Arman Zrvandyan (LL.M. ‘07): “AUA is my second home”3 min read
Arman Zrvandyan is an adjunct lecturer of law at the American University of Armenia (AUA) and a human rights lawyer with over 20 years of experience. He holds three master’s degrees: an LL.M. from AUA, an MA in Human Rights from the University of Essex (2009), and an LL.M. in International Crime and Justice from UNICRI/University of Turin (2011). In 2013-2015, he served as Chair of the AUA Master of Laws (LL.M.) program. He is from the AUA class of 2007, which celebrates its 15th anniversary of graduation this year. During his student years, he was awarded the Vartkess M. Balian Merit Award for his outstanding academic record. Zrvandyan was recently appointed an associate professor at AUA, effective July 2022.
Explaining his decision to study law, Zrvandyan remembers his time serving in the army. It was during those years that he realized he had a passion for law and a calling for advocating for human rights. “When I was only 18, I faced situations that I couldn’t explain, but felt that there was something wrong and unfair. Then, I got a book on human rights, and reading it, I found the answers. The book helped me realize that this is my specialty: I decided to become a lawyer in order to defend human rights,” he recalls.
Looking back on his student years at AUA and how the University shaped his career as a lawyer, Zrvandyan mentions that AUA was his first degree program in the English language. He first came to the University to simply audit a few classes and immediately realized that he must study there as he found the program to be practice-oriented, which was rather unusual for law schools in Armenia. “That is what AUA gave me: a solid background and a strong start for practicing law. The University has been the place where I built both my professional and academic careers. AUA enabled me to practice outside the University, while pursuing an academic legal career,” he adds, referring to his role as an educator. As a lecturer at AUA, he designs and delivers practical legal courses to graduate and undergraduate law students.
Arman Zrvandyan notes that his appointment as Chair of the LL.M. program in 2013 was a pivotal experience in his career, for it not only encompassed teaching, but also involved organizing law education and influencing how law should be taught to future lawyers. Zrvandyan emphasizes that he performs his role with dedication, realizing that the LL.M. program is producing future judges, advocates, investigators, and prosecutors.
Reflecting on the challenges of his job in education, he mentions developing a value system in students to be the most challenging component of teaching law, “because sometimes, students bring to the classroom values that are incompatible with the Armenian constitution and may also be incompatible with the world order,” he elaborates. “As educators, we should navigate the fine line of working with our students in a way that does not criticize or reproach them, but challenges their value system, encouraging them to reconsider their approach and question the way they think. I believe that recognizing the values law students hold and working with them accordingly is not only a challenge, but also one of my primary tasks as a law educator,” he remarks.
Zrvandyan has also served as a registry lawyer at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France. He notes that it was one of the most important experiences in his life and career. For five years, he worked on judicial cases lodged by individuals against Armenia, which revealed to him the systemic problems in the country from the perspective of an international court.
As a practicing lawyer and advocate, Zrvandyan derives inspiration from the realization that he is helping solve problems and is contributing to the professional development of his students. The success of a student in solving a problem, mastering a skill, advancing knowledge, and drafting an excellent paper is what motivates him. “When I read my students’ papers, I get truly inspired because I feel that I have made a contribution. But that’s only one side of the story. The other important part is the contentment that the student has worked hard and achieved something worthwhile,” he notes.
One piece of advice he has for current AUA students is to check their Moodle accounts frequently to keep track of assignments, he smiles. On a more serious note, he advises them not to stress over grades. “Instead of fixating on grades, students should focus on developing practical skills. This is especially true for lawyers,” Zrvandyan remarks, adding, “When writing a paper, students should imagine that they are doing that not for their professors and not for the grade, but for their future employer.”
When reminded of the 15th anniversary of his graduation from AUA, Zrvandyan hopes to celebrate this important occasion with the entire class of LL.M. 2007, adding that it would be a treat to have all the lecturers present as well.