Interview with Ruslan Mirzayev

Vice-president of the US-Educated Azerbaijani Alumni Association (AAA)

Mr. Mirzayev, you are the Vice-president of the US-Educated Azerbaijani Alumni Association (AAA), one of the most active US Alumni Associations in Europe. Could you please tell us about your organization’s beginnings, membership and current activities?

Dear Ms. Gichevska, first of all I would like to thank you for your interest in our alumni organization. The US-Educated Azerbaijani Alumni Association (AAA) is a non-governmental, non-profit organization that unites all alumni of the State Department educational exchange programs and self-financed programs. It is one of the largest associations in Azerbaijan. AAA was established in October 2003 by a group of US-educated Azerbaijani alumni. The organization is run by the board of 7 alumni, representing various programs including FLEX, UGRAD, MUSKIE, FULLBRIGHT and other professional exchange programs. AAA is also a member of European Network of Alumni Associations (ENAM).

AAA has two major objectives: (i) networking and development of the alumni and (ii) contribution by the alumni to the Azerbaijani community. In order to reach these objectives, AAA has implemented numerous projects since its foundation. Such projects include public lectures, policy discussions, radio talk shows, publications of supplements on policy issues in newspapers, translations of books from English into Azeri, art exhibitions, movie nights, charity events and social networking events, regional seminars on the topic of "Education in the US," regional community projects, publication of the weekly newsletters for alumni and student competitions.

In your opinion, what is crucial for having an active and engaged Alumni community? How do you keep your membership involved and interested in your projects and activities?

We believe regular events are the key to keeping our members active and engaged in our activities. Accordingly, on a monthly basis we organize networking events and professional seminars. Networking events provide an opportunity for alumni to communicate, know each other, explore possible cooperation areas and simply enjoy their free time. Professional seminars on the hand help the alumni to give back to the society and share their knowledge with people who did not have such opportunities in the US. These events create active environment at the organization and keep our alumni engaged. I believe we use social media quite efficiently. And of course one of the main recipes for our success is the right choice of employees. Our current Project Manager does a great job coordinating these events, which inspires our alumni to be more active.

What is, in your opinion, your organization’s biggest success since its foundation?

In my personal opinion, I believe the biggest success of our organization is its strong reputation. It is one of the most democratic non-commercial organizations in Azerbaijan, and it is trusted by people from different backgrounds.

We are now enjoying the holiday season and counting the last days of 2018. When you look back, how would you rate this past year in respect to the work of AAA and what do you look forward to in 2019?

I believe the year of 2018 was not one of the most active and fruitful years for AAA. In 2018 we organized a couple of networking events, annual alumni reception, soft skills training for finding jobs and business case competition, and implemented other projects. However, I believe and hope that 2019 will be more fruitful and we will be able to accomplish more. In January 2019 we are launching monthly Professional Talks and Alumni Talks Series, starting administration of alumni mentor and advisor exchange program and initiating programs to have alumni to act as mentors of youth from regions of Azerbaijan. In addition, in 2019 we are planning to host for the first time national rounds of Jessup Azerbaijan Competition. Accordingly, hopefully at the end of 2019 we will have more accomplishments than in 2018. At the end, I would like to wish all alumni happy and prosperous new year.

Intervewed by Sanja Gichevska-Dokmanovic


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