A Spotlight on the Chair of the Corporate Board of Directors,Dr. Varouj Aivazian

27 Nov 2023

The Zoryan Institute takes pride in its Board of Directors, staff, students, faculty members, editors, volunteers, and donors, who form a community of engaged, and informed individuals, committed to making the world a better place. This community has helped shape the Institute into what it is over the last 41 years.

The Institute wishes to showcase the work and achievements of these individuals who have made incredible contributions to the development of the Zoryan Institute. One such individual is Dr. Varouj Aivazian. As a co-founder of the Zoryan Institute of Canada in 1984, Dr. Aivazian has dedicated almost 40 years of his life to the Zoryan Institute.  Since then, he has taken on many different roles, including founder, director, Chair, GHRUP Development Committee Member, and GHRUP Admissions Committee Member. Since 1995, he has served as Zoryan Institute’s Chair of its Corporate Board of Directors.

Dr. Varouj Aivazian is in the Department of Economics at the University of Toronto. He served on the Governing Council of the University of Toronto (2006-2011), was a member and Chair of the Social Sciences Review Panel of The Connaught Committee (1992-1995) and served as Director of the Master of Financial Economics program (2002-2011).

In his position as Chair of the Corporate Board of the Zoryan Institute, Dr. Aivazian also serves as an ex officio member of the Academic Board, composed of scholars and academics. As a scholar and economist himself, he is perfectly suited to coordinate between the two boards. His primary role within this position is to oversee the Corporate Board’s financial, legal, and administrative matters of the Institute. In the process, he ensures that the Institute remains in good standing in all its jurisdictions. His management style is to lead with a quiet confidence, moral fortitude, patience, and an in-depth understanding of the differing needs of both the corporate and academic boards.

In addition to his role as Corporate Chair, Dr. Aivazian is also a founding member of the Zoryan Institute’s Genocide and Human Rights University Program (GHRUP) Development Team. He played a crucial role in the program’s conceptualization and its growth since 2001. As a professor, he also served as a liaison with the University of Toronto, where the program has been hosted for the past 21 years. Dr. Aivazian has laid the strong foundations for the GHRUP in the early years of the program, and with his advice and guidance, the program has expanded to include new case studies, research and themes. To date, over 500 students from all over the world have graduated from the program, many going on to become scholars, professors, educators, practitioners, and lawyers in the field of Genocide Studies.

Dr. Aivazian continues to support the GHRUP as a member of the program’s Admissions Committee. Every year, he reviews each and every application that is submitted to the Institute, and carefully considers how each student will benefit, thrive, and contribute to the collective student body of the classroom. His involvement in this selection process remains central to the program’s success year after year.

Dr. Joyce Apsel, the longtime Course Director of the GHRUP had this to say about Dr. Aivazian’s contributions to the selection process:

“From his work and insights as a member of the Admissions Committee to his observations and comments about the final day student presentations, Varouj’s ongoing support and contributions to GHRUP have been of  the greatest value.  On a personal level, his knowledge, dedication to Zoryan and its goals to his sense of humor makes Varouj a remarkable colleague.”

During his tenure, the Zoryan Institute has also established two academic peer-reviewed journals, Genocide Studies International and Diaspora: A Journal of Transnational Studies, held many conferences, and published 40 publications based on original archival material.

Reflecting on the impact that Dr. Aivazian has had on the Institute over the years, close friend of Varouj, the President of the Zoryan Institute, and one of its original co-founders, K.M. Greg Sarkissian, had this to say:

“Varouj is instrumental as an associate and co-founder of the Zoryan Institute of Canada. He is always readily available and is one of the first people we call when the Institute embarks on new avenues, initiatives, and/or partnerships. He offers a very thoughtful and pragmatic review of each opportunity, with his strategic perspective and with firm understanding of the financial and legal consequences for the Institute, along with its objectives. The Zoryan Institute would not be where it is today without Dr. Aivazian’s contributions and dedication to fulfill the Institute’s mission.”

For the past 41 years, Dr. Aivazian has been a central cog in the wheel of the Zoryan Institute. He has helped to safeguard the Institute’s financial and legal independence, allowing it to become the leading independent research institute dedicated to Genocide and Human Rights Studies in North America. The Board Members and the staff of the Zoryan Institute are immensely grateful for Dr. Aivazian and his commitment to the Zoryan Institute and its work.