After more than a decade of service, Dr. Rouben Azizian has bid farewell to the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies. A DKI APCSS professor for nearly 14 years, Azizian recently left the Center to become director of Massey University’s Centre for Defence and Security Studies in New Zealand.
Azizian arrived at the Center in January 2002, bringing with him expertise in regional organizations and Eurasian security. While here, he became one of the Center’s leading lecturers on security sector development. With his friendly demeanor and array of light-hearted anecdotes, he carved out a reputation as one of the organization’s beloved professors. He earned both the envy and admiration of his fellow educators and alumni.
Dr. Lori Forman said that anyone who heard Rouben lecture would say, “I’ll never be him.” She related that she tried to regularly attend Azizian’s lectures, and though topics were often the same, she said each session was a special learning experience. “For many of us, it was an inspiration to make our (own) next lectures better than the last and to develop our own styles…for that, I’m indebted to him.”
As a senior member of the DKI APCSS faculty, the former Soviet diplomat helped enhance the leadership and problem-solving skills of thousands of security practitioners across the Asia-Pacific region. Through six on-site courses and numerous workshops held in various nations, Azizian joined fellow Center professors in building greater understanding of the socio-economic, political, defense, health and environmental issues impacting the region’s security structure. The team also promoted multilateral cooperation in addressing issues that are often transnational in scope.
Azizian personally led plenary lecture sessions, conducted elective courses and served as a seminar facilitator. He also served as one of two program managers from 2009 to 2011, supervising content development for courses and workshops in the area of comprehensive security development. In this role, he oversaw the work of course managers who planned and conducted the Advanced Security Cooperation course, Senior Executive Asia-Pacific Orientation Course, and the Asia-Pacific Orientation Course. Prior to 2009, he served as the Center’s course manager for the first and subsequent ASCs starting in 2006.
Azizian’s knowledge and leadership also made its mark on multiple DKI APCSS workshops designed to assist nations in framing security challenges and developing cooperative strategies to address them. He academically led roughly 20 workshops, describing those focused on security sector development as the most rewarding.
“The most memorable was the 2006 SSD workshop in Nepal, which led to annual SSD events in or with many other countries in the region,” Azizian said, adding, “Several workshops I led, including the one in Fiji in 2015, were instrumental in countries developing national security strategies.”
“Rouben Azizian was a key founder of the methodology that now characterizes our entire outreach workshop program,” related David Shanahan, associate dean of academics. “In doing so, he was the wellspring of more than a score of specific significant achievements that have improved Asia-Pacific security over the past decade.”
Azizian described this methodology as “outcome focused.” In essence, the DKI APCSS team worked to ensure events empower participants to analyze issues, identify achievable objectives and take ownership of the process needed to reach them. This, he said, is a move away from the traditional academic approach, one that is heavy on lecture and essentially prescribes specific courses of action.
Employing this approach, Azizian co-led bilateral SSD workshops in Myanmar, Fiji and Indonesia. He also spearheaded four multilateral SSD events impacting 11 participating nations. From 2012 to 2014, he led four workshops with regional security architecture themes, fostering regional cooperation and connection among 21 nations to include the United States, France, and several Pacific Islands nations.
Professor Jessica Ear praised Azizian’s approach to the Center’s efforts to educate, connect and empower the region’s security practitioners. “Rouben brought subject matter depth and breadth as well as diplomatic tact to all of his endeavors at DKI APCSS. His personality, presence and positive energy will be missed,” said fellow professor Jessica Ear.
“Dr. Rouben Azizian played a pivotal role in the maturation of our Center,” added Center Director Lt. Gen. (Ret) Dan Leaf. “He brought unique experience from his time as a diplomat (and) was our first non-US faculty member, setting the precedent that led to our very diverse faculty. Perhaps most importantly, his good humor and kindness was infectious – Rouben Azizian was a pillar for the Aloha spirt.”
A prolific writer during his tenure, Azizian penned and/or edited at least 30 books, book chapters and articles. His latest project titled Regionalism, Security and Cooperation in Oceania consolidates the writings of 11 security professionals who attended the August 2014 regional security architecture workshop in Vanuatu. Edited by Azizian and DKI APCSS Dean of Academics Carleton Cramer, the book offers a look at complex security issues associated with small Pacific Island nations and their larger neighbors Australia and New Zealand.
Other works include “Eurasian Response to China’s Rise: Russia and Kazakhstan in Search of Optimal China Policy,” and article he co-authored and saw published in a special July 2012 issue of Asian Politics and Policy. He also co-authored the article “Terrorism, Geopolitics, and Multinational Security in Central Asia,” published in the summer 2006 edition of the Journal of Islamic Social Sciences.
Prior to his APCSS tour, Azizian served as the president of the Auckland branch of the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs. He was also a faculty member with the University of Auckland’s department of political studies. Azizian’s education background includes a Ph.D. from the Diplomatic Academy in Moscow and master’s degree in International Relations from Moscow State University of International Relations.