YEREVAN—On October 3, the American University of Armenia received notification of a $900,000 grant from the American Schools and Hospitals Abroad (ASHA) program of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). This grant is earmarked for the reconstruction and furnishing of the second of two buildings donated to AUA by K. George and Dr. Carolann Najarian. The last ASHA award of $999K was for the reconstruction and furnishing of the first Najarian building as AUA’s future student residence facility.
The Najarian Center for Social Entrepreneurship project addresses the mission of the University to drive social change in Armenia. It will provide the learning and creative space, tools and resources for advancing social entrepreneurship. Students engaged in the activities and programming will develop the essential knowledge and skills to lead social innovation and model best practices for creating impact ventures.
The project supports the strategic goals of the University to promote student learning, provide spaces where students, alumni and faculty nurture their agency for social change, create synergies between the public and private sectors, and facilitate collaborations in innovation and social entrepreneurship.
As noted by AUA President Dr. Armen Der Kiureghian, “Bringing these programs closer together under the same roof will create new synergies for enhanced community service and promotion of social entrepreneurship. We are very grateful that, thanks to ASHA’s tremendous support, we will be able to accomplish this important project at a time when the local communities and citizenry are ready to share social responsibility. This helps AUA create the next generation of social problem solvers and entrepreneurs.”
With the addition of a fourth floor, the Center will add 1,351 sq.m. of net usable space (1,691 sq.m. gross space) to house AUA programs, including the Center for Research in Applied Linguistics (CRAL), the Acopian Center for the Environment (ACE), and a new partnership with Impact Hub Yerevan. Aside from the capacity to accommodate the increasing number of child learners, degree and non-degree students, and continuing education learners, the Center will have conference facilities and offer state-of-the-art platforms that will reach diverse audiences.
In the words of Provost Dr. Randall Rhodes, the AUA Najarian Center for Social Entrepreneurship complements other entrepreneurial initiatives in Armenia by placing strong emphasis on the social components of development: “As per its mission, the AUA is committed to the social, economic and political development of the nation. While most initiatives related to entrepreneurship have focused on the IT sector, this new Najarian Center for Social Entrepreneurship will highlight initiatives fostering capacity building in other realms such as social welfare, education, environmentalism and civil society. As many of our students will be participating in these initiatives and benefiting from access to Impact Hub Yerevan’s mentor network, the AUA’s impact on Yerevan and Armenia will assuredly grow.”
In that regard, AUA’s partnership with Impact Hub Yerevan — Armenia Social Innovation Development Foundation — will expand the students’ reach to a global network of professionals at 90+ Impact Hubs worldwide and 16,000+ change makers. This will enhance their empowerment through accelerator programs in social entrepreneurship that will contribute toward nurturing their ideas, connecting them with social entrepreneurs and NGOs in Armenia and abroad, realizing impact projects, and promoting research on issues related to social, environmental and cultural innovation.
“This ASHA grant is truly an affirmation of the mission of the University and its role in promoting democratic principles and values, gender and social change, and public outreach,” asserted Assistant Vice President Anahit Ordyan. This grant supplements the financial support the University has received from ASHA since the University’s founding to around $14 million.
As an integral part of AUA’s sustained relationship with ASHA, earlier in October, Vice President of Operations Ashot Ghazaryan, Assistant Vice President Anahit Ordyan, Accounts Manager Lilia Darbinian from AUAC Oakland, and AUA Extension Program Operations Manager Anahit Ghazaryan attended the annual ASHA conference in Washington, D.C. The focus of this year’s conference was on the strategic priorities and quantifiable outcomes of US public diplomacy in projects abroad, and upcoming changes in managing ASHA grants.
ASHA aids American schools, libraries, and medical centers abroad that serve as study and demonstration centers promoting American ideas and practices. ASHA’s grants help these institutions train future leaders in a wide variety of disciplines, support local and regional infrastructure to foster development and cultivate positive relationships and mutual understanding among citizens of the host country, the United States and other nations.
Founded in 1991, the American University of Armenia is a private, independent university located in Yerevan, Armenia, and affiliated with the University of California. AUA provides a global education in Armenia and the region, offering high-quality graduate and undergraduate studies, encouraging civic engagement, and promoting public service and democratic values.