The Melikian Center serves as a meeting point for dialogue and learning among different communities.

Beyond its core staff, The Center has over a hundred affiliates engaged in teaching and research on the region, including current ASU faculty and staff as well as emeriti and graduate student affiliates.

The Critical Languages Institute is made possible by the commitment and expertise of the CLI faculty, many of whom hold appointments at other institutions. As well as financial support, the Center’s Advisory Board provides expertise and ideas on strategic planning, board development, and communications.



Emeriti Affiliates

Graduate Affiliates

Dilraba Anayatova in Education Policy and Evaluation at the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College; research interests include rural education in Central Asia with the focus on rural communities and environmental issues, environmental justice in postcolonial and decolonial context. 

Hovig Artinian in Evolutionary Anthropology at the School of Human Evolution and Social Change; research interests in the role of social norms and identity in relation to cooperation and cultural evolution.

Gaukhar Baltabayeva in Political Science at the School of Politics and Global Studies; research interests in comparative politics and international relations, with a specific focus on migration and brain drain issues from Eurasian countries to the West. 

Kelly Baur in Applied Linguistics at the Department of English; research interests in language policy and planning as it relates to marginalized and underrepresented languages.

Imani Crawford in Indigenous Education at the School of Social Transformation; research interests in Indigenous cultures of Eurasia, increasing study abroad and foreign language learning among Black American and Native American students, and exposing students to Eurasia-related career fields beyond academia, literature, and foreign policy.

Yonca Cubuk Uzundag in Religious Studies at the School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies; research interests in alcohol consumption in relation to memory, place, identity, gender, class, and politics.

Rob Cuthbert in Liberal Studies at the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts; research interests in contemporary Kyrgyzstan and the contemporary reconstruction of Ukraine. 

Ryan Grieser in Musicology at the School of Music, Dance and Theatre; research interests focus on the digital preservation of Balkan folk music and cultural heritage, primarily the Western region of Bulgaria.

Setrag Hovsepian in Educational Policy and Evaluation at the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. His research interests include preservation of endangered languages, diaspora studies, refugee education, education in emergency situations, and education in MENA and Armenia.

Djurdja Jovanovic Padejski in Comparative Culture and Language at the School of International Languages and Cultures; research interests in quantitative sociolinguistics, and political and environmental discourse analysis, with a focus on the Western Balkans, Russia, and Eastern Europe.

McKenna Kellar in Environmental Public Policy at the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions; research interests in cultural effects on eating habits, food security, food policy, and disaster management.

Cagla Kilic (fka Demirduzen) in Political Science at the School of Politics and Global Studies; research interests in elite decision making, role theory, non-Western political leadership and foreign policy, public opinion literature, international relations of the Middle-East and China, and Turkey with its surroundings.

Arina Melkozernova in Comparative Culture and Language at the School of International Languages and Cultures; research interests in the digital humanities, including the development and implementation of creative solutions for digitizing culturally valuable information to promote the notion of “sovereignty” in relation to digital technologies and infrastructure.

Jadie Minhas in Political Science at the School of Politics and Global Studies; research interests in regime transitions and authoritarianism in the post-Soviet sphere, comparative politics and international relations between Russia and the U.S., and the U.S. and Western Europe's foreign policy in Eastern Europe.

Masha Monakhova in Environmental Social Science at the School of Human Evolution and Social Change; research interests in international economics, international law, and geography, and the geographic area of the Arctic region.

Nathanael Pierce in Philosophy at the School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies; research interests in political philosophy, philosophy of economics, well-being, bioethics, and health-care ethics; assistant at the Central European Cultural Collaborative at ASU.

Scott Prada in Linguistics and Applied Linguistics at the English Department; research interests in Vocabulary and Reading Comprehension in Second Language Acquisition, learning and preservation of the Languages of Russia, and Ecolinguistics.

Matthew Putz in History at the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies; research interests in Holocaust and genocide studies, and the history of populism, with a focus on the Balkans.

