Remarks at Fulbright Program Participants’ Welcome Reception

Tonight we are here to say a warm Bari galu’st Hayastan — Welcome to Armenia — to the four dedicated Fulbright program participants who will be helping build a stronger relationship between America and the Armenian people, not just by helping teach English but by building strong, personal bridges between our countries. And of course, we are here, too, to thank the Ministry of Defense, the Yerevan Brusov State University of Linguistics and Social Sciences, the Yerevan State College of Humanities, and the Yerevan City Central Library for their partnership and support, which is the foundation of the success of our Fulbright program in Armenia.

This academic year, Ryan Chastain – a U.S. Army veteran who has taught English in Spain and Colombia – will be working with the Ministry of Defense by teaching English at four military colleges and academies.  Ryan will help the Armenian military further its strong commitment to international peacekeeping efforts by facilitating communication between Armenian and other peacekeepers.  Ryan will also help train the trainers by delivering instruction to the Ministry’s existing teacher corps, sharing his experiences and expertise in teaching English as a foreign language. We’re very excited about Ryan’s Fulbright program, as this marks our first such partnership with the Ministry of Defense.

Danica Harootian has studied in France, Tunisia, and Lebanon and worked at the U.S. military’s language training institute in California. Danica will spend the academic year at the Yerevan Brusov State University of Linguistics and Social Sciences, where she will work with students on improving their speaking and writing skills.  She will co-teach with other faculty, which opens a new avenue for exchange and teamwork.  She will also get involved with the English Club to discuss aspects of American life and culture with Armenian students.  We have a rich history of Fulbright partnership with Brusov and value our continued friendship and cooperation.

The Yerevan State College of Humanities will host Ani Misirian, who has experience teaching science and mentoring young people in the urban communities of Los Angeles. Ani will join the faculty to co-teach communicative English classes to students who major in tourism, customs, and clerical work. She will re-start the English Club at the College to make it a lively center of student discussions. This is the first time that one of our Fulbright English Teaching Assistants has been placed with the Yerevan State College of Humanities, and we are delighted to embark on this new area of partnership.

And last but certainly not least, we say not just “welcome,” but “welcome back” to another U.S. military veteran, Derek Townsend, who will be serving in the Embassy’s very own American Corner at the Yerevan Central Library. I say ‘welcome back’ because he volunteered with the American Councils office in Yerevan last year, and from what I understand, is pretty fluent in Armenian! We are happy to welcome him back to Armenia and look forward to having him help with our American Corner programs which reach thousands of people – young and old – each year.

We thank all our partners for hosting these U.S. Fulbright participants. I know they look forward to working with you to not only teach English to your students, but also serve as cultural ambassadors for the U.S.  I hope they will forge strong personal and professional relationships with their Armenian students and counterparts, and return to the U.S. with an even stronger understanding and appreciation of Armenia, with its rich cultural traditions and heritage, and delicious food. We look forward to strong and continued cooperation with all four of this year’s partner institutions.