The Institute benefits from the thought partnership and support of its Councils, including the Academic Council, the Leadership Council, and the National Honorary Council.
Dr. Shushan Karapetian
Dr. Karapetian sets the Institute’s vision and leads the research and scholarship initiatives, deepening integration with entities both on and off campus and expanding the scope of academic programming. She researches, teaches, and writes about the Armenian experience, particularly focusing on competing ideologies at the intersection of language and the construction of transnational identity. Dr. Karapetian received a PhD in Near Eastern Languages and Cultures from UCLA in 2014, where she taught Armenian Studies courses for over ten years. Her dissertation, “‘How Do I Teach My Kids My Broken Armenian?’: A Study of Eastern Armenian Heritage Language Speakers in Los Angeles,” received the Society for Armenian Studies Distinguished Dissertation Award in 2015. In 2018, she was the recipient of the Russ Campbell Young Scholar Award in recognition of outstanding scholarship in heritage language research. She is the host of the podcast Language Therapy with Dr. K and the IG/YouTube Word of the Day series.
Special Initiatives Director
Salpi H. Ghazarian directs the Institute’s Special Initiatives intended to combine research with engagement in contemporary challenges. She served as the Institute’s director from 2014 to 2022. Previously, in Armenia, she co-founded and directed the Civilitas Foundation, and its media arm, the trilingual online news channel CivilNet. Earlier, she held the post of Special Assistant to the Foreign Minister of Armenia, 2000 to 2008. Before moving to Armenia, she was editor-publisher of Armenian International Magazine. Prior to that, she was West Coast Coordinator of the Zoryan Institute for Contemporary Armenian Research and Documentation. Salpi is an alumna of USC.
Silva Sevlian works in the Office of the Director overseeing the 2023 transition, Institute priorities, diaspora-related initiatives as well as university relations. Prior to joining the team at the Institute, she worked as a researcher at the USC Center on Public Diplomacy and later, on the executive team at USC Shoah Foundation. Silva has an undergraduate degree in Print Journalism and a Master’s in Public Diplomacy, both from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. She is an adjunct writing instructor at the American University of Armenia.
Chitjian Researcher Archivist
Gegham Mughnetsyan works with Armenian diaspora archives and leads the Institute’s Displaced Persons Oral History and Documentation Project. Gegham also produces content for the Institute’s social media platforms and works on building the Institute’s digital collection. He received his MA from American University, in Washington DC, where he studied International Affairs and his BA from UC Berkeley in Peace and Conflict studies where his focus was on Nagorno Karabakh.
Dr. Lilit Keshishyan
Dr. Keshishyan directs the Institute’s “California History through the Armenian Experience” oral history project and also works on various aspects of the Digital Diaspora Initiative. She is a part-time lecturer in The Writing Program at USC. Dr. Keshishyan holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from UCLA, where she taught comparative literature and writing courses for over 10 years. Her academic work has explored the intricacies and challenges posed by issues of identity, language, and place in the literature of the Armenian diaspora.
Education and Outreach Manager
Manuk Avedikyan works on the “California History through the Armenian Experience” oral history project and does outreach for My Armenian Story. He previously managed the Armenian Genocide survivor oral history collections at the USC Shoah Foundation for over seven years. Manuk holds an MA in Political Science and International Affairs from the American University of Armenia in Yerevan, focusing on non-Muslim minority issues and reforms in modern-day Turkey. He has a BA in History from California State University of Northridge.
Associate Creative Manager
Brandon Balayan assists website development, creates videos for My Armenian Story, and develops creative concepts that aim to deliver the Institute’s research and projects to a wider audience. Prior to working with the Institute, Brandon spent a year in Armenia, volunteering for various organizations with the help of Birthright Armenia. He worked for The Armenian Mirror-Spectator and Kooyrigs NGO as a reporter and media assistant, respectively. He is currently a senior at California State University, Northridge pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism.
Aza Babayan is the archivist for “California History through the Armenian Experience”, making the Institute’s oral histories accessible as part of a grant project funded by the California State Library. They are a liaison between the Institute and the USC Digital Library and responsible for metadata cross walking, creating documentation on oral history methodology, and ensuring the collection’s publication to the USC Digital Library and its aggregate sites. Babayan has an MLIS from University of California, Los Angeles and also works as an archivist at the June L. Mazer Lesbian Archives.
Asik Yekikan oversees the financial aspects of the Institute’s expenditure on a daily basis, correlating with USC business office on all processes. Asik is in charge of maintaining accounts and drafting and submitting all paperwork and documents related with Institute’s numerous projects and suppliers. For over twenty years, Asik worked in the private sector as an Accounting Director. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Iran Zamin University in Tehran (IAU).
* Photos by Lilit Keshishyan