For the last several years, Fund for Armenian Relief (FAR), in partnership* with Armenian Engineers and Scientists of America (AESA), has supported a collaboration between Rutgers University (RU) and the National University of Architecture and Construction of Armenia (NUACA).

Infrastructure rehabilitation and construction industries in Armenia make up a significant portion of the Armenia’s GDP, and NUACA is actually the only university in Armenia that educates qualified management labor for the industry. Though the University is striving to keep up with the modern developments in the field, until now, many of the courses taught there (and subsequently practical procedures and policies) continue to follow old Soviet standards. In the meantime, it is well known that these “Soviet standards” largely fail, especially on issues of quality control, environmental impact assessment, and post-construction safety monitoring, among other things. RU, especially its branch of modern technologies, the Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation (CAIT), was requested to fill these specific gaps. FAR owes a lot to the Director of CAIT, Dr. Ali Maher, who spearheaded and led most of the programs.
Collaborations like this require multiple institutional resources, and hundreds of thousands of dollars. However, thanks to FAR’s network of friends in the US, its generous benefactor, as well as the AESA and NUACA Rector Gagik Galstyan with his sincere desire to make positive changes at the University, and NUACA’s young, talented faculty, the accomplishments so far have been remarkable.

This collaboration generated significant interest in Armenia, well beyond the NUACA, and involves graduate students, faculty, young professionals, legal and environmental experts, and representatives from both the private sector and various government agencies responsible for decision making in the industry.

As of today, the partnership made it possible to develop a completely new approach to major courses at NUACA in topics like Ground and Pavement Management, Construction Management, and Quality/Safety Control, and advances have been made in new approaches to Bridge and Tunnel maintenance, etc.

“As important as upgrading the knowledge and skills of our faculty, students, and industry representatives is, what is more important is that the entire community of Armenia’s infrastructure management/maintenance industry—like construction, energy, transportation, highways, bridges/tunnels, etc.. —is introduced to the last word, state-of-the-art approaches in modern methodology and technology in the field,” said FAR Executive Director Garnik Nanagoulian. “What is even more important is that we can see that Armenia is in a position to pioneer these modern technologies and make a jump into the 22nd Century. For example, the modern concept of energy smart cities and communities, introduced by RU Professor Dr. Mohsen Jafari, could be of vital importance to Armenia.

“Unfortunately, FAR does not have resources to support more than we already do. Adopting these new technologies and methodologies would require a systemic approach. And here the role of the government is very big. In Armenia, we keep talking about attracting foreign investments (FI), especially nowadays. I think, we should mobilize resources, work with pioneers in the field, and develop packages for FI, first of all in these cutting-edge technologies, which would take Armenia to the top in the region and revolutionize infrastructure asset management in our resource-poor country with the highest impact. That is the main lesson we have taken from the RU/CAIT and NUACA collaboration, especially at this stage.”

For their significant contribution to the scientific and academic collaboration between RU and the NUACA, NUACA Rector Dr. Gagik Galstyan presented RU Professors Ali Maher, Nenad Gucunski, and Mohsen Jafari with Diplomas of Honorary Doctorates.

Fund for Armenian Relief was honored, too – with the NUACA Gold Medal, for the long-term support of the University’s academic and research activities, and exceptional contribution to international scientific-educational collaboration of the University.

* The RU-AESA-FAR collaboration project is made possible thanks to a generous contribution from the SJS Foundation