Gina Scarpete Walters in Comparative Culture and Language at the School of International Languages and Cultures; research interests in cognitive linguistics and cultural linguistics (cross-cultural semantics and lexicology, human body metaphors, emotion metaphors, the universality of metaphors and variation in metaphor both across and within cultures), and also semantic change, etymology, grammaticalization, pragmaticalization, and discourse markers.

Liudmila Sharaya in History at the School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies; research interests in migration studies, Russian and Modern European history, history of empires, and memory studies.

Ekaterina Stoliarova in Agribusiness at the W. P. Carey Morrison School of Agribusiness; research interests are devoted to food insecurity, food policies, and food supply chain.

Rebecca Stuch in Innovation in Global Development at the College of Global Futures; research interests focus on helping others to understand the past and future implications of technology on communities and the economic, political, and social development of those communities, as well as to continue to support the usage of technology to assist social-entrepreneurship and organizational development.

Adnan Turan in Education Policy and Evaluation at the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College; research interests include the comparative assimilation process of migrants, particularly focusing on Kurdish communities in the republics of the former Soviet Union.

CLI Faculty

Advisory Board

Advisory Board members and CLI students at 2018 July CLI Graduation Ceremony
Melikian Center Advisory Board members with students at the CLI graduation ceremony

Mary Karapetian Alvord, PhD, is a Psychologist and Director of Alvord, Baker & Associates LLC in Rockville, MD. She also holds a position of Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavior Sciences at The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

Barbara McConnell Barrett [Distinguished honorary member], JD, was the 25th Secretary of the US Air Force, US Ambassador to Finland, and senior advisor to the U.S. mission to the United Nations. She was interim president of Thunderbird School of Global Management and a Fellow teaching Leadership at Harvard. After training at Star City, Russia, Ambassador Barrett qualified for flight to the International Space Station.

Photo of Steve Batalden

Stephen K. Batalden, PhD, served as a professor of History at ASU for 40 years and was the founding director of the ASU Melikian Center. He is currently a Melikian Center research professor, leading ASU’s contribution to the Yerevan State University American Studies grant program funded by the US Embassy in Armenia.

Photo of Shahin Berisha

Shahin H. Berisha [Executive Committee - Board Secretary], PhD, is a retired Faculty Member of the Math and Science Division of GateWay Community College and a Visiting Professor with the Melikian Center. He has served as a facilitator for the Center’s projects with and in Kosovo for over 20 years.

Ron Birks Photo 2021

Ronald M. Birks, MSEE, is a senior software engineer and international representative with Honeywell International, Inc. He received a BA in Russian and a Russian and East European Studies (REES) Certificate at ASU and studied Polish and Albanian in the Critical Languages Institute (CLI).

Robert Bohannon is the former chairman and CEO of Viad Corp. He currently resides in Texas.

Keith S. Brown, PhD, is Director of the Melikian Center and Professor in the ASU School of Politics and Global Studies. His research has focused primarily on politics, culture and identity in the Balkans, with a particular emphasis on relations between Macedonia, Greece, and Bulgaria.

Craig Calhoun, D. Phil. is University Professor of Social Sciences at ASU. His work at ASU focuses on strengthening the ability of the social sciences, working together with the natural sciences, engineering and humanities, to address the most complex challenges facing society today. Calhoun has also served as director and president of the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and president of the Social Science Research Council (SSRC), as well as on the faculty of New York University (NYU), Columbia University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). 
Photo of Phil Carrano

Philip M. Carrano, MPA, is Director of Fiscal Business Services for the ASU College of Health Solutions (CHS). He served for over three years as the business operations manager for the Melikian Center before joining CHS.

