The University of Southern California Bedrosian Center on Governance and the Public Enterprise has formed a unique relationship with Armenian educators and leaders seeking a deeper understanding of democratic and decentralized governance in the post-Soviet era of their young republic.
The effort is spearheaded by Frank Vram Zerunyan, a professor of the practice of governance at USC Sol Price School of Public Policy and director of the Executive Education Forum for Policy at the Bedrosian Center, which offers an array of specialized non-degree certificate programs designed to deepen public-sector leaders’ understanding of substantive policy issues. Zerunyan has adapted the program’s curricula into a series of workshops and lectures for current and future Armenian leaders seeking to lead the young democracy forward and away from its long history of centralized Soviet government influence.
“Armenia has not yet completely shed its oligarchic past despite a great desire to do so by the Armenian people, particularly the younger generation,” Zerunyan said. “This process is slowed by the fact that most Armenian institutions of higher education don’t quite match the quality of American universities in the areas of public administration, public policy, governance and leadership.”
Zerunyan, himself a two-term mayor and current city council member in Rolling Hills Estates, Calif., is an expert in local governments, public-private partnerships, land use and regulation. His local government experience – along with his own Armenian heritage and command of the language — uniquely qualifies him to guide emerging leaders in Armenia.
Over the last month, Zerunyan has taught the specialized curricula to students, public officials and educators at the American University in Armenia, the Public Administration Academy of the Republic of Armenia and the Ministry of the Diaspora.
The lessons and workshops focused on helping current and future leaders in the 24-year-old former Soviet Republic develop a unique roadmap toward a more transparent and accountable system with better local oversight of policymaking and delivery of services.
“I always believed that government should do for people what they cannot do for themselves,” Zerunyan said. “As one of the best public affairs school in the nation and the world, our goal is to bring our humble expertise and to help Armenia’s current and future leaders better understand how to create a system of governance that exists closer to the people it serves.”
The effort was so well received that at the recommendation of high-level government officials, Zerunyan was appointed by the Academic Board of the Public Administration Academy of the Republic of Armenia to the editorial council of the country’s prestigious Public Administration Scientific Journal, which is chaired by Vigen Sargsyan, head of the Armenian president’s staff.
Zerunyan joins a lustrous group of government leaders, including the president and justices of the republic’s Constitutional Court, government ministers, and recognized scholars from within and outside of Armenia.
Zerunyan’s efforts complement the broader mission of the USC Bedrosian Center, an applied research center at the Price School that is dedicated to understanding and fostering effective democratic governance as an essential component in ensuring the betterment of local, national and global communities.
Under Zerunyan’s leadership, the center will seek to expand its relationship with Armenia and identify resources and programs – both overseas and on the USC campus – that support a sustainable system of public administration in Armenia.