Earlier this March, Dr. Arman Martirosyan and Dr. Karen Yeghoyan, business professors from Yerevan State University (YSU), visited the Fresno State campus. The two professors spent seventeen days in the United States, almost all of these in Fresno. This first trip to the United States for both of the Armenian professors is part of an ongoing cooperative business project between Fresno State and YSU.
Over the last six years, Fresno State faculty have participated in a faculty exchange program with YSU as part of the NIS College and University Partnership Program; both universities have hosted faculty members from the other university for multi-week trips. The basic purpose of this project between the two universities is to facilitate the transformation of the YSU Faculty of Economics into a modern institution, capable of competing on an international level in the fields of business and economics.
Barlow Der Mugrdechian of the Armenian Studies Program at Fresno State is the project coordinator and works with key faculty in the Fresno State Craig School of Business to implement the project goals. The more than ten Fresno State faculty who have visited Armenia have returned with great admiration for their colleagues and for the quality of their work.
One of the greatest needs Yerevan State University is the mass implementation of technology. For example, electronic presentations were impossible at YSU, due to a lack of equipment. The project has provided the Faculty of Economics with three computer labs, two video projection units, VCRs, and a television, in order to partially fill the gap.
Another need of both the students and the faculty is textbooks and newly published research works. Neither is widely available, and the texts that students use are usually older Russian textbooks, which are three or four years out of print, and therefore often provide either antiquated or irrelevant information. Fresno State faculty have assisted in this area by donating modern textbooks, which can be utilized by the faculty in Armenia.
Both professors explained that the purpose of their visit was to observe the teaching pedagogies used by Fresno State professors and to observe how technology is used in the classroom. However, one of the greatest benefits derived from their trip was the chance to spend time in the Henry Madden Library on the Fresno State campus. Though YSU does have a large, well-rounded library, it carries little literature concerning micro- and macro-economics, the mathematical model of economics, the history of economic thought, and psychological economics, all fields of study taught by Martirosyan and Yeghoyan.
When asked what each professor hoped to gain from his time at Fresno State, Yeghoyan said that he hoped to learn more efficient, more technologically-based approaches to teaching. Martirosyan said that he hoped to discover new, innovative ways of teaching economics, and he was excited to receive greater exposure to a wider variety of economics literature.
The time spent in Fresno has not only been beneficial for the various professors that have come from YSU to Fresno State, but it is beneficial for the university as well. Currently, YSU is striving to meet international standards, and its interaction with Fresno State in recent years has helped to serve as a benchmark for improvement. The university has already seen certain changes, such as the addition of new classes that are focused on preparing students specifically for the business world. Another great improvement has been the university’s recent ability to provide internet access for the students on campus.
The two professors also spoke of the great difference in teaching styles separating YSU and Fresno State. While the Fresno State business program has meshed theoretical teaching with practical, real life examples and hands-on training, YSU has followed the theory-based Soviet model. The two professors hope that they will gain a greater understanding of how to use practical instruction, so that they may utilize this pedagogy in their classes back at YSU. The ultimate desire of YSU is to provide a balanced theory- and practice-oriented educational experience for their students.
By mid-March, Martirosyan and Yeghoyan had returned to Armenia and were back teaching at YSU. Yet their experience here at Fresno State was very beneficial, better preparing them to teach and to positively