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Reflections on 2020 and Hope for the Future

Reflections on 2020 and Hope for the Future

As 2020 draws to a close, we would like to take this opportunity to thank you for being a part of The Promise Armenian Institute at UCLA during its inaugural year. We are deeply grateful for your interest, participation, and support of The PAI's growing range of programming and activities.

On the surface, one might imagine that 2020 was not the easiest year in which to launch a broad-based, interdisciplinary research and educational institute such as The PAI.  Indeed, several events that had been planned for the winter and spring of this year had to be postponed due to COVID-based campus closures.  But in fact, despite the enormous challenges that emerged, 2020 was a year in which the true value of an Institute such as The PAI was abundantly demonstrated.  For example:

  • Despite a worldwide pandemic and travel restrictions, The Promise Armenian Institute offered two Distinguished Lectures relevant to the Armenian Genocide by the eminent scholar, Professor Taner Akçam, reaching hundreds of viewers worldwide in live Zoom-based events and hundreds more after the events.  Our third Distinguished Lecture is scheduled to be presented by Professor Ronald Grigor Suny on Friday, February 12, 2021.
  • In response to the war inflicted on Artsakh/Nagorno-Karabakh/Armenia by Azerbaijan/Turkey, the Armenian Studies Center within The PAI, under the leadership of its director, Professor Sebouh Aslanian, coordinated a Zoom-based international conference, "Nagorno Karabakh/Artsakh and the Palimpsests of Conflict, Violence, and Memory," exploring the many facets of the history and geopolitical complexities of the region.  The conference featured presentations and thoughtful discussions by 15 renowned scholars, including Words in Solidarity by Dr. Cornel West and musical interludes provided by the UCLA Armenian Music Program. Hundreds of viewers worldwide participated in this live event, and many more since then have learned from the insightful discussions in the video recording of the event.
  • In response to the aftermath of the war and the exploding humanitarian and health crisis in Armenia and Artsakh, an extensive, UCLA-coordinated medical/humanitarian effort is underway under the leadership and support of Drs. Eric Esrailian, Shant Shekherdimian, and many others, to provide both immediate medical disaster relief and long-term aid and health infrastructure support in the region. This effort operates under the umbrella of The Promise Armenian Institute at UCLA, through the generosity, advocacy, and support of UCLA Health.
  • And closer to home, in response to urgent needs, The PAI is honored to support the research and teaching activities of several talented “scholars-at-risk” who cannot safely return to their home countries because of threats from authoritarian regimes which stifle open scholarship in fields relevant to our Institute.  These scholars join graduate and postdoctoral fellows as well as faculty research seed grant recipients in pursuing their scholarly endeavors under the auspices of The Promise Armenian Institute.

At this point, and in the coming year, there is no doubt that the Republics of Armenia and Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) are at a crossroads.  Beyond the ongoing medical/humanitarian outreach efforts for Armenia, The PAI is committed to continuing to provide impactful programming, including scholarly events focusing on the humanitarian crisis and war crimes; the future of Nagorno-Karabakh/Artsakh and Armenia; Artsakh in the context of other self-determination movements; and more.  We are similarly committed to continuing to support research and scholarly endeavors that enhance the important field of Armenian Studies.  

We invite you to partner with us in this journey of support for research, scholarship, and outreach to Armenia and the diaspora.  The Promise Armenian Institute has recently established an Urgent Needs Fund, designed to provide critical support for unforeseen and urgent projects and circumstances in the Institute.  As you may be aware, the pandemic has not only devastated lives, it has also taken an unprecedented financial toll on UCLA and the UC System as a whole. Numerous programs and projects will be facing funding cuts going forward. Our PAI Urgent Needs Fund will provide critical support for such unforeseen and urgent projects and circumstances, including but not limited to support for scholars at risk; personnel expenses and travel associated with humanitarian/medical outreach to Armenia and/or Artsakh; and supplemental support for Armenian studies courses and related educational programs at UCLA.  

Working together, there is much that we can do in enhancing the critical mission of the Promise Armenian Institute at UCLA!

With all good wishes for a safe and blessed holiday season and a happy and healthy 2021, 

The team at the Promise Armenian Institute

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Published: Monday, December 21, 2020