By Thursday marked the 26th anniversary of Armenia obtaining independence from Soviet rule, and professor Frank Zerunyan celebrated by wearing his Armenian army uniform.
On all other days, Zerunyan proudly displays the gift from the defense minister of Armenia on a hanger in his office in Lewis Hall. Zerunyan is of Armenian descent, but has no familial connection to the country as it stands today.
Zerunyan teaches graduate level courses in the Sol Price School of Public Policy that focus on governance, negotiation and leadership, and he is in the process of establishing the Armenian Scholars program at USC. The 10-year program is set to begin in Fall 2019.
The program’s goal is to consecutively bring five scholars from Armenia to enroll in the doctorate in public policy and management program at the Price School. Upon graduating, each student will return to Armenia to form a public policy and management department at a university. By the end of the 10th year, the department will have five employees, all graduates of the USC program. If a scholar commits to working for the department for at least five years, USC will pay for his or her education.
“Every year, we will try to recruit someone with a variation of interest in public policy and management so that we don’t have duplicates,” Zerunyan said. “Even though they will all come from Price, we will make sure that they all matriculate into different disciplines.”
The idea for the Armenian Scholars program was conceived about five years ago when Zerunyan began traveling to Armenia to teach. It was at Yerevan State University, the largest university in the country, where Zerunyan realized public management is only offered at the undergraduate and master’s levels in Armenia; a doctoral program in public management does not exist.
After brainstorming ways to combat the issue, he asked colleagues from Yerevan State University to write him a letter about the need for a doctoral program in public management. He then presented the document, as well as his ideas for the Armenian Scholars program, to Jack H. Knott, dean of the Price School.
Zerunyan said Knott supported the idea then and still supports it today.
“Through establishing this Price School doctorate program, we will have the opportunity to prepare the first generation of Armenian scholars and educators in public policy and management,” Knott said in an email to the Daily Trojan. “It will help to improve Armenian governance, professional public management and democratic political development. This program will reflect USC’s moral imperative to use its expertise to make a positive global impact.”
According to Zerunyan, the Los Angeles area is the largest Armenian community outside of Armenia itself, making USC the perfect place for the program.
“My hope is that this becomes the hub of the caucuses in the former Soviet Republics as the premier institution for public policy and management doctorate programs,” he said.
Zerunyan said he will begin recruiting scholars when he teaches in Armenia next summer, and plans to make a final decision by January 2019. In the meantime, he said he will prepare, develop and raise funds for the program.
“To me, this is a mission,” Zerunyan said. “We want them to go back and provide that mission back to the country.”