People

The Institute benefits from the thought partnership and support of its Councils, including the Academic Council, the Leadership Council, and the National Honorary Council.

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Salpi Ghazarian

Director

Salpi Ghazarian joined the USC Institute of Armenian Studies in 2014 after returning to Los Angeles from Yerevan, Armenia, where she co-founded and directed the Civilitas Foundation, a think tank and advocacy organization. Civilitas and its media program, CivilNet, pioneered a new culture of responsible journalism through online television and data-based reporting. Salpi’s previous posts include Special Assistant to the Foreign Minister of Armenia from 2000 to 2008, West Coast Coordinator for the Zoryan Institute for Contemporary Armenian Research and Documentation, and editor and publisher of Armenian International Magazine. Salpi is a USC Alumna.

Dr. Shushan Karapetian

Dr. Shushan Karapetian
Deputy Director

Shushan Karapetian leads the Institute’s research and scholarship initiatives, deepening the integration with entities both on and off campus and expanding the scope of academic programming. She received a PhD in Near Eastern Languages and Cultures from UCLA in 2014, where she taught Armenian Studies courses for 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 also serves as associate director of the National Heritage Language Resource Center at UCLA. Shushan researches, teaches, and writes about the Armenian experience, particularly focusing on competing ideologies at the intersection of language and the construction of transnational identity.

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Silva Sevlian
Associate Director

Silva Sevlian oversees diaspora-related initiatives as well as university and student relations. She manages the Institute’s annual cornerstone event Innovate Armenia and the Digital Diaspora Initiative. Silva’s interest in the field stems from an oral history project she conducted in Ethiopia through the USC Africa Student Fund, studying the shrinking Ethiopian-Armenian community in Addis Ababa. Prior to joining the team at the Institute, she worked as a researcher at the Center on Public Diplomacy and later, on the executive team at USC Shoah Foundation. Silva has a Bachelor’s Degree in Print Journalism and a Master’s degree in Public Diplomacy, both from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

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Syuzanna Petrosyan
Associate Director

Syuzanna Petrosyan manages programs related to the Republic of Armenia and administers the Institute’s communication efforts. Her previous work includes Executive Producer at Annenberg Digital News site Neon Tommy, Senior Editor for the Public Diplomacy Magazine, Contributing Editor for the Journal of Public and International Affairs, and Communications Manager at the Foundation for the Preservation of Wildlife in Armenia. Syuzanna is co-founder of the Turkey-Armenia branch of the Olive Tree Initiative at University of California, Irvine (UCI), an experiential education program that takes students on trips to conflict regions. She has Bachelor’s Degrees in Economics and International Studies from UCI, and a Master’s Degree in Public Diplomacy from USC. Syuzanna is a California certified mediator.

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Gegham Mughnetsyan
Chitjian Researcher Archivist

Gegham Mughnetsyan works with post-genocide archival materials of Armenian diaspora. The work entails documentation, translation and digital collection building. In addition to the diaspora archives, Gegham has also worked on the completion of an extensive bibliography of academic works pertaining to Nagorno Karabakh. Gegham has been leading the oral history initiative tasked with recording, translating, transcribing the stories, and digitizing archival documents about the community of Armenian displaced persons who in the course of World War II were uprooted from their homes in the Nazi-occupied regions of the Soviet Union, ended up in a refugee camp in Germany and after the war found refuge in the United States. Gegham received his undergraduate degree from University of California, Berkeley in Peace and Conflict studies where his focus was on US foreign policy toward Nagorno Karabakh and he went on to complete his graduate degree at the American University, in Washington DC, where he studied International Affairs.

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Dr. Lilit Keshishyan
Research Associate

Lilit Keshishyan is a Lecturer in The Writing Program at USC and a Research Associate at the Institute of Armenian Studies. She works on the Institute’s Digital Diaspora Initiative, interviewing for the oral history project, conducting research on the diaspora community, and managing the digitization of materials. Before joining USC, she taught Comparative Literature and Writing courses at UCLA and English Composition at East Los Angeles College. Lilit holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the UCLA, where she also received her B.A. Her academic work has explored the intricacies and challenges posed by issues of identity, language, and place in the literature of the Armenian diaspora.

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Sareen Habeshian
Media Content and Operations Manager

Sareen Habeshian is a multimedia journalist who helped launch the Institute’s podcast and video broadcast programs. She manages the Institute’s media program and participates in production, bilingual interviews, and editing. Sareen also works on research projects in a bilingual capacity and produces English-language content for the Institute’s partner organization, CivilNet, an online Armenian newspaper. Sareen holds a Master of Science degree in Journalism from USC, and Bachelor of Arts Degrees in Media Studies and Armenian Language and Literature, with a minor in Middle Eastern Studies from UC Berkeley.

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Asik Yekikan
Financial Officer

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).

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Emil Sanamyan
Editor of Focus on Karabakh

Emil Sanamyan edits the Focus on Karabakh page and writes on politics and security in the Caucasus and the wider region. His articles have appeared in the Jane’s Defense Weekly, Economist Intelligence Unit, Foreign Policy, The Diplomat, Open Democracy, EurasiaNet and elsewhere. He is a graduate of the University of Arizona and Virginia Tech University and lives in the Washington DC area with his family.

* Photos by Lilit Keshishyan