March 14, 2006
HARVARD UNIVERSITY: On February 18th, 2006, over 85 Armenian college students
and young professionals gathered at Harvard University to participate
in an Inter-Collegiate Summit on International Development: Case Study
Organized by the Harvard Armenian Society, and funded by AGBU, the conference
brought together members of various Armenian Student Associations (ASA’s)
from the East Coast to propose ideas and concrete projects ASA’s
and young professionals can implement to help rebuild Armenia. The conference
had two components: lectures in the morning and a brainstorming session
in five key areas in the afternoon.
The conference featured five speakers: Noubar Afeyan (Armenian 2020),
Jason Sohigian (Armenian Tree Project), Carol Aslanian (AGBU), Bryan Ardouny
(Armenian Assembly of America), and Tom Samuelian (Dean of the Law Department
at the American University of Armenia, Founder Arlex International Ltd.)
After the lectures, the participants broke up into smaller groups and
explored five areas where ASA’s can make a difference: Economic
Development, Diasporan Politics, Health and Environment, Culture and Society,
and Education. The discussions were moderated by students, and the goal
of the sessions was to produce innovative and practical ideas that could
be implemented by Armenian students and student groups. Shant Oknayan,
from MIT Sloan School of Management, described the groups as “unique
because groups of students were able to come up with actionable ideas
that will hopefully lead to tangible results.”
The inspiration behind planning this event was originated by Tamar Hayrikyan.
A junior at Harvard College and a government concentrator, Tamar felt
strongly about the need to provide a foundation upon which interested
Armenian students could begin to formulate and base their ideas. “We
first must learn about the economic, environmental, cultural and political
challenges facing Armenia today, and then we must be able to join fellow
Armenian college students and young professionals in building a stronger
and more prosperous Armenia,” Hayrikyan notes when asked about the
goals of the conference.
Public Relations Director of the summit, Nina Kouyoumdjian, a sophomore
at Harvard, also felt it was due time for the Armenians of her generation
to bond together. “The conference made everyone involved realize
just how much potential, talent, and experience there is out there. The
first step is always generating ideas and building a network of people
who are committed to those ideas, and I truly believe the summit did just
that,” Kouyoumdjian says. Arie Zakryan, a junior at Harvard, described
the conference as, “challenging to coordinate” but an event
which “proved to us what a great need the Armenian community has
for events which deal with the future of Armenia."
“All in all, I was most impressed with the sincerity of the participants
to seek ways that they can give back to their homeland, build and strengthen
their identity with their heritage, and offer their particular talents
and skills. The major outcome for me following this meeting was the renewed
hope I have for future generations of young Armenians to play a significant
role in the future and progress of Armenia,” stated Carol Aslanian,
presenting on behalf of AGBU.
The projects proposed by the participants included taking an active role
in legislative measures here in the United States, helping Armenian students
become better connected with young professionals, increasing media awareness
of Armenia and Armenian issues, and further marketing tourism to the rest
of the world. The ideas were recorded, and are being put into a project
proposal booklet for further discussion and implementation.
For a copy of the proposals, email Nina Kouyoumdjian at email@example.com.
The Harvard Armenian Society hopes to make this event an annual one. Schools
represented at the summit include: MIT, Stanford, Duke, Columbia, Tufts,
Boston University, Boston College, St. Joseph’s College, University
of Pennsylvania, Brown, Northeastern, and Bentley.
Members of the Harvard Armenian Society include: Arie Zakaryan, co-president;
Christine Megerdichian, co-president; Nina Kouyoumdjian, vice-president;
Armen Yerevanian, activities chair; Tamar Hayrikyan, secretary; and Shant