Igniting Change for Armenia
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AUA Community Ignites Change for Armenia

4 min read

LOS ANGELES, California — On Saturday, May 18, 2024, under the stars at the beautiful home of American University of Armenia (AUA) ChangeMakers Vahe and Ruzan Kuzoyan, the community of AUA supporters gathered in Los Angeles to ignite change for a brighter future in Armenia. The gala, A Night to Ignite Change: Honoring the Akian Family, recognized the Akian family for their decades of commitment to AUA and raised $800,000 in support of the University’s efforts to advance higher education in Armenia. 

Ruzan and Vahe Kuzoyan, AUA ChangeMakers

Ruzan and Vahe Kuzoyan, AUA ChangeMakers

The event underlined the critical role that AUA continues to play and emphasized the importance of investing in higher education in Armenia. Together with his wife, Kuzoyan, who was recently appointed to the AUA Board of Trustees, commented, “We see firsthand the impact AUA has on Armenia’s ability to produce talent based on the alumni hired at ServiceTitan’s Yerevan office. We are big believers in AUA’s mission and want to inspire others.”

AUA alumni Anna Bakunts (MBA ’11) and Hayk Mamajanyan (LLM ’12)

Following the national anthems sung by Alene Aroustamian and the invocation prayer by Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, the emcees, AUA alumni Anna Bakunts (MBA ’11) and Hayk Mamajanyan (LLM ’12), took the stage to speak briefly on the impact their AUA education had on helping them find professional success in their respective careers. They also acknowledged the presence of Karen Israyelyan, consul general of Armenia, who shared about the significance of AUA and the Diaspora’s support in Armenia.

President of AUA, Dr. Bruce Boghosian, then took the stage to provide updates on the University’s recent re-accreditation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). The University first received accreditation in 2016, becoming the first institution outside the United States to be accredited by WASC, and recently had its status renewed for a term of ten years, the maximum term offered by the agency. Dr. Boghosian also delved into the importance of the AUA 200 ChangeMakers campaign. “We believe that this vision can be realized by offering our students quality education in multiple disciplines, nurturing a culture of research and innovation among students and faculty, increasing the number of highly qualified academics and researchers in our faculty, and expanding the scope of AUA’s research centers,” he expounded.

The highlight of the evening, which served as the inspiration behind the gala’s theme, was the recognition of the Akian family and their decades-long commitment to AUA. A special video tribute contained a compilation of messages from the University community highlighting the family’s significant contributions and impact they have had on AUA, in Armenia, and within the Armenian Diaspora. 


Following the video presentation, Dr. Boghosian presented the inaugural Visionary Philanthropist Award, dedicated to Zaven P. and Sonia Akian. Akian and his family took the stage to accept the honor, with his two daughters each saying a few words. Lori Akian Stephan read a message from her father, commenting on the family’s contributions over the years, and emphasized: “I remember when Sonia reflected one day about Michael Bloomberg delivering a commencement address. She was so impressed by Mayor Bloomberg’s thoughts, that the future belongs to those students who are not afraid of breaking with the past or of charting a new course. We both felt that this is so true about our young generation in Armenia. So, we decided to assist AUA with a meaningful scholarship program to facilitate not only the bestowment of a degree, but also of a challenge — a challenge to go forth and do more, and do better, than those who came before them.” 

Zaven P. Akian presented the AUA Visionary Philanthropist Award

Zaven P. Akian presented the AUA Visionary Philanthropist Award

In her turn, Lena Akian highlighted how she and her siblings, Lori and Haig, are now AUA ChangeMakers, inspired by their parents as AUA Pillars and carrying forth the family’s legacy at the University first established by their parents.

The Akian Family on stage at A Night to Ignite Change: Honoring the Akian Family

The Akian Family on stage at A Night to Ignite Change: Honoring the Akian Family

The program also included a special panel discussion featuring four AUA ChangeMakers: Sharon Anoush Chekijian, M.D., MPH of Yale University School of Medicine; Vahan Janjigian, Ph.D., chief investment officer at Greenwich Wealth Management, LLC; Christine Soussa, global client director at Equinix; and Lilit Yenokyan, director of engineering at Roku. The discussion centered around the advancement of the University over three decades, physically and academically, and highlighted AUA’s role in advancing multiple sectors of Armenian society through education, healthcare, finance, and technology. 

AUA Changemakers Christine Soussa, Dr. Sharon Chekijian, Dr. Vahan Janjigian, Lilit Yenokyan

AUA ChangeMakers Christine Soussa, Dr. Sharon Chekijian, Dr. Vahan Janjigian, Lilit Yenokyan

Vice President of Development Gaiane Khachatrian opened up by thanking the Kuzoyans for opening their home to AUA, addressed the guests and thanked them for attending, acknowledged the event’s sponsors, expressing gratitude for their steadfast support of AUA, and pointed out alumni in the audience, noting the importance of maintaining a strong relationship with their alma mater. 

AUA Vice President of Development Gaiane Khachatrian with the AUA Development team

AUA Vice President of Development Gaiane Khachatrian with the AUA Development team

Khachatrian then recognized the co-founders of ServiceTitan, Vahe Kuzoyan and Ara Mahdessian, and thanked the company for establishing an endowed scholarship fund at the University and for the major role they play in creating employment opportunities for youth in Armenia. A video presentation ensued that showed how ServiceTitan, with the opening of its Yerevan office, has hired a bulk of its workforce from AUA and equipped these students and alumni with the tools, confidence, skills, and access to resources that has allowed them to remain in their homeland and forge bright paths for themselves in Armenia. 


The evening concluded with the recognition of the AUA ChangeMakers and a special call-to-stage of those ChangeMakers in attendance, as well as those who wanted to join the exclusive group. A dazzling display of ignited sparklers ensued, with several inspired individuals from the audience committing to join the group, as well as a special announcement from the alumni emcees that saw them become AUA ChangeMakers that evening. 

A silent auction took place throughout the program, as well as musical performances including notable Armenian artists Vardan Ovsepian, Garik Hovsepyan, Mister X accompanied by Armen Martirosyan, and Christine Pepelyan.

To learn more about the AUA ChangeMakers campaign or the University’s philanthropic efforts, 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 and graduate degree and certificate programs, promotes research and innovation, encourages civic engagement and community service, and fosters democratic values. AUA’s Office of Development stewards the University’s philanthropic efforts exclusively for educational purposes.

Media Coverage

[Asbarez] AUA Community Ignites Change for Armenia

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