Zerunyan offers lessons in governance, leadership to Armenia’s Defense Ministry

Photo credit: Frank Zerunyan with students from Armenia’s Defense Ministry (Photo courtesy of Frank Zerunyan) More photos available on Flickr »

USC Price School of Public Policy Professor Frank Zerunyan returned to Armenia for the third consecutive year to provide his expertise in governance to senior officials of the relatively new democracy.

Governance skills related to leadership and negotiation are much needed in former Soviet Union countries that are still transitioning from a time when everything was governed from the top down. Through his Local and Global Leaders Program, Zerunyan customizes educational and training programs to meet the specific needs of domestic and foreign governments, public agencies and policy-driven organizations. The program is part of the Executive Education Forum for Policy at the USC Bedrosian Center on Governance.

“In the post-soviet era, these republics are breaking out and learning to engage their constituencies in cities, regions and provinces,” Zerunyan said. “It’s becoming more important to them to learn how to govern at various levels, rather than just the central level of government. And ministries of these countries are recognizing the importance of collaboration and facilitative leadership at an administrative level, so they can create better opportunities for themselves and their country.”

Local lessons for global leaders

Zerunyan first discussed governance in Armenia’s capital city of Yerevan as part of a United Nations workshop in 2014. He was asked to return last year to teach a summer program at the American University of Armenia to high-level public officials from the ministries of defense, justice, public service, territorial affairs and national security.

This summer, Zerunyan was requested to offer his lessons exclusively to 25 officials from the Defense Ministry of Armenia. He contacted Lieutenant Colonel Justin Chezem, Professor of Military Service in the Army ROTC at USC Price, for guidance and military examples of leadership to add to his lesson plan.

Students in the one-week intensive course included the Armenian military police chief and several colonels; and every participant held the rank of major or higher.

“It is an honor and a privilege to contribute to the education of these brave men and women, who are striving to better govern and lead their units and organizations,” Zerunyan noted. “It was my pleasure to speak about and instruct on collaborative governance, ethics, negotiation and leadership. We at USC Price have much to contribute in scholarship and practice in these interrelated but distinct disciplines.”

Zerunyan, who received a plaque from the Armenian Army at the conclusion of the course, explained that he was invited to return every summer and provide governance lessons to Armenian defense leadership.

“One does not defend the homeland with just weapons, but also with intellect,” Norik Smbatyan, retired colonel and director of education for the Defense Forces in Armenia, wrote to Zerunyan in an email translated to English by the professor. “Your experienced instruction is the most important factor for our young republic.”

Future collaborations

Zerunyan also met with the Minister of Education and Science Levon Mkrtchyan, who expressed interest in collaborating with Price to send Armenian officials to USC to pursue graduate degrees or participate in executive education programs. Zerunyan is currently working on a memorandum of understanding to facilitate this potential partnership.

In addition, Zerunyan serves on the editorial council of the Public Administration Scientific Journal for the Republic of Armenia. He is the co-author of the first full public ethics article written in English published in the journal this month.

“Through our relationships, we are solidifying our ties with the Republic of Armenia,” Zerunyan said. “Our ties are growing between the respective countries, through USC and the Price School, at the highest levels. California houses the most Armenians living outside of Armenia and Russia.”

Zerunyan – a two-term mayor and current mayor pro tem in the City of Rolling Hills Estates, Calif. –also traveled to Germany this summer to participate in a mayoral roundtable discussion at Speyer University as part of Assistant Professor William Resh’s USC Price on the Rhine study abroad program. Zerunyan provided the governance local perspective of the U.S. in comparison to those in Germany and the United Kingdom.