Anoush Yedigaryan: Enhancing Regional Outreach and Development in Armenia 

Anoush Yedigaryan is an international development professional with over 25 years of experience and expertise in human and institutional capacity development, education, civil society, community development, public sector reform, corporate management, and corporate communications.

In 1994 through 2012, Yedigaryan worked at AED and subsequently at FHI360, a major US non-profit organization, serving as the Country Director for Armenia and Chief of Party of USAID Human and Institutional Capacity Development projects. Also, in various capacities, she has advised select ministries of the Government of Armenia on governance, corporate management, and human resource development and worked with civil society and the public sector on initiatives of institutional and human capacity development. She has worked throughout Eurasia, the Middle East, and Africa.

In addition, Yedigaryan has led projects focused on education with a primary emphasis on professional/continuing education. Her engagement with GIZ (2012-2013) involved capacity strengthening of the National Assembly of Armenia in the field of public finance and policy reform. Afterwards, she joined the Children of Armenia Fund (2013-2016) aspiring to scale up its operations, both programmatically and geographically, employing community-led approaches aimed at improving the quality of life in rural Armenia. Recently, she was appointed to the position of Director of Open Education at the American University of Armenia (AUA).

How did you learn about the Director of Open Education vacancy and why did you decide to apply?

My journey at AUA started back in 1991, when I joined the University as an administrative assistant at Extension (now Open Education). It was my first job and an eye-opening experience for me.

When I was approached to apply for the position of Director of Open Education, the decision to return to AUA came instinctively. After all, AUA was the place where everything started for me. It was an important step, as the operations of Open Education and its focus on providing education to the public of Armenia is something I feel strongly about. It is the regional outreach arm of the University in providing education and in attracting students from the regions to study at AUA. My mission here is to combine those two components and create a big movement. 

Could you explain the operations of the Open Education regional offices?

We have 7 regional offices, with the 8th in Artsakh. The offices are located in Gyumri, Vanadzor, Dilijan, Yeghegnadzor, Goris, Kapan, Ijevan, and Stepanakert.

Artsakh itself is dear to my heart. It is one of the oldest regional centers representing AUA Open Education and a strategically important one in terms of its direction. We have a large number of applicants and current students from Artsakh. We also provide programs for children as well as the adult community of Artsakh, where the majority of interest comes from the youth. There is also a third segment that we target public sector organizations, including ministries and state agencies where we offer staff training courses in professional development. 

You have previously mentioned that you are working towards building libraries within the regional offices. What can you tell us about this project?

We are actively working with AUA’s AGBU Papazian Library towards realizing this project. We want to have a facility where people can spend time, read, and interact. We are discussing whether it should be a part of the Open Education center space or within an existing public library, where we can help enhance the skills of librarians, as well as increase their resources. It’s important to have the local authorities and players take direct ownership of this undertaking and engage in active participation to build a successful partnership. AUA’s AGBU Papazian Library has played a significant role in establishing the library in Dilijan. They are currently working on a similar project in Goris and Stepanakert and are very enthusiastic about training the new staff and employees there. In the coming years, we intend to also work together to establish libraries in Yeghegnadzor, Vanadzor, and Gyumri.

With the help of these libraries, people will inevitably learn about the educational programs we offer at Open Education. Reciprocally, students enrolled in our courses will learn about the library in their locale. Our aim is to create a hub for local youth in the regions. By ‘local,” I don’t mean only Gyumri, for example, but the surrounding areas and villages of the Shirak region. We hope that our centers and services can expand to reach more areas in the near future. In addition, these centers would also serve as a meeting point for local non-governmental organizations, with whom we can potentially collaborate and establish partnerships. We want to spread the message that the facilities are not explicitly for AUA students only. 

Can you talk to us about Reality Labs and its connection to AUA Open Education?

A new effort that serves as a collaborative tool to bridge the gap between the University and the regional communities is the AUA Reality Labs. The concept of the reality labs provides the opportunity to work with local stakeholders to identify significant areas of need and provide solutions to their respective issues with the help of experts and participants from various sectors. 

Most importantly, the Reality Lab participants are not only from AUA but are drawn from various businesses and organizations in the public and private sectors. From AUA in particular, it can be Open Education with its resources, as we have the capacity to engage the public in addition to the AUA community. The Reality Labs can also engage AUA faculty members, as well as students and alumni, more inclusively.

In your opinion, how has AUA and Open Education changed from the first time you worked here in 1991 to now?

In the early days, AUA was a novel idea. It was a completely new and unknown concept for the Armenian reality at the time. AUA went a long way to develop into the advanced and highly competitive University we have today. What has changed and inspired me to return is its current stage of development. AUA has gone through a lengthy and impressive process of establishing a system which has enabled it to become a sustainable institution. Its graduates are considered some of the most competitive professionals in the workforce. This progress is highly appealing and inspiring. I am excited to be a part of AUA Open Education, which has grown so much since its early years as the AUA Extension program. 

AUA Extension started small. At its initial stages, it was offering English language courses and public lectures. Over time, AUA Extension expanded and introduced diverse training opportunities. It eventually grew from a small office with two employees on the AUA campus to a larger operation in Yerevan, the seven marzes of Armenia, and Artsakh. Today, AUA Open Education plays a key role in the growth and prosperity of Armenians and its communities. It provides essential infrastructure and networks for the AUA Open Centers of Excellence and Reality Labs to solve crucial issues in Armenia.