YEREVAN, OCTOBER 2, ARMENPRESS: The American University of Armenia (AUA) held on October 1 a graduation ceremony of 124 students and a ceremony marking its 15-th foundation anniversary. Catholicos Karekin II, the head of the Armenian Church, sent a message congratulating the graduates and the AUA leadership on the 15-th anniversary occasion. The AUA was established in 1991, prompted by the December 7, 1988 quake that killed 25,000 people and left 500,000 homeless. In the aftermath of the quake that flattened the country’s northern regions, many Western specialists in the field of earthquake engineering visited Armenia and had the opportunity to interact with their Armenian counterparts. During one such meeting in 1989 the idea of an American style technical university in Armenia was proposed by Yuri Sarkisian, then rector of the Yerevan Polytechnic Institute, to Armen Der Kiureghian, Professor of Civil Engineering of the University of California at Berkeley, as a way to establish a new foundation for education and training in Armenia. The idea soon evolved into the specific goal of founding a graduate university based on the American model. What followed was a period of steadfast effort led by two earthquake engineering professors, Mihran Agbabian of the University of Southern California and Armen Der Kiureghian of the University of California at Berkeley. The vision of an American graduate university in Armenia’soon became a goal to which other academics in America and Armenia lent their support. The late Professor Stepan Karamardian, formerly Dean of the Graduate School of Management at the University of California at Riverside, soon joined the Agbabian and Der Kiureghian team early on. The team then approached the Armenian government and several organizations seeking support for the achievement of the stated goal. On September 21, 1991 Armenia declared its independence. On the same day, AUA began instruction with 101 students enrolled. In a phenomenally short time, the vision had become a reality. Today, the American University of Armenia (AUA) operates as an independent, private, non-profit institution of higher education in Armenia. AUA’s academic program provides graduate education in Business and Management, Industrial Engineering, Information and Communication Technologies, Political Science, Health Sciences, Law, Comparative Legal Studies, and Teaching English as a Foreign Language. Its emphasis on graduate programs is intended to complement the State Universities and Institutes in Armenia that provide undergraduate education. Parallel to its academic programs, AUA has established the Center for Business Research and Development, the Engineering Research Center, the Center for Policy Analysis, the Center for Environmental Management and Research, the Center for Health Services Research, and the Legal Resource Center to promote research in conjunction with graduate teaching. AUA faculty members are invited to promote learning and knowledge by teaching and conducting research. The exchange between faculty members and students is based on intellectual openness. Students are encouraged to formulate, critically and creatively, their individual paths of understanding and to pursue diversity in knowledge. As a public service to the community, AUA also provides courses through its Extension Program.