By Matthew Kredell
The USC Price School of Public Policy is pursuing a plan to establish a special doctoral program in public policy and management in Armenia, designed to build the academic infrastructure to address the significant public management needs of this growing country and region.
While Armenia has a growing need for trained public policy and management professionals, it currently does not have a Ph.D. program at any of its universities that can provide training to meet this particular need. The USC Price Armenian Scholars program would begin with awarding one student from Armenia a full scholarship to enroll in the Ph.D. in Public Policy and Management program at the Price School in 2019. Scholarship recipients must make a commitment to return to Armenia to teach, research and train.
When the student completes the five-year degree, USC Price will make a separate investment for an Armenian university to hire the recent graduate to design a doctoral program.
Each year for five years, USC Price will continue enrolling an Armenian scholar, providing comprehensive support – including tuition, health insurance, housing, books, food and transportation – to grow the faculty until a five-member department is ready to sustainably prepare a new generation of policy thinkers and public management scholars in Armenia.
The plan was developed by USC Price Professor Frank Zerunyan, who is of Armenian descent.
“The future of the Armenian democracy rests on the shoulders of young leaders, academics, who are committed to the practice of teaching and rigor of research necessary to ensure that Armenia continues to develop into an independent market economy promoting good governance,” Zerunyan said.
Zerunyan secured support from Dean Jack H. Knott, along with all necessary faculty approvals, to found the Armenian Scholars program, building upon USC Price’s successful history in global education. The last step to establishing the program is raising an initial endowment of $3 million.
Expanding educational impact in Armenia
Each of the past four summers, Zerunyan has traveled to Armenia, where he teaches a one-week executive course on public administration to Armenian officials at the American University of Armenia (AUA) in the capital city of Yerevan. He is also a visiting professor at the Yerevan State University and the Public Administration Academy of the Republic of Armenia, where he also serves on the editorial council for its public administration scientific journal.
The class at AUA is especially popular with Armenia’s defense ministry, which filled 25 of the 60 seats this past summer.
Defense ministry officials and high-ranking officers associated with the educational mission of the Armenian Army found the course both relevant valuable — and as a result, they asked Zerunyan to guest lecture at the Vasgen Sargsyan Military University, with the condition that he add an extensive course to be taught at the Vasgen Sargsyan Military University and the Air Force University next summer.
To teach at those universities, he was awarded the honorary title of colonel instructor along with the corresponding Armenian Army uniform. He plans to wear this uniform at USC on Sept. 21 to honor his colleagues in Armenia to celebrate Armenia’s Independence Day.
“I’m very proud of my Armenian heritage, so it’s a great honor to be given this uniform,” Zerunyan said. “It’s a very unique position to be in as an Armenian-American. It also illustrates that USC Price’s work in executive education for global leaders is being appreciated and recognized at the highest levels in Armenia.”
While in Armenia, Zerunyan also met with Vache Gabrielian, vice prime minister and minister of international economic integration and reforms, to discuss the USC Price Armenian Scholars program and the need for educational reforms in Armenia. Last summer Zerunyan had already met with the education minister of the Republic, Levon Mkrtchyan.
“USC is in a key geographic location, because Southern California is home to the largest population of Armenians outside of Armenia,” Zerunyan said. “So it’s very natural for us to participate in bringing our knowledge to Armenia and help this young republic advance public policy and management.”