Sam & Sylva Simonian: Tech Pioneers Advancing Armenia & AUA
Sam and Sylva Simonian are two of the most notable names trailblazing their distinctive path for advanced innovation in Armenia. In addition to their triumphant conception and creation of the TUMO Foundation’s Centers for Creative Technologies in Armenia, Artsakh, and several countries abroad, they have been very instrumental in establishing the Computer Science (CS) program at the American University of Armenia (AUA), generously funding its launch in 2002.
As an AUA Emeritus Trustee, Sam Simonian recalls, “In my student days, CS was not offered as a degree. I graduated in electrical engineering and had to learn programming on my own. It was clear then when the AUA CS program was first established that technology would become the essential discipline to produce entrepreneurs who can invent, start companies, employ people, create prosperity, and trade electronically without being hampered by the country’s locked borders.”
Today, the AUA Akian College of Science and Engineering boasts of an impressive roster of degree programs and state-of-the-art curriculum for its students, offering undergraduate degrees in computer science; data science; and engineering sciences, as well as graduate degrees in computer and information science; and industrial engineering and systems management. Situated within a setting of rapid technological leaps taking place in Armenia, the Simonians find it not only encouraging to witness the number of successful tech companies emerging in Armenia, but they also underscore the high growth rate at which the new companies are accelerating, albeit the prevalent shortage of experts that often hinders exponential growth.
With the launch of the ‘Build a Better Future With AUA’ campaign, the University is spearheading transformation by dedicating efforts to advance experiential learning and intently remodeling the science and technology curriculum to directly impact the growth of Armenia. The Simonians recognize the strategic significance of this AUA undertaking and underscore the immensity of what needs to be done within the country to bridge the existing gaps and positioning Armenia as an equal player in the global field. “There has to be more exerted efforts to realize both expanded budgets and strategy to improve the entire educational system. At one time, there were many more students enrolled in liberal arts studies, but that model has to be flipped. We have to teach and encourage kids at an early age to engage in creativity and technology, and when they enter university, the institution should have the scale and the quality to refine and excel their knowledge instead of starting them with general “101” courses,” Mr. Simonian asserts.
As the sponsors of the annual AUA Faculty Teaching Excellence Award, the Simonians view education as a critical component of their mission to aid and expand access to knowledge and skills-development for youth in Armenia. With encouragement and compelling advice to students entering STEM fields, they instill hope for almost guaranteed success in life, but also note that the biggest risk-takers who take the bold step to launch their own companies come along every so often. Their words of wisdom to those entrepreneurs would be to, “find partners in their journey who will complement their deficiencies as it can get very tiring and lonely working 24/7,” while counseling that it is very important not to forget their roots when they strike success and to be benevolent toward those who are less fortunate.
Sam and Sylva Simonian have been a commanding source of power and inspiration for many. But what they signify the most is that everyone can be a part of promoting education and advancing Armenia in their own way. In their words, “Life is more beautiful and fulfilling if you can not only improve yourself and your family, but also help solve the challenges of a country in desperate need.”
As AUA looks back on 30 years of progress through education, we recognize that our institution would not have reached this level of accomplished prominence without the support of steadfast and resourceful benefactors like the Simonians who have been pioneers in results-driven philanthropy that continues to power progress in Armenia. The level of contribution AUA students and alumni will make to the country and the society they will build are sown through the seeds of education. Our challenge in that process is to direct our collective efforts onto shaping the next decade of dynamic technological progress and delivery of greater development impact.
“I would like to see a peaceful, happy, strong and technologically superior Armenia, and education is the only vehicle to take us there,” Mr. Simonian urges.
We are grateful for the tremendous support by Sam and Sylva Simonian and look forward to building upon their influence by engaging more collaborators, believers, and partners in realizing our forward-looking vision of Armenia.
To learn more, visit https://30th.aua.am.
Founded in 1991, the American University of Armenia (AUA) is a private, independent university located in Yerevan, Armenia, affiliated with the University of California, and accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission in the United States. AUA provides local and international students with Western-style education through top-quality undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs, promotes research and innovation, encourages civic engagement and community service, and fosters democratic values.