An Interview with Hratch Kouyoumjian, One of the 100 Pillars of AUA


What drew you to become involved with AUA? What made you want to become one of the 100 Pillars of the University?

Hratch K. (1)I was drawn to become involved with AUA because of my knowledge of AUA’s mission to provide the youth of Armenia with a quality education.  AUA is preparing Armenia’s youth to compete effectively in the global market and develop leadership skills that will help advance the country. I was encouraged to become one of the 100 Pillars of the University by AUA’s reputation – AUA provides a nurturing academic environment while upholding high standards and accepting the most qualified applicants, regardless of their monetary resources. I was drawn to their need-blind admission policy and the extensive financial support AUA provides for its students. Becoming a Pillar of the University was an excellent way for me to commit to help AUA to accomplish its mission. In a short visit to campus in November 2015, I saw the students’ enthusiasm – there was camaraderie between students, faculty and administrators and an apparent love for AUA. It was clear to me that AUA is accomplishing what it set out to do in preparing its graduates to contribute and lead in the development of the country.

What is your vision for the future of Armenia, and how do you see AUA fitting into Armenia’s future? 

Armenia must expand and network worldwide in multiple fields to transfer knowledge, open opportunities, continue growth, develop resources and improve the quality of life for all its citizens.  AUA’s stated mission of: academic excellence, free inquiry, integrity, scholarship, leadership and service as an independent institution, is an important and a direct path to develop Armenia’s professionals and future leaders. They will be well equipped to take on the many challenges facing the country as it develops. AUA currently provides valuable academic training to Armenia’s youth. I believe AUA can also be valuable in initiating and supporting exchanges and collaborations with others outside of Armenia, as well as bringing diaspora Armenians into more interactions, collaborations and, in turn, grow worldwide support of AUA. AUA is in a position to initiate networking opportunities and growth within industry and other organizations worldwide.   Some possible approaches in which AUA could invest in this growth could include: supporting local chapters of professional organizations, providing exhibitions, inviting guest speakers and setting up exchange programs in areas that are periphery to the immediate university curriculum.  Such efforts will engage more outside contacts that will expand the exchange of ideas and strengthen the connection of AUA’s students to a broader audience, as well as increase AUA’s role in the development of Armenia.  New opportunities may also emerge from such efforts.

Why does AUA matter to you? Why now in particular?

AUA matters to me because AUA provides Armenia with an important path to support future professionals and leaders who will contribute to Armenia’s development as well as expand Armenia’s international links in many fields. AUA serves as both a conduit and facilitator for itself and its students to build global relations, get exposed to different ideas and interact in academic and other fields. At this time in particular, there are few other organizations that can provide what AUA is providing academically and experientially.   With further support, AUA is destined to grow and serve more of Armenia’s students and population.

What are the critical results that AUA can produce to help in the transformation of Armenia? Hratch K. & family

While I am not aware of many of Armenia’s current issues, it appears that graduates are meeting international standards of performance and setting the bar higher for all that follow. As they graduate and become professionals, entrepreneurs, and leaders, they will define and mentor future generations with their example, vision, commitment and work ethic. AUA, through its affiliations, leadership and faculty, has an open window to worldwide academic resources, research, developments and trends.  AUA can bring new ideas, awareness, and challenges from its worldwide access to its students.  Few sources in Armenia, outside of AUA, can match what students, and the community at large, can learn, experience, participate in, link to, share in and benefit from at AUA.  In this respect, AUA plays a crucial role in the future transformation of Armenia. A possible AUA outreach to the community might be to initiate programs designed to assist adults acquire practical skills in languages, business practices, networking etc.

What would you like to pass on to future generations of Armenians?

Where Armenians have had the opportunity, they have excelled- they have overcome multiple obstacles and challenges, taken initiatives, created value and became leaders in many fields. AUA students have the same ability to accomplish such goals and will be counted on to achieve these goals, as long as AUA continues to nurture them and provides the necessary tools. I would encourage AUA graduates to collaborate with each other and adopt a “can do” attitude. They should challenge themselves to overcome obstacles, excel in chosen fields and lead the development of Armenia’s transition to become a successful and creative center in the region. Current and future generations must strengthen the ties between Armenian communities. I believe AUA can be an immediate catalyst and a strong contributor to this goal. AUA must reinforce the notion that Armenia really needs its students to assume leadership roles and think and act on a global scale.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

I am most passionate about seeing that Armenia’s youth receive a quality education. Without a solid, global based education, there are limited opportunities for Armenia’s youth to compete in today’s world of global challenges, and limited opportunities for Armenia to develop and prosper. AUA’s open, creative environment, provides a world class education, reinforces values and prepares its graduates to confidently enter world markets and compete effectively, thereby assuring Armenia’s growth. AUA, in addition to providing a quality education, accepting the most qualified applicants, and assisting students through their academic years, must continuously reinforce the notion that AUA’s students are also responsible for the future development of Armenia

 About the Pillar

Hratch Kouyoumdjian was born in Baghdad, Iraq in 1945.  He attended Jesuit Middle School, High School and University in Baghdad, Iraq and graduated in 1967 with a Bachelor’s in Civil Engineering. In 1968 he was accepted to graduate school at The State University of New York at Buffalo and received a Master’s of Science in Civil Engineering in 1970.  After working for several well-respected structural consulting firms in the US, Hratch joined Cygna Consulting Engineers San Francisco, a major consulting practice, as President and Chief Operating Officer in 1977. In 1987, he started his own consulting practice in San Francisco and Oakland, California, providing Structural Engineering & Architectural design services for many notable buildings worldwide. In 2015, he retired to pursue special consulting and teaching interests.  You can now find Hratch at San Francisco State University, where he teaches a structural engineering graduate course. He is also currently serving as a member of the Deans Advisory Council at SUNY, Buffalo, New York.