by Gabriella Gage
The Armenian Mirror Spectator
Anna Ohanyan, an assistant professor of political science at Stonehill College, is currently participating in a one-year Fulbright Fellowship to Armenia, teaching Contemporary Global Issues and International Organizations to Armenian university students. Her goal has not only been to impart knowledge to her students, but more importantly, to change the way they learn and give them the necessary skills to succeed in the world outside the classroom.
Ohanyan explains, "My primary objective has been to help the local University in diversifying the teaching methodologies. Lecturing remains a dominant form of teaching in most public Universities in Armenia, and students have gotten accustomed to it [...]. This method simply prevents the development of soft skills among students, such as critical thinking, analytical skills, leadership and problem solving. Studies conducted in Armenia show that employers are looking precisely for these skills, which scores and scores of University graduates simply do not possess because they have not had an opportunity to practice and enhance these skills within the lecturing mode of teaching."
Introducing her methodology to Armenian universities has had its own challenges, including rethinking how students prepare for class, exposing students to new ways of learning and finding interactive ways of handling materials. There are also students that still prefer the passive lecturing style they have grown accustomed to, as well as battles with the administration, overloaded classroom sizes and a shortage on material supplies.
Ohanyan even met with discouragement from embassy officials who warned that students would likely not respond well to more demanding workloads and new teaching philosophies.
Despite these challenges, Ohanyan has seen hopeful results among her students using her new methodology. "I have many students who [...] embraced the interactive, experiential teaching method that I utilize in my classes. It was thrilling to see how one student used a highlighter and color-coded the entire chapter, which may not be anything special in the US, but in Armenia that signaled a real hunger for learning. [...] I utilize debates as a form of experiential teaching. Usually students just would [continue] debating, even after the class was over!"
A native of Yerevan, Ohanyan graduated from Yerevan State University in Armenia, received a master's degree in conflict resolution from the School of Social and Systemic Studies at Nova Southeastern University in Florida and earned her doctorate in political science from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, New York. Before joining Stonehill College as a faculty member, Ohanyan received pre-doctoral and a post-doctoral fellowships from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.
Ohanyan was selected for the Fulbright program after an intensive application process and approval by the US Embassy in Armenia.
Ohanyan was chosen as a 2012-2013 recipient to conduct her research and teach in Armenia. Ohanyan explains her goals for this fellowship year: "My proposal entails teaching two courses at a local University while also researching regional integration in politically divided areas, such as the Balkans and South Caucasus. At the end, this research will result in my second book, and I am hoping to produce a first draft by the end of my Fulbright tenure here in Armenia."
Together with her three daughters, Isabelle Ani, Elise Mariam and Helen Susanna, Ohanyan made the move from Massachusetts.
According to Ohanyan, the only drawback to her fellowship experience has been being away from her husband Aram Adourian, who first encouraged Ohanyan to apply to Fulbright but was unable to make the move.
Despite the distance, Ohanyan notes that Adourian visits frequently and remains supportive of her goals during this year abroad. As part of her return to the Yerevan community, Ohanyan has noted the juxtaposition of progress and the need for improvements in
the city. "The downtown is beautiful, and some of the big retail chains, particularly the luxury stores, have firmly planted their