 Lee B. Croft, PhD, is a Professor Emeritus of Russian Language and Culture at Arizona State University, where he taught and administered foreign language programs for 38 years (1973-2011) and served as Head of the Faculty of German, Slavic, and Romanian from 2006-2011 in the School of International Letters and Cultures. He is an affiliate of the Melikian Center, having been a co-founder of its predecessor, the ASU Russian and East European Studies Consortium (REESC), and co-founder and founding Director of the Center's Critical Languages Institute (CLI).

Photo of Victor Friedman

Victor Friedman [Distinguished honorary member], PhD, is the Andrew W. Mellon Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in the Humanities at the University of Chicago and an Honorary Associate at La Trobe University. He is president of the U.S. National Committee of the International Association for Southeast European Studies. He is also a member of the Macedonian Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Academy of Sciences of Albania, the Academy of Arts and Sciences of Kosova, Matica Srpska, and has been awarded the "1300 Years of Bulgaria" jubilee medal and the Medal of Merit of Macedonia.

Aleksandra Gruzinska, PhD, is an Emeritus Professor in the ASU School of International Letters and Cultures, where she primarily taught courses on 19th Century French literature. Her research interests also include Nobel Prize Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska and Polish writer Witold Gombrowicz. Her longtime interest is the exploration of the fate of unaccompanied Polish children in their trajectory of exile, homelessness, repatriation or immigration, from Poland, by way of Spain, to the U.S. during and after WWII.

Patience T Huntwork, JD, is a staff attorney at the Arizona Supreme Court. She has served on legal reform projects and as an election observer in Ukraine, and she is a recipient of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America's "Man of the Year" award.

Mary "Marcie" J. Hutchinson, MA, was a high school History and Government teacher for over 30 years, primarily in Mesa, AZ, and now serves as Clerk of the Governing Board of Mesa Public Schools. For several years, she served as Director of K-12 Initiatives for the ASU School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies, and was interim Chief of Party in Prishtina, Kosovo, for the Center’s “Future Voters of Kosovo” project funded by the U.S. State Department.

Charles Irion, MBA, is an Executive Committee Board Member of Project C.U.R.E. and has traveled extensively in delivering aid and supplies from Project C.U.R.E. In the private sector, he is the owner and founder of U.S. Park Investments, a firm specializing in the acquisition, sale, and marketing of manufactured home and RV communities. Charles earned his MBA at the Thunderbird School of Global Management in International Marketing and Finance.

Michael D. Kennedy [Distinguished honorary member], PhD, serves as a Professor of Sociology and International Public Affairs at Brown University. Throughout his career, he has addressed East European social movements, and systemic change, including work in Poland and Kosovo.  

Pauline Komnenich, PhD, serves as a Professor and the Director of the Master of Science in Nursing Program in the ASU Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation. Her research training includes inter-professional nursing and healthcare education internationally, specifically in the Balkans, and earlier research using ethnoscience/sociolinguistics methodology examining greeting behavior among Serbians and Montenegrins.

Ilene J. Lashinsky, JD, serves as lawyer for the US government, working to promote the integrity and efficiency of the bankruptcy system. Previously, she was a practicing commercial and bankruptcy and as such she served for a year as a resident bankruptcy advisor on a commercial law project in North Macedonia.

Arben Lasku, MD, has lived in the Phoenix area since 1997, when he left his native Albania with his wife to join her parents in Phoenix. He had already established a medical career in Albania, completed a specialization in nuclear medicine in Italy, and was on the faculty of the University of Tirana in Albania. He is an active member of the American-Albanian community in greater Phoenix, playing a leading role in establishing an Albanian language program for school-age children.

Rifat Latifi, MD, is a Professor of Surgery in the College of Medicine at the University of Arizona. He earned his MD at the University of Prishtina, Kosovo, and received his surgery training at Yale University. He has previously served as the Minister of Health of the Republic of Kosovo.

Linda Costigan Lederman, PhD, is an Emeritus Professor of the ASU Hugh Downs School of Human Communication, and a former Dean of Social Sciences in the ASU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, where she oversaw the activities of the Melikian Center. An expert on communication and substance abuse, her research has been funded by federal agencies such as the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the US Department of Education. 

Emma O. Melikian has a particular interest in supporting language study as a means to maintain and build peace. Over many years, she has been a supporter of education and the arts in Phoenix and ASU. Emma and her husband Greg were awarded the ASU University Medal of Excellence in 2008 by President Crow for their leadership and civic engagement.

Gregory J. Melikian, JD, with his wife, Emma, endowed ASU's Melikian Center: Russian, Eurasian and East European Studies. He practiced real estate law and served as a civil judge in New York, and he has worked in commercial real estate in Phoenix. He was awarded the 2013 Ellis Island Medal of Honor and has been inducted as Chevalier (Knight) in the French Legion of Honor in 2012. As a proud World War II veteran, he served for many years as Luke Air Force Base honorary commander.
Ramona L. Melikian, MS, began her career at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York after her internship as Assistant to the Director of Communications at the National Council for International Health in Washington, DC. Ramona is currently a Senior Consultant at Right Management, an international organizational consulting firm servicing Fortune Global 500 corporations. She has travelled extensively throughout the former Soviet Union, Europe, and Asia.
Robert A. Melikian, JD, has managed the family's property, the historic Hotel San Carlos in downtown Phoenix about which he has published a book. He is a strong proponent of historic preservation of buildings in Phoenix and around Arizona.
David A. Merkel [Executive Committee - Board President], has served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs; Director for South and Central Asia Affairs at the National Security Council; Director for European and Eurasian Affairs at the National Security Council; and Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Affairs at the US Treasury Department. He also served as International Counselor to the Chairman of the US Securities and Exchange Commission. He is currently a member of the Board of Trustees of Nazarbayev University in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, and the Josef Korbel School of International Studies Social Science Foundation at the University of Denver.

Claire Sechler Merkel currently serves as Senior Director, Arizona Programs for the McCain Institute for International Leadership at ASU. She served as Associate Director in the White House Office of Cabinet Affairs for President George H.W. Bush, as a Legislative Assistant to US Senator John McCain and aid to Arizona Congressman Jim Kolbe. She was a Regional Director for Eastern and Central Europe at the International Republican Institute, where she worked and traveled in Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, Albania, North Macedonia, Lithuania, and Latvia. She founded Sechler Merkel International to provide strategic advice to companies and foundations.

Stephen Ovanessoff [Executive Committee - Board Treasurer], MD, recently retired as a pathologist. He is an active member of the Armenian-American community in Phoenix and serves on the Parish Council at St. Apkar Armenian Apostolic Church in Scottsdale.
Charles "Charlie" Tichy, PhD, served as a Professor of German and Russian for 45 years at Slippery Rock University, PA, and was Chair of the Modern Language Department for 25 years. He published several articles on  higher education distant learning and articulation. Retired in Gilbert, AZ he has taught a course in the ASU Barrett Honors College on Crimea and is an  ASU Associate Professor Emeritus member. He joined the advisory board of the Melikian Center because of the center’s elaborate international projects and its developed language institute
Amanda Weaver, PhD, JD, is a commercial litigation attorney with the law firm Snell & Wilmer. She received her BA in Russian and English Linguistics and her PhD in Applied Linguistics from Arizona State University. Amanda received her MA in Russian and her JD from the University of Arizona. Amanda taught Russian at the Melikian Center’s Critical Languages Institute, and taught Russian as a faculty associate through ASU’s School of International Letters and Cultures. She is also a certified therapeutic (horseback) riding instructor.
Peter Zimm, MBA, leads strategy, market positioning, and operations improvement consulting projects for aerospace companies.  A Principal for aerospace-focused management consulting firm Charles Edwards, he has delivered scores of projects for OEMs, Tier 1s, subtier suppliers, and raw materials companies across the world.  Peter is an internationally-recognized market expert in aerospace raw materials, aircraft components, manufacturing process technologies, and aircraft emissions.