A pact signed early this month between Fresno State and American University of Armenia (AUA) could potentially bring student exchange programs and opportunities for joint research between the schools.
“The groundwork for the agreement really started last February, February 2015, when a delegation from the American University of Armenia came to Fresno State to visit, to look at our facilities, and the like,” said Paul Hofmann, assistant vice president for international affairs. “What we had at the signing ceremony was the culmination of that vision.”
AUA is a U.S.-accredited institution located in Yerevan, Armenia and is affiliated with the University of California.
“The agreement that was signed on Jan. 8 will really pave the way for Fresno State students to go abroad, for faculty to have joint research projects,” Hofmann said.
In a news release, Fresno State President Joseph Castro said, “Our event today will help pave the way for subsequent agreements to create exchanges that will provide educational and research opportunities for members of both learning communities. The history of the Armenian community in Fresno is intimately intertwined with the region’s rich agricultural tradition, as well as local business and government roles.”
Study abroad programs are one of the potential opportunities that could come out of the pact.
Fresno State currently has numerous study abroad programs, which include short-term faculty-led programs as well as semesterlong or yearlong immersion programs, said Cynthia Trent, coordinator of international initiatives and special projects.
One example of a student exchange program that has come from a university partnership is the the program with the United Kingdom’s University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN).
“This is a semester-based exchange program, and it goes both ways,” said Kathryn Morrissey, coordinator of study abroad. “We get to send Fresno State students out to Central Lancashire and their students actually get to attend here at Fresno State as well.”
Students studying abroad in these types of exchanges are treated by the receiving university as regular students, Morrissey said.
Additionally, the pact could provide a pathway for faculty to conduct joint research
“It’s really an opportunity for joint research in a wide range of disciplines: agriculture, engineering, business,” Hofmann said.
While the agreement signed is similar to those that Fresno State has with other universities around world, Fresno’s demographics have not been lost on university officials.
“What makes this agreement significant, I think, is the fact that there’s a large Armenian diaspora in Fresno County, in the Central Valley of California,” Hofmann said. “Also, it’s signed on the heels of the dedication of the Armenian Genocide Memorial on campus.”
Last April, at the 100-year anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, the university dedicated what is the only memorial of its kind on a U.S. college campus.