Consequential Realities Of Armenian Academia in the US

Armenian university students

BY HASMIK PILIPOSYAN

“The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet”
–Aristotle

The fruit sure is sweet, but different to all tastes. Some tie education with happiness. Some with an escape from oppression and a release from obstinacy. Some with acquiring a great career in the future and some with having money, cars and luxury. But, what if instead, we looked beyond these often-heard educational ramifications and towards a realistic national and international resolution to issues?

As a people of success and noteworthy accomplishments as well as a nation of geopolitical significance and historical trauma, Armenians should embrace education in Armenian studies as the guiding light to a promising future. This approach is essential to the growth of a globalized Armenian intellectual presence and a voice in the international domain. Armenian history and language courses are limited in colleges and universities today with much silence regarding Armenian issues. This poses an even substantial setback in the process of efficiently disentangling tough national and diasporan knots. Thanks to our social and political diasporan organizations, we have done an outstanding job of placing Armenian interests on the political agenda. However, if discourse about Armenians in colleges and universities were to be terminated, we would simply give the world and the next generation of diaspora a reason to forget about us. The predicted long-term consequences- including increased assimilation, lack of interest in studying and publishing books on Armenian topics and a downright cultural abandonment- foster the need to use acquired resources to provide Armenian history and language courses in institutions of higher learning everywhere. Taking these courses will work to spark curiosity between both Armenian and non-Armenian students to open the door for objective research and dialogue.

Our youth will gain the knowledge and critical thinking skills necessary to solve internal and external issues. Faced with continuous denial of the Armenian Genocide, our future leaders need to be armed with strong education to successfully counter opposing views. Through education on