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AG Marketing Group Visits CSUF

By Barlow DerMugrdechian
Hye Sharzhoom Advisor

The future of Armenia could be seen in the excited faces of students from the Armenian Agricultural Academy (AAA) who arrived in Fresno on Wednesday, February 11 for a two week visit to California State University, Fresno.  They are the future because it is with their knowledge, dedication, and enthusiasm that Armenian will be changed.

Students Levon Gulkhasian, Levon Saryan, Mihran Movsisyan, Hayk Haykyan, Vahe Heboyan, Hrachya Ohanyan, Ara Tarverdyan, Nairi Kazumian and Professors Koryun Grigoryan and Around the World Levon Margaryan are the core of a marketing cadre who were in Fresno to undergo intensive training in the area of marketing and economics. They were accompanied by interpreters Gayane Mkrtchyan and Shushan Arakelian.

When asked to comment at the conclusion of two weeks of on-the-go training and visits to local area businesses, it was a unanimous ìGreat!î Each of the students were involved in asking questions and finding out as much as possible how things work in the United States.

The visit was directed and arranged by Professor William Rice, Professor of Marketing at CSU Fresno, who is the head of the USDA-CSU Fresno-Armenian Agricultural Academy Marketing Assistance Project.  Several years ago the United States Department of Agriculture initiated a Marketing Assistance Program with Armenia. The headquarters is in Yerevan. For the past two years CSU Fresno has been working with administrators, faculty, and students at the Armenian Agricultural Academy to help develop their curriculum and to develop a Western-style marketing program.  The Craig School of Business, the School of Agriculture and the Armenian Studies Program have been involved in the joint effort. As part of the collaborative program, thousands of textbooks on economics, marketing, and business have been collected and sent to Armenia. In addition, for the first time the AAA has been set up with a computer laboratory where students and faculty have access.

On Thursday, February 12the marketing cadre, plus a group of five administrators and five technical people also from AAA, visited the Tulare International Agriculture Show. The worldís largest farm equipment show was a unique opportunity to view exhibits from more than a dozen countries as well as from the United States.  Armenian Agricultural Academy Rector (President) Armen Khachatryan, Rubik Tovmasyan, Ashot Bayadyan, Gayane Gasparian, Varduhi Khachatryan, Gevork Afian, Razmik Minasyan, Henrik Sargsyan, Arshaluys Tarverdian, Styopa Margaryan, and Vardan Ghushchyan had been in Fresno since January 28 and were involved in a program of technical training and mentoring by CSU Fresno administrative officials.

Later that day the entire group had the opportunity to meet with CSU Fresno President Dr. John Welty at a reception held at the University House.

Visit with Fresno Mayor Jim Patterson.
Their visit was highlighted by a meeting on Wednesday, February 11 with Fresno Mayor Jim Patterson who awarded the Rector with the key to the city of Fresno. Mondays through Fridays, a combination of courses and site visits were arranged for the marekting group. Trips to local businesses, agricultural centers, the Fresno Bee, local media, the U.S. District Court, and various other sites highlighted the tour.

The purpose of the training program was for the students to see the entire marketing process as it functions in the United States-from the farm to the consumer. This entailed visits to farms, processing plants, warehouse facilities, advertising agencies, and finally to retail consumer outlets. And what better place to do all of this than the fertile San Joaquin Valley.

Their first weekend in California included a visit to Los Angeles, where they had a chance to see Disneyland and Universal Studios. During their second weekend, the group headed for San Francisco and en route visited the Hershey Chocolate Factory and the Mirasou vineyards.

23rd Winter Fancy Food Show, San Francisco, 1998
Through the assistance of the USDA, for the first time the Republic of Armenia was officially represented with a colorful booth at the 23rd Winter Fancy Food Show, held on February 22-24 in the Moscone Center in San Francisco. The marketing cadre visited the Fancy Food Show and the Armenian booth. Featured products included Areni wine, Armenian champagne, dried fruit, jams, dried tomatoes in sunflower oil, and chocolate covered apricots with walnuts.

Armenian Export Promotions handled the arrangements for the show. The Armenian presence at the Fancy Food Show caused quite a stir as crowds gathered closely to see the products from Armenia.  Many new contacts were formed and contracts were signed for Armenian exports to the United States. On the return trip to Fresno, the group had an opportunity to visit the Monterrey and Carmel areas and to see the Pacific Ocean.

Visit with Armenian Students Organization
An already special visit to the United States was made even better when the students from the AAA met with members of the Armenian Students Organization on two occasions.  A joint outing for pizza, video games, and bowling was a new experience for all.  A few days later another outing was made to play Lazer Tag followed by more bowling.  The warm interaction of the students from two countries was followed by an exchange of addresses and telephone numbers and a promise to host the Armenian students from Fresno when they came to Armenia.

Farewell Dinner
On Thursday, February 26, a gala farewell dinner was held for the marketing group at Kokoís Restaurant in Fresno.  Diplomas were awarded for the successful participation and completion of the two week Program. The Marketing Assistance Program is continuing with CSU Fresno faculty visits to AAA.