How can a university support the efforts of a new government? How can the Diaspora participate in Armenia’s development? These are the questions that the USC Institute of Armenian Studies is asking, and a partial answer has been found in a new program called USC Policy Fellows.
Within the framework of the Los Angeles—Yerevan Sister City relationship, the USC Institute of Armenian Studies initiated the USC Policy Fellows Program, in collaboration with the office of Councilmember Paul Krekorian, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and the Armenian government, through the office of Armenia’s Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinyan.
The Program selects and places mid-career professionals from Armenia in policy planning positions throughout the City of Los Angeles to learn from and contribute to the process of improving lives in both cities. In addition to their work with the City of Los Angeles, the fellows benefit from the unique positioning and academic resources available at the University of Southern California.
“This fellowship brings public servants from Armenia to observe, engage with, learn from and contribute to the work of various L.A. city departments,” said Salpi Ghazarian, director of the USC Institute of Armenian Studies. “It’s a program that bridges the intellectual capacities of the university, the administrative and governance capacity of the City of Los Angeles, and the new, exciting needs of the government of Armenia.”
Joining the Spring 2019 cohort are Lusine Dayan, assistant to the chief of staff to Armenia’s prime minister, and Andranik Tevosyan, consultant in the Asset Management and Investment Implementation Department for the Water Committee in Armenia.
“The city has its long and independent history of governance. This is a wonderful opportunity to dive into the processes going on in Los Angeles, to become a part of them and to have a chance to gain knowledge and implement it in Armenia,” Dayan said.
For the next few months, she is working in the Emergency Management Department in Los Angeles.
“The thing I love about this program is that you are not restricted,” she adds. “If you are interested in different fields, you can always ask questions and find answers.”
Tevosyan, who is working in the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, said his goals are to learn how the city of Los Angeles operates and maintains its water, how the city carries out its investments and how it takes care of its assets.
“To learn from such a big company, where just one department has more than 900 people, is a big opportunity,” he said.
The Program’s inaugural fellows, Anna Aktaryan and Davit Shindyan, arrived in the Fall of 2018. They spent their semester working with the city’s planning and public works department and sanitation department, respectively.
“I imagine being able to scale this program so that there are many more public servants engaging with LA City government and USC faculty, and taking that experience back to Armenia. I also imagine that a similar program is repeated in other places around the world, and the scale and speed of integrating into systems of good governance improves. At the end of the day, that is what any population expects of its government, and any government expects of its intellectuals and higher education institutions,” said Ghazarian.
Established in 2005, the USC Institute of Armenian Studies supports multidisciplinary scholarship to re-define, explore and study the complex issues that make up the contemporary Armenian experience—from post-genocide to the developing Republic of Armenia to the evolving diaspora. The institute encourages research, publications and public service, and promotes links among the global academic and Armenian communities.