YEREVAN — On June 9, the American University of Armenia (AUA) hosted the official opening and ribbon cutting of the Najarian Center for Social Entrepreneurship — a capital project that realizes a major growth initiative for the University, particularly expanding its outreach programs and social aspects of entrepreneurship. The event was presided by interim AUA President Dr. Armen Der Kiureghian and attended by the ambassador of the U.S. in Armenia, H.E. Kristina Kvien, USAID mission director John G. Allelo, chair of the AUA Board of Trustees, Dr. Laurence Pitts and other members of the Board, as well as AUA faculty and staff. Benefactors George and Carolann Najarian joined the ceremony via Zoom, as did Vahe and Aida Yeghiazarian.

In 2016, philanthropists K. George and Dr. Carolann Najarian donated to AUA two buildings located in Yerevan’s Dzoragyugh ethnographic district. The smaller of the two buildings was renovated in 2017 with a grant of nearly $1 million from the American Schools and Hospitals Abroad (ASHA) of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and currently serves as the AUA Student Residence accommodating 56 students from different regions of Armenia and abroad. Attesting to the highly functional use of the building, the Najarians have expressed their keen support for naming the student residence after a major donor that will come forth with a significant contribution to the University.

Similarly, the reconstruction of the second building, the AUA Najarian Center for Social Entrepreneurship, became possible thanks to a $900,000 grant from ASHA-USAID awarded in 2018. Completed recently, the building is slated for use by the Center for Research in Applied Linguistics (CRAL), which is the AUA program dedicated to teaching English as a second language through the use of a highly effective language-teaching methodology. The additional space helps expand CRAL’s outreach to civil society organizations, particularly those that provide women and girls with in-service and pre-service teacher training and English language classes.

The Najarian Center will also house the AUA Open Education (OE), enabling the expansion of its professional development programs through various classes and workshops in professional communication, English language, business development, marketing, leadership, and human resource management, among others.

Thus, the Najarian Center provides the appropriate space for collaboration with various public and private sector organizations to stimulate innovation and social entrepreneurship. With the addition of the fourth floor, the building creates new and expanded collaboration opportunities to implement projects in partnership with different stakeholders. Aside from providing the capacity to accommodate an increasing number of child and adult learners in degree and non-degree programs, the Center’s conference facilities and state-of-the-art platforms will serve diverse internal and external audiences.

More importantly, the expanded Najarian Center creates the appropriate milieu for drawing various segments of the local population, particularly engaging community groups that realize the social change in Armenia. The Center’s fully equipped learning facilities are bound to create an engaging atmosphere where students develop the essential knowledge and skills to lead social innovation and initiate ventures that aim to generate beneficial social and environmental impact.

At the official opening of the AUA Najarian Center for Social Entrepreneurship, AUA President Dr. Armen Der Kiureghian expressed his sincere gratitude to George and Carolann Najarian for their extraordinary gift to the university. “These two buildings substantially enhance our physical capacity and help us to develop new programs and better serve our students and the community at large.” He then added, “I also want to thank Aida and Vahe Yeghiazarian for originating the idea and putting me in touch with Carolann.” He concluded, “Of course, this project would not have been realized without the generous support of USAID and its ASHA program. I want to express our sincere gratitude to the U.S. government for the invaluable support they have offered on this project, as well as many others that have facilitated the growth and advancement of the American University of Armenia.”

Joining the event virtually, Carolann Najarian reflected, “It’s hard to convey our excitement and sense of gratification on this momentous occasion. We could never have imagined that AUA, with the essential backing of USAID, would be the beneficiary and that this project would serve the critical needs of the University.”

Speaking next was Ambassador Kristina Kvien. “More than three decades ago, the U.S. government helped establish this university. I’m happy to be here today to mark another milestone in the partnership between our government and the American University of Armenia.” Concluding her remarks, she affirmed, “The United States aims to help Armenia succeed as a secure, prosperous, and democratic country.”

AUA duly acknowledges that the architectural design of the Najarian Center for Social Entrepreneurship was completed by “Ket Architect” CJSC — Storaket Architectural Studio. The construction and finishing works were realized by Care Building Services (CBS) LLC, and the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system was installed by “Consel” Ltd.

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