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Dr. Arpie Balian Appointed Director of AUA Extension

4 min read

YEREVAN, Armenia The American University of Armenia (AUA) is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Arpie Balian as Director of AUA Extension (formerly known as Open Education). AUA Extension is the non-degree arm of the University and serves as its principal interface with the larger public in Yerevan and various regions of Armenia. AUA Extension plans, designs, develops, and delivers quality courses that are periodically refreshed to better meet the changing needs of public and private sector organizations, as well as the public at large. The department focuses on helping individuals from various age groups fulfill their educational, professional, and career goals through flexible and innovative courses and continuing education programs. The menu of courses is varied and delivered through group training, workshops, and seminars.

We sat down with Dr. Balian to find out more about her return to Armenia, her vision for AUA Extension, and more.

What brought you back to Armenia after 5 years of being abroad?

In the larger context, Armenia brought me back! The strong sense of belonging I feel being here is unparalleled, and that’s what served as push and pull to bring me back. The attachment I have to AUA Extension accelerated my decision to return when the director’s position opened, and I was fortunate and successful to be selected. Though I never ceased working for AUA during the years I was abroad, the level of personal fulfillment is different when you are working on campus. In the narrower context, my return is driven by the inspiration and deep desire to contribute in a substantive way to the development of the country, in general, and to our University and AUA Extension, in particular. Having been in this position earlier, I am aware of the challenges as well as the potential of what Extension can deliver. I am confident that our office is well situated and equipped to address multiple development shortfalls and concerns that must be tackled, some very quickly. 

What do you see as the greatest challenges in your new role?

The AUA Extension model is built on first identifying the knowledge areas that need improvement. This is predicated upon assessing the priority training needs in civil service as well as in other public and private organizations, and the general public. Perhaps the greatest challenge in my first months as director of Extension will be to pinpoint those areas of significance and accordingly take on the challenges of designing and implementing our response with new and continuing high-impact training in the most befitting format, whether in Yerevan or in the regions. These could be short training courses, workshops, or other forms of sharing knowledge and skills. Importantly, reaching out to the people forcibly displaced from Artsakh and retraining them so they may recreate their lives is our immediate priority, which, however, does not necessarily preclude others from joining in. 

What do you see as the greatest needs in Armenia that AUA Extension is poised to address?

Besides what I mentioned earlier and based on my preliminary assessment, the greatest needs lie in raising English language competencies among larger segments of the population and building know-how in various fields of knowledge that best meet market demand. Bear in mind that those needs change continuously and vary between Yerevan and the regions. Hence, we must constantly keep our pulse on the market so as not to miss opportunities, identify new needs, and tailor our courses accordingly. The competitive advantage AUA Extension has is the institutional knowledge available in different academic programs, the flexibility of Extension, and our collective capacity to quickly respond to demand by proposing new training programs. That is what helps us maintain advantage and gain new market share. Most importantly, we are currently directing our efforts toward addressing the training/upskilling needs of those forcibly displaced from their ancestral land Artsakh. It is our priority to ensure that this is accomplished on a priority basis.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your work?

To see people help themselves! We act as the institution dedicated to facilitating their transition to a new reality by offering them courses that will expedite that difficult process. In that sense, it is very rewarding to witness individuals that have studied with us grow in their professions and apply the knowledge gained to advance in their chosen careers. A good example is the high caliber performance that our Project Management Professionals demonstrate after completing their certification with us. Similarly, many degreed students train with us to gain advanced practical knowledge and skills that clearly differentiate them from other colleagues. On a broader scale, the results we achieve in upskilling people in the regions work effectively to close existing gaps between them and Yerevan.

What is your vision for AUA Extension as it evolves from its Open Education branding?

The name AUA Extension correctly describes the broad program it embraces, whether in retraining savvy professionals or teaching young university graduates practical hands-on skills. In a way, we transition degreed individuals from studentship to the workforce. Our brand is rather unique, as it brings together expert professionals with those trying to change or build their careers, delivered over a short period of time and packed with skills that are useful on the spot.

What is the most important message about AUA Extension that you would like the public to take away when they read this? 

Extension must be viewed as the go-to provider of quality non-degree education.

AUA Extension is the non-degree educational program of the American University of Armenia (AUA), with programs especially geared to meeting the educational needs of individuals from diverse backgrounds and occupations, as well as governments and corporate organizations. AUA Extension offers a comprehensive range of courses and certificate programs, including language classes, test preparation courses, and a wide range of professional development training. Through its regional centers around Armenia, AUA Extension expands opportunities for locals to thrive and contribute to the development of their communities. Additionally, AUA Extension provides testing services on behalf of various standardized tests for college admission and exams for international professional certification.