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Baibourtian Brings Practical Diplomacy into the Classroom

The Department of Political Science is pleased to welcome Dr. Armen Baibourtian from the United Nations office in Armenia as a visiting scholar and professor for the Spring 2014 semester.

“We are thrilled to host someone with such a rich background in foreign policy and diplomacy,” says Brian Schaffner, Department Chair. “The fact that both of Professor Baibourtian’s classes filled so quickly shows just how excited our students are to be learning from someone with real, hands-on knowledge of international affairs.”

While on campus, Ambassador Baibourtian is teaching two classes:  “At the Crossroads: The Caucasus between the East and the West” and “The Caucasian Knot: The US, the EU, Russia, Iran, Turkey and Regional Perspective.”

“My goals in the classroom are not only sharing with students knowledge about the region of the Caucasus,” he says, “but to also give them a clue how to analyze international politics and define American interest in that part of the world. I want them to grasp how things work on the ground, not just in textbooks.”

His classes teach what he calls “practical diplomacy.”

“Not only do I teach about the foreign policies of global and regional actors,” he says, “but I try to present to my students how it takes shape in everyday life. “

Indeed, Professor Baibourtian is in an excellent position to offer these insights.  As a career diplomat and the United Nations representative, he has worked with each of the countries his courses focus on. 

He also had the unique experience of serving in a number of posts immediately after Armenia gained its independence and petitioned to become a new member state in the UN.

Among his professional positions, he has served as Foreign Policy Advisor to the Speaker of Armenian Parliament, Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN in New York, first Consul General of Armenia in Los Angeles, Armenian Ambassador to India, Deputy Foreign Minister of Armenia and Chief Negotiator with the European Union, and Senior Adviser to the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Yerevan.

Ambassador Baibourtian’s background as career diplomat is well matched by his academic experience. While he has enjoyed these professional positions, he has never quite been able to squelch his passion for teaching or distance himself from academia.  Dr. Baibourtian, who holds two PhDs – one in International Studies from Jawaharlal Nehru University and one in Modern World History from Yerevan State University – has served as a visiting professor at the Center for European Studies at Yerevan State University for many years and has frequently delivered lectures at universities across the US and in many of the countries he represented as an advisor and diplomat.

“Teaching has kept me up-to-date with what the younger generations think,” he says. “It is always mutually enriching.”

He recalls one class at Yerevan State, for instance, where he and his students explored what it would mean for Armenia to become a member of the European Union. The classroom discussions were where he learned how the younger generation viewed the integration and, which allowed him to identify areas of misunderstanding or confusion for the citizenry.

Coming to UMass, Dr. Baibourtian was not sure what to expect in the classroom. “So far, however, I have been very happy with level of knowledge about international relations as well as global and regional security that students have,” he says. “I’ve also been impressed with the freedom of thought and variety of approaches to how UMass students think about foreign relations.”

Dr.  Baibourtian’s UMass visit is generously supported by gifts and grants from the Armenian General Benevolent Union, the Armenian Missionary Association of America, and the Hirair and Anna Hovnanian Foundation.


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