AUA celebrates 32nd commencement

YEREVAN—On June 8, the American University of Armenia (AUA) held its 32nd commencement ceremony to bid farewell to the class of 2024. Held in the AUA Large Auditorium, the ceremony was a triumphant salute to over 500 students receiving their degrees. Gracing the graduating class with their presence at the commencement were AUA President Emeritus Dr. Armen Der Kiureghian, chair of the AUA Board of Trustees Dr. Lawrence Pitts, AUA Trustee Dr. David Essayan and other members of the Board, USAID Armenia Mission Director John Allelo, Ambassador from the United Arab Emirates to Armenia HE Ahlam Rashid Ahmed AlAbd AlSalami and Ambassador from Greece to Armenia HE Christos Sophianopoulos. The celebration, which was also livestreamed, was attended by family and friends of graduates, as well as AUA community members.

AUA President Dr. Bruce Boghosian opened the ceremony with his congratulatory remarks: “Faced with wars, a blockade and the ethnic cleansing of the entire native Armenian population of Artsakh, our students displayed impressive resilience, unity and perseverance. Indeed, it is the mission of AUA to produce students with the skills and intellect necessary to contribute to the defense, security, industry, economy, governance and culture of Armenia. I am confident that the skills acquired through this tumultuous experience will propel our students to contribute meaningfully to the preservation of Armenian sovereignty and the prosperity of its people.”

The president’s address was followed by greetings from the University of California (UC) delivered by Dr. Pitts: “The regents, officers and faculty of the University of California send cordial greetings to the American University of Armenia on the occasion of its eighth undergraduate commencement ceremony and its 32nd graduate commencement ceremony. The University of California community of learning extends warmest congratulations to the graduates and to their families on this joyous occasion and all good wishes for success in the years to come.”

American University of Armenia 32nd commencement ceremony

This year’s commencement keynote speakers were Dr. Essayan, executive vice president for ONCORD, Inc., and Edward P. Djerejian, former U.S. ambassador.

In his commencement address, Dr. Essayan, as a self-described “walking contradiction,” offered three pieces of contradictory advice that have served him well in the last six decades. Drawing on examples from his own life and career trajectory, he mentioned the importance of always having a plan, but not necessarily sticking to the plan; to always think big and always think small; and to follow both head and heart. “Your head will tell you what you should do. Your heart will tell you what you love to do. When these two meet, you have found your calling. That is what you are meant to do,” he said.

In his turn, Ambassador Djerejian imparted to graduates nuggets of wisdom from his impressive career in diplomacy, which spanned eight American presidential administrations. Citing examples from his diplomatic experience, he urged the graduates to adhere to their strong personal convictions and express themselves despite the potential consequences to themselves and their careers. “As you leave this esteemed university, you have the means to shape the world you all want to live in. Seize the opportunities that come before you. Seize them and be bold in choosing to make a meaningful difference in your lives and in the lives of others.”

Keynote speeches were followed by valedictory addresses, in Armenian and English, delivered by undergraduates Gayane Ghazaryan (BSCS ’24) and Elen Hovhannisyan (BAB ’24) and graduates Gohar Sargsyan (CTr. ’24) and Nareg Barsoumian (BSCS ’19, MSCIS ’24), respectively, as well as an address by graduating student Heghine Melkom Melkomian (BAEC ’24). In her address, Melkomian, a mid-career professional, recounted, “When I applied to AUA, people told me I was entering one of the most academically challenging universities in Armenia, and I secretly relished the idea. I could have taken the ‘easy’ way out — after all, I had a full plate: a full-time job at UNICEF, as well as two young kids and a family to provide for. But that’s not the path I wanted. I have always owned my achievements and failures; my education would not be an exception. Today, I stand before you confidently, a woman who, four years ago, would have dropped dead at the mere prospect of speaking before so many people. Thanks to the writing, public speaking and communication courses I took at AUA, I am delivering this speech today.”

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The ceremony featured the presentation of several awards. The 2024 AUA Presidential Commendation Award, which is inscribed on special paper made from flowers laid at the Tsitsernakaberd Armenian Genocide Memorial, recognizes and honors an individual who has made extraordinary contributions to education, research and outreach that have particularly impacted Armenia. This year, the award was bestowed on Dr. C. Judson King, former UC provost and senior vice president emeritus, and professor emeritus of the University of California Berkeley Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. Dr. King chaired the Board of the American University of Armenia Corporation from 1995 to 2006 and again from 2009 to 2012.  He was a Board member for 26 years in all. Unfortunately, Dr. King was unable to travel to Armenia this year, so AUAC Board Member Dr. George Blumenthal accepted the award on his behalf.

The Vartkess M. Balian Merit Award that recognizes the best overall performance of a student went to Sirun Vardanyan (MATEFL ’24) from the Master of Arts in Teaching English as a Foreign Language program. Teaching Excellence prizes were presented to Viken Berberian, senior lecturer in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHSS), and Dr. Uros Prokic, chair of the Master of Public Affairs program and CHSS assistant professor. The Research Accomplishment awards went to Dr. Elitza Kotzeva and Dr. Naira Sahakyan, both assistant professors in CHSS.

Carrying on the AUA tradition, the commencement ceremony culminated with the conferrals of certificates and degrees to the undergraduate and graduate classes of 2024 by the respective program chairs and college deans. This year, the university graduated the final graduate class of the Master of Political Science and International Affairs program.

The commencement ceremony came to a close with the class of 2024 graduates throwing their caps in the air, marking the end of one chapter in their lives and the beginning of a new one.

American University of Armenia
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, graduate, and certificate programs, promotes research and innovation, encourages civic engagement and community service, and fosters democratic values.

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