnic cleansing of Armenians, her life as a refugee, and struggle to find herself. The events and experiences she had recorded in her childhood journal served as a framework for the book she subsequently authored, Nowhere: A Story of Exile, published in English ten years ago, and to be available in Armenian later this year.

Astvatsaturian Turcotte received bachelor’s degrees in English and Literature, as well as in Philosophy and Religion, while minoring in Russian Language and Literature. She explains how her desire to change the world inspired her to subsequently pursue a Juris Doctor degree. After graduating from law school, Astvatsaturian Turcotte worked as a clerk at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands. A spinal cord injury forced her to take leave from The Hague, and take an interim position at a bank in the U.S. — a temporary opportunity that turned into a successful career in banking regulatory risk and compliance.

Astvatsaturian Turcotte is dedicated to fighting for the rights of victims of anti-Armenian rhetoric by speaking out on these issues in the halls of the United States Congress, the Parliament of the United Kingdom, and the European Parliament, and continues to shoulder humanitarian initiatives in Armenia and Artsakh.

Placing emphasis on the importance of flexibility, taking risks, and capitalizing on opportunities, Astvatsaturian Turcotte noted, “Education is a ticket to the dance, but it’s not enough. You have to learn how to dance. And, various experiences and opportunities you take are the moves that get you to dance in the way only you can.” 

“Anna is an incredible role model. She demonstrates the importance of taking risks and exploring new opportunities, and how horrifying tragedy and challenges can be transformed into learning moments,” Dr. Melkonian remarked, adding “More importantly, she underscored the importance of giving back to your community, near and far. And, we thank her for candidly sharing her journey.”

Astvatsaturian Turcotte is a recipient of the Mkhitar Gosh Medal, the Republic of Armenia’s (RA) highest civilian honor awarded by the RA President for exceptional achievements in the political-social spheres, as well as outstanding efforts in the fields of diplomacy, law, and political science. She has also received a Medal of Gratitude from the President of Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, as well as the Vahan Cardashian award granted by the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA)-Western Region for her contributions within the Armenian Diaspora and the Activism Award from ANCA-Eastern Region for her work in the realm of human rights, democracy, truth, and justice. In addition to speaking worldwide on genocide prevention, refugee issues, international law, and human rights, she has a 19-year career in banking regulatory compliance and risk management.

Astvatsaturian Turcotte continues to advance humanitarian, development, cultural, environmental, and educational initiatives in Armenia, Artsakh, and the Armenian Diaspora, in particular through the Anna Astvatsaturian Foundation which she has founded. 

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.