LOS ANGELES  — After a decade of transformative leadership Salpi Ghazarian, the former Director of the USC Dornsife Institute of Armenian Studies and Special Initiatives Director throughout the past year and a half, has announced her retirement. Ghazarian’s departure marks a tenure characterized by innovation, determination, and a steadfast commitment to expanding the boundaries of knowledge on the contemporary Armenian experience.

Ghazarian’s visionary leadership has played a monumental role not just in the trajectory of the Institute, but also the position of USC in the field of Armenian Studies and Armenian communities worldwide. She has played a pivotal role in shaping the Institute’s mission, research endeavors, and innovative programming, all while fostering interdisciplinary collaborations and meaningful dialogue among scholars, community leaders, and policymakers.

In celebration of her remarkable contributions, colleagues, academics, university administrators, friends, family, and supporters gathered at the USC University Club on May 6th. Among the attendees were LA City Council President Paul Krekorian and former CA State Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian, as well as members of the Institute’s Leadership and Academic Councils who joined to honor Ghazarian’s legacy, reflect on the impactful 10 years of her work at USC, and wish her well in her future endeavors.

Reflecting on Ghazarian’s reputation as a “doer, actor, and a force to be reckoned with,” Institute Director Dr. Shushan Karapetian noted that she effortlessly traversed the realms of action, communication, and listening, embodying a rare combination of qualities that set her apart from her peers. “Indeed, it was Salpi who helped me realize just how much work needs to be invested in the Armenian world when it comes to not only having clear messaging but also delivering it effectively – with force, without mincing words,” said Dr. Karapetian.

Among the speakers were esteemed academics Dr. Manuel Pastor, Dr. Laurie Brand, Dr. Dan Mazmanian, and Dr. Robert English. Dr. Razmik Panossian and Dr. Ronald Suny sent video messages. Current and former Institute team members, including Dr. Lilit Keshishyan and Syuzanna Petrosyan, USC alumna Maral Tavitian, and Ghazarian’s son Mshak Ghazarian, also provided remarks.

Dr. Mazmanian reflected on Ghazarian’s “capability for not only imagining but realizing change,” a sentiment shared by everyone in the room. Nearly all remarked on her transformative role in the field of Armenian Studies and her dedication to expanding the scope, breadth, and reach of the Institute with academic initiatives such as Innovate Armenia, End of Transition, Unpacking Armenian Studies, Focus on Karabakh, and more.

Above all, they commended Ghazarian for refusing to confine things Armenian to narrow corners of history departments and area studies and instead for boldly fashioning a space for things Armenian in global discourse.

In a letter addressed to Ghazarian, Dr. Khachig Tölölyan, who is widely regarded as one of the founders of Diaspora Studies, wrote, “complex mind, clear sight, pessimism about reality but unfailing optimism about the possibility of addressing at least some relevant aspect of it – that’s our Salpi.”

Throughout her tenure, Ghazarian’s unwavering dedication to mentoring and guiding students from all walks of life has left an indelible mark on the Institute and its broader community. Present at the celebration were USC alumni who described the transformative impact her mentorship and guidance have had on their careers and life trajectories. “My parent’s raised me, but Salpi sent me to Armenia. A place that until then had been almost entirely absent from my upbringing…where the course of my life changed forever,” stated Maral Tavitian.

“​​Salpi has no desire to hoard information or credit. This allows for those who work with her to use her expertise, wisdom, and large network to grow and thrive. She puts you in the room, sits you at the table, and without saying anything assures you that you belong there,” stated Dr. Lilit Keshishyan, the Institute’s “California History Through Armenian Experiences” project director.

At the conclusion of the celebration, Los Angeles City Council President Paul Krekorian recognized Ghazarian “for her remarkable leadership and contribution to the University of Southern California and a decade of commitment to the USC Dornsife Institute of Armenian Studies.” Commenting on her contribution to not only USC but the Armenian community in the diaspora, Krekorian stated, “very few people have run their leg of this race as effectively as you have. We’re all grateful for it, and we’re all inspired by it.”

Reflecting on her long and dynamic career, Ghazarian stated, “I am serious about things Armenian. It isn’t something that I do in my spare time. It is something that I’ve been fortunate enough and chosen to make my good fortune and done in a way that has impact.”

In her parting remarks, Ghazarian brought the focus back to the Institute and its transformative work, entreating attendees to continue their crucial support of intellectual labor. “What they are trying to do is going to take time. It is exhausting, and you won’t see the results tomorrow morning. Research and teaching and trying to create audacious, committed, passionate, and knowledgeable people who can go out there and tell our story is going to take time.”

As Salpi Ghazarian embarks on the next chapter of her journey, her influence on the USC Dornsife Institute of Armenian Studies will continue to resonate for years to come. Her legacy serves as a testament to the power of visionary leadership, the importance of academic inquiry, and dedicated mentorship in fostering passionate and knowledgeable individuals who can tell the Armenian story with clarity and impact.


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