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A changemaker is someone who not only envisions a better tomorrow, but also takes practical action to transform that vision into reality, whether through creative resolutions, legislative changes, grassroots activity or education.

Goharik Tigranyan

Goharik Tigranyan graduates from Duke Sanford’s Master of International Development Policy (MIDP) program this month. “Changemaking is based on empathy, guided by evidence, and motivated by a commitment to equity and justice," she says.

Before attending Duke, Goharik earned a master’s degree in human rights and democratization from Yerevan State University in her home country, Armenia, and engaged in various education policy research studies.

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Goharik sitting on steps, beautiful building behind her, glass and stone
Goharik Tigranyan was drawn to the Duke MIDP program for its strong interdisciplinary curriculum and diverse community of scholars.

She cooperated with state institutions, international organizations and civil society as an independent expert, mainly working in the rural communities of Armenia to tackle the educational challenges encountered by children from marginalized areas. Through her work, she saw a consistent and concerning link between the socioeconomic disadvantages experienced by these children and the number of school dropouts, highlighting the larger problem of educational discontinuity.

Motivated to gain a better understanding of these complex issues and to make a transformative impact on her local community, Goharik decided to return to school for a multidisciplinary program that would help her analyze and understand problems from different perspectives and approaches.

Goharik was drawn to the Duke MIDP program for its strong interdisciplinary curriculum and diverse community of scholars. “Due to my existing experience in the sector, I required a curriculum that offered flexibility, academic freedom and a robust foundation in social policy and research,” she says. “The MIDP program provides a wide-ranging curriculum, enabling students to personalize their academic trajectory.”

While at Duke, her coursework included policy and empirical analysis, economics, and social welfare and education policy. She completed an internship with the UNICEF New York Headquarters Programme Group’s Education Section's Gender, Equity and Inclusion team. She also served as president of the MIDP Student Council and participated in Duke’s Bass Connections program as a member of an interdisciplinary team examining inequality in the southern region of the United States.

Her MIDP master’s project focused on reforming the financial mechanisms that support disability-inclusive education in Armenia.

“The project emphasized that funding models must consider the unique needs of students with disabilities and highlighted the importance of flexible and responsive systems,” she shares. “Additionally, the project underscored the value of collaborative approaches involving various government sectors, educational institutions and communities to successfully advocate and implement policy changes. This was a profound lesson in the interconnectedness of policy, practice and the real-life impacts on individual students’ educational experiences.”

After graduation, Goharik plans to use the knowledge, skills and experiences she gained as an MIDP fellow to contribute to her country’s development. She will begin the next chapter of her changemaker career at the International Republican Institute (IRI) Armenia as a gender-inclusive democracy officer, promoting women’s inclusion, human rights and democratic governance in Armenia.

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Goharik and friends in the Master of International Development Policy (MIDP) program.

Q&A with Goharik Tigranyan

What course stood out to you?

The course "Advanced Quantitative Research Methods in Education Policies," taught by Sarah Komisarow, provided valuable insight by connecting the perceived disparity between the humanities and data analysis. With Professor Komisarow's instruction, I unexpectedly found a strong attraction to the field of quantitative methods. The course highlighted the importance of data and statistics in verifying and enhancing human stories. This course showcased the ability of comprehensive experiments to effectively influence policy decisions and illustrated how educational research can effectively combine quantitative evidence with the complex and authentic human context, thus successfully representing the needs of the community. This experience completely changed my perspective on the relationship between numbers and narratives in the development of impactful educational policies.

What is your favorite part of being an MIDP fellow?

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MIDP Student Council 2023-2024
Goharik Tigranyan, second from left, with some members of the MIDP student council.

The best aspect of being a Duke MIDP fellow has been the opportunity to interact directly with a broad group of colleagues and specialists who are committed to tackling global development issues. It has also been rewarding to become a member of the extensive MIDP community and make friends from other parts of the world. This network extends our collective reach, enabling us to support each other's endeavors and to continue our collaborations long after we've left the classroom. The MIDP experience is a journey through a mosaic of cultures and ideas, uniting us in our shared mission to drive meaningful change on an international scale.

Advice for incoming MIDP fellows?

Embrace the journey wholeheartedly. Be prepared to dive into the depths of international development with an open mind and a willingness to learn from everyone around you. The diversity of the cohort is one of your greatest resources – engage with your peers, share your experiences and absorb their insights.

The Master of International Development Policy (MIDP) program is a self-designed, interdisciplinary degree that equips mid-career professionals from around the world with the analytical tools and technical expertise necessary to become global leaders in sustainable development efforts. It is administered by the Duke Center for International Development (DCID), which is based in the Sanford School of Public Policy. DCID promotes sustainable development through its research, education, and engagement with students, policymakers, practitioners, development partners, civilsociety,and the private sector. 

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Graduation Stories & Details

We will be sharing graduation stories throughout the week leading up to graduation on Sanford's website, and on our social channels. Need the graduation details? Check out the official Graduation Page to find parking info, live streams and more. 

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