The Promise Armenian Institute (PAI) was established at UCLA in late 2019, through the vision of Dr. Eric Esrailian and made possible by a $20 million gift from the estate of Kirk Kerkorian, the well-known Armenian-American businessman, investor, and philanthropist. The PAI is designed to be a hub for world-class research and teaching on Armenian Studies and in addition for coordinating Interdisciplinary Research and Public Impact Programs across UCLA, and with the Republic of Armenia and the Armenian Diaspora. The Promise Armenian Institute’s size, scope and interdisciplinary approach make it the first of its kind in the world, and UCLA is ideally positioned to make these important contributions. The impact of its work could extend well beyond Armenia and Armenians.
Armenian Studies Center
UCLA has a long history of scholarship and instructional programs in Armenian studies, including Armenian language, literature, and history, and these form the foundation of the newly established Armenian Studies Center within the Promise Armenian Institute. Professor Sebouh Aslanian of the UCLA Department of History has been named the Center’s inaugural director.
The rich history of Armenian Studies at UCLA may be traced to the early 1960s. In 1969, the UCLA Chair for Armenian Studies (later renamed the Narekatsi Chair) was created by the National Association of Armenian Studies and Research. The Narekatsi Chair focuses on Armenian language and literature, and was in fact the first endowed chair to be formally established at UCLA. The late Professor Avedis Sanjian was named the first UCLA Armenian Studies Chair. The Narekatsi Chair is now held by Professor Peter Cowe, who was appointed in 2000. The Armenian Studies Program of the department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures was founded simultaneously with the Narekatsi Chair.
Armenian History has been a long-standing field in the UCLA Department of History, beginning with the appointment of the distinguished scholar, Professor Richard Hovannisian, in 1969. In 1987, the Armenian Educational Foundation established a second endowed chair, this one in Modern Armenian History, and Prof. Hovannisian occupied this chair until his retirement in 2011. After an international search, Prof. Sebouh Aslanian was selected to occupy the newly renamed Richard Hovannisian Endowed Chair in Modern Armenian History, preserving a legacy of scholarly endeavor in Armenian history.
For decades, UCLA has been at the forefront of Armenian Studies in the United States. With two endowed Armenian Studies chairs, world-class library collections, including the Minasian collection of Armenian material, and scholarly research in Armenian Archaeology within the Cotsen Institute, UCLA is now, once again, forging ahead with a new academic initiative in Armenian Studies under the auspices of the Promise Armenian Institute.
Interdisciplinary Research and Public Impact Programs
In addition to traditional Armenian Studies, UCLA is home to a great many interdisciplinary research programs relevant to the Republic of Armenia as well as Armenian music, culture and the arts. After Armenia's Velvet Revolution, policy-makers are eager to address Armenia's pressing economic and social challenges. UCLA is uniquely positioned to provide academic input, drawing on path-breaking research that is being conducted on campus in a variety of disciplines.
Under the auspices of Professor Movses Pogossian, the UCLA Armenian Music Program at the Herb Alpert School of Music provides an in-depth exploration of Armenia’s rich musical heritage, and includes renowned performance groups such as the VEM Ensemble.
In the UCLA Department of Sociology, Professor Victor Agadjanian pursues numerous demographic and multidisciplinary social science research studies, mainly in Sub-Saharan Africa and post-Soviet Eurasia, including the Republic of Armenia. Special areas of focus include the effects of labor migration on family processes, health and economic well-being, with funding from the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
Many departments and centers within the David Geffen School of Medicine and the Fielding School of Public Health at UCLA have longstanding research programs and institutional ties with Armenia and the Armenian diaspora. Recent healthcare outreach efforts of two UCLA faculty, Prof. Alina Dorian (Fielding School of Public Health) and Prof. Shant Shekherdimian (David Geffen School of Medicine), involve COVID-19 expertise in real time to medical and public health professionals in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. The UCLA Vatche & Tamar Manoukian Division of Digestive Diseases hosts the Familial Mediterranean Fever (FMF) Clinic, the largest clinic for the study of this disease in the Western hemisphere. FMF is a rare disease that tends to strike Armenians, Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews, Turks, Arabs and many other nationalities.