YEREVAN (AUA)– The American University of Armenia honored the graduating Class of 2019 at the 27th graduate, and 3rd undergraduate, commencement ceremonies. This year, over 500 undergraduate and graduate students received their bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Family and friends of graduates filled the Large Auditorium, along with AUA Trustees, representatives of foreign missions in Armenia, local and foreign organizations, other invited guests, as well as AUA faculty and staff. The commencement ceremonies took place on June 8.
Following the solemn procession of graduating students, keynote speakers, trustees, and faculty to the tune of Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance, AUA President Dr. Armen Der Kiureghian welcomed the audience and presided over the fifth, and last, commencement ceremonies before retirement. Recognizing AUA founders, trustees, supporters, administrative staff, and faculty, he commended their efforts and years of dedicated service to the University. He then formally introduced Dr. Karin Markides, who will assume her position as the fifth President of AUA on July 1.
“I want you to know that it has been an honor and a privilege for me to lead this fine university while you were students here. Seeing you in the hallways, in the classrooms and auditoria, having conversations with you individually or in groups, having lunch in the cafeteria along with you, and observing your intellectual growth and advancement have been the brightest moments of my service to AUA. […] My years as the President of AUA will always remain as the highest points of my professional life,” remarked Dr. Der Kiureghian.
Dr. Lawrence H. Pitts, chair of the AUA Board of Trustees and former provost and executive vice president of academic affairs at University of California (UC), took the floor and extended warm congratulations to the graduates on behalf of UC President Dr. Janet Napolitano.
The keynote address to undergraduate students was delivered by Zaven Akian, AUA Corporation trustee and chair of the Finance Committee, chair and chief executive officer of Integra Technologies and FluiDyne Fluid Power, Inc. Akian shared with the graduates three important lessons he had learned over the past 50 years: continuously pursuing knowledge and gaining experience; preparing to seize opportunities at the right time; and building an unwavering character. The nugget of his advice to graduates was: “Tomorrow, as you enter a new chapter in your life, take responsibility for who you are and what you will do. You must resist the pressures and temptations that will seduce you to make easy, rather than ethical choices.”
Undergraduate valedictorians Shushanna Arakelyan (BAB ‘19) and Anush Petrosyan (BA EC ‘19) delivered their farewell addresses in Armenian and English, respectively. “We are all tiny pieces of a huge puzzle with unique colors and shades,” said Arakelyan encouraging her fellow graduates to embark on a journey of self-discovery, to find the purpose of their lives and do everything to pursue it. Petrosyan concluded her speech: “What matters is that wherever we go, whatever we become—a president, an actor, a scientist, a journalist… we never lose the humanity in ourselves. And what matters is that we never stop fighting for a better world, which I am sure we will keep on doing.” Later in the afternoon, graduates Arpine Abrahamyan (MPH ‘19) and Aram Serobyan (MS CIS ‘19) made their valedictory addresses. In Armenian, Abrahamyan reflected on her experience before coming to AUA, and afterward. In his turn, Serobyan called on his classmates: “Let’s change the world together!”
During the undergraduate commencement ceremony, Dr. Der Kiureghian posthumously awarded the Presidential Commendation Awards to Dr. Mihran Agbabian, “in recognition of his pivotal role in co-founding the American University of Armenia and serving as its inaugural president during the University’s crucial first years, 1991-1997,” and to Louise Manoogian Simone, “in recognition of her invaluable role in establishing the University, her exceptional service as a member of the Board of Trustees, and her immense generosity in support of the University. Receiving the awards on their behalf were, Elizabeth Agbabian, AUA’s founding first lady, and Christine Simone, Manoogian Simone’s daughter.
The keynote speaker for the graduate commencement ceremony was renowned physicist, Director of the A. Alikhanyan National Laboratory of Armenia, Dr. Ani Abrahamian. She congratulated the graduates on the special occasion and encouraged them to join the group of young scientists at the AANL—formerly Yerevan Physics Institute—to reshape the institution as an important player in the transformation of Armenia and science.
Other awards granted at the 27th commencement ceremonies were: the Vartkess M. Balian Merit Award to Taline Magdalena Akkaya (M PSIA ‘20), in recognition of her best overall performance among first-year master’s students of AUA; the Teaching Excellence Prizes to Dr. Mica Hilson, assistant professor at the College of Humanities and Social Sciences and Dr. Vahe Khachadourian, assistant professor at the Turpanjian School of Public Health. The Faculty Research Awards went to Sargis Zeytunyan (MS IE ‘99) for Six-Axis Pick and Place Robotic Arm, Dr. Vahram Ghushchyan with Narek Ohanyan and Sargis Maghakyan for the Dynamic Stochastic General Equilibrium of the Armenian Economy, and Dr. Knar Khachatryan and Dr. Aleksandr Grigoryan for Regional Development and Industry Concentration: Evidence from Armenia. The Teaching Excellence and Faculty Research Awards are made possible thanks to the support of the Hemayak Setrakian Endowment and the generous donation by the Sam and Sylva Simonian Foundation.
The commencement ceremonies were crowned by the triumphal conferrals of certificates and degrees to the graduates of the Class of 2019.
The undergraduate and graduate commencement ceremonies were live streamed on the AUA YouTube channel.
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.