Fireside Chat with Alen Amirkhanian in Los Angeles

GLENDALE, California — On January 11, the American University of Armenia (AUA) Office of Development hosted a “Fireside Chat with Alen Amirkhanian” at the Armenian Society of Los Angeles in Glendale. The event was open to the public and attended by many AUA supporters and friends of the community.

Amirkhanian, director of the AUA Acopian Center for the Environment, led a conversation moderated by Interim President Dr. Armen Der Kiureghian on the University’s critical role in addressing environmental issues within Armenia and beyond.

Dr. Armen Der Kiureghian and Alen Amirkhanian

Speaking about the importance of the AUA Acopian Center, Dr. Der Kiureghian opened the discussion by recognizing it as one of the most successful research centers at AUA and emphasizing Amirkhanian’s engaging role in this effort. “AUA and the Acopian Center have been instrumental in facilitating dialogue on important environmental problems in Armenia,” said Dr. Der Kiureghian. Amirkhanian also highlighted the opening of the Center in 1992, paying tribute to the late Sarkis Acopian, who created an endowment to alleviate the financial burden of supporting the center. 

Amirkhanian discussed the issues that persist in Armenia: “We have to put Armenia in a global context, and we need to understand the global challenges facing the world. This is infused in the courses we teach and the policies that are developed. We connect local situations with the global reality.” He touched upon sustainability and resilience, concepts that have gained wide currency in light of global efforts to implement these ideas not only for the environment, but also for social progress.

Alen Amirkhanian addressing key points of focus for the AUA Acopian Center for the Environment

Elaborating on specific environmental issues pertaining to Armenia, Amirkhanian spoke about the targeted efforts underway to address the burdened state of Lake Sevan caused by algal blooms that are degrading water quality. Also percolating are ideas on making better use of freshwater and land resources, as well as mitigating the anthropogenic impacts  on Armenia’s landscapes and ecosystems. “Economic growth and prosperity have benefited us, but not equitably; a big part of our challenge is to advance a more inclusive growth” Amirkhanian argued. He added that resilience and sustainability require systems change, and that is as much about changing social systems and values as it is about developing new technologies. “Managing our environment sustainably is an existential issue for Armenia and the world. At the country level, along with border security — food, energy, and water security must be prioritized when thinking about our nation’s survival in the next century. How we manage and adapt to changing the natural environment will be key to our success,” he added.

After Amirkhanian addressed the focus areas of ACE, the floor was opened to questions. Topics ranged from mining and agriculture to policy planning and ways to educate the general population on environmental issues. Solutions to all of these embraced education as the primary driver of change, as Amirkhanian concluded that the younger generation can be effective in rectifying past mistakes. Additionally, he noted that even before policies are implemented on a government level, ideas for change can begin to take hold within the classroom. 

To learn more about the AUA Acopian Center for the Environment, visit If you would like to make a financial contribution towards Center-specific projects, please email [email protected] 

The AUA Acopian Center for the Environment, a research center of the American University of Armenia (AUA), promotes the protection and restoration of the natural environment through research, education, and community outreach. The AUA Acopian Center’s focus areas include sustainable natural resource management, biodiversity protection and conservation, greening the built environment, sustainable energy, as well as information technology and the environment. Visit