San Jose State University leaders hosted officials from Armenia May 29 in efforts to further explore potential opportunities for partnerships in a place that was named by The Economist in December 2018 as its “country of the year.” The designation celebrates the country that has made the most progress in the past 12 months, and this year Armenia was recognized falling a peaceful revolution last spring that led to new leadership that is committed to “democracy and renewal.”
“It was great hosting a delegation from Armenia today,” said President Mary Papazian, who is herself the daughter of Armenian immigrants. “Their keen interest in entrepreneurship and industry intersects with SJSU’s strengths so we are actively seeking joint opportunities.”
College of Professional and Global Education Ruth Huard said the delegation comprised university educators, members of the Armenian ministry and leaders from private companies in high tech.
“At our university, we realize that in order to develop and grow—if SJSU wants to have a significant footprint in innovation and technology, we need all those three distinct groups to work together,” she said. “Armenia is poised and in an advantageous position where those three sectors – government, educational institutions, and private companies – are aligning.”
Following a revolution last year that ousted a long-time president from power, the new leadership in Armenia is looking for ways to move the economy forward, to develop their talent and allow the country to flourish. The visit on May 29 brought members of the new government including Hakob Arshakyan, minister of high-technological industries; Armen Baibourtian, consul general of Armenia in Los Angeles; Artur Grigoryan, assistant to the minister; Varazdat Pahlavuni, counselor for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who all expressed support for working with SJSU and Silicon Valley entities.
SJSU officials visited Armenia in spring 2018 for initial talks about potential partnership opportunities and Huard said some progress has already been made. Since then, university leaders from Armenia have visited SJSU to learn more about the STEM curriculum offered to students here.
“We had a cohort from one of their data sciences graduate programs visit our program and attend a couple classes,” Huard said. “They realized that we have relationships with industry partners who come and engage with our students and pose real-word problems to them. They are working on revising their curriculum to match ours.”
While Armenian universities have a strong background in teaching STEM fields and an intellectual capacity, they are hoping to learn from SJSU and Silicon Valley how to teach innovation and entrepreneurship.
“Our applied and experiential learning approach is what makes us the workforce engine for Silicon Valley,” Huard said. “These partnerships are mutually beneficial.”
During a working lunch, the government officials and CEOs from Armenia met with local technology leaders, SJSU deans, SJSU’s Vice President for Information Technology/Chief Information Officer Bob Lim and incoming Vice President for Research and Innovation Mohamed Abousalem.
“Having lunch with Minister Arshakyan was an incredible opportunity,” Lim said. “Technology industry executives from IBM, Logitech, and Plug and Play and more came to campus to meet with Armenia’s dignitaries and CEOs to build international connections. These kinds of partnerships create a new ecosystem for SJSU, investors, and technology industries in support of our students.”