Zerunyan offers Armenian public officials lessons on governance, collaboration, leadership
By Matthew Kredell
USC Price School of Public Policy Professor Frank Zerunyan returned to Armenia this summer for a fifth year of executive education efforts training public servants and military leaders in public administration and management.
The centerpiece of Zerunyan’s trip was an intensive four-day training course on governance, ethics, collaboration, leadership and strategic planning that he taught at American University of Armenia. While in previous years attendance was dominated by representatives of the defense ministry, this session included a greater variety of public administrators than ever before, featuring officials from the ministries of economics, justice, transportation, energy, finance, defense and sports and entertainment.
For his continued efforts, Zerunyan was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the Public Administration Academy of the Republic of Armenia.
“Through this work, we’ve really been able to shape both the civil public administration and the public administration in terms of leadership in defense forces of Armenia,” Zerunyan said. “I’m really proud of this work. I am exhilarated with my honorary rank and honorary place in the university as an advisor, as well as my honorary doctorate as doctor of laws for public service. The ministries of the Republic, as well as the universities where I teach and advise, recognize that the work we’re doing there is very important to the country. I am humbled with these recognitions.”
He also met with professors in the public administration academy of American University to discuss cutting-edge concepts used at the Price School, sharing information and literature offered in various courses.
Renewed sense of hope
Over the past year, the country of Armenia experienced a broad civil disobedience movement, as many citizens protested to express frustration with the country’s oligarchy system and sought a true democracy. As a result, Zerunyan noticed a difference in his classes.
“The mood in Armenia from the younger generation of public servants coming to my class at AUA was different than last year in that there was hope,” Zerunyan said. “Last year, the younger generation was frustrated, exasperated, but this year I saw them speak more passionately about their country, a little more confident in having the upper hand against the oligarchs.”
At the Vazgen Sargsyan Military University, Zerunyan presented his seminar to 50 majors, lieutenant colonels and colonels in the Armenian military. He received stars for his honorary rank of colonel and patches representing the Armenian Army and Air Force to add to the uniform he received during last year’s trip — which he plans to wear around USC in September for Armenia Independence Day.
Advancing research on public service work
While in Armenia, Zerunyan also set up a collaboration with the Public Administration Academy of the Republic of Armenia to adapt the State of the Service Survey that he and USC Price Associate Professor Bill Resh developed and have been applying in research of local governments across California.
The survey of government employees seeks to find out how engagement with the public affects employees’ level of satisfaction or burnout.
With Resh’s help, Zerunyan will translate and adapt the survey for the Armenian government. They are looking to set up a formal agreement with the Public Administration Academy and obtain grants to analyze the results of the surveys for government employees in Armenia. The results of which could not only help Armenia, but also provide the researchers knowledge of the frame of mind about public engagement in another country.
Pioneering Ph.D. program
Last year, Zerunyan and the Price School began developing the Armenian Scholars program, a 10-year plan to establish the first Ph.D. program in public policy and management in Armenia. The program would provide a full scholarship for one student to come from Armenia to complete a Ph.D. at USC Price, with an agreement that the scholar would return to Armenia to help establish the doctoral program.
Zerunyan noted that the program is in the developmental phase of seeking funding and will soon work on identifying candidates to be the founding scholar and choosing an academic partner in Armenia to house the Ph.D. program. He is targeting the fall semester of 2020 for the arrival of the first Armenian Scholar.
“At USC Price, we tout our ability to be transformational and impactful, and I can’t think of a better way we can transform a nation in public policy and management than we are doing in Armenia,” Zerunyan said. “From teaching on a consistent basis, to providing advice on high levels of curriculum building, coursework and readings, to setting up high-level scholars, who meet our rigorous requirements to go back and help their own country in advancing public policy and management. We, at USC Price, are truly honored to participate in this noble endeavor.”
Professor of the Practice of Governance
Director, Executive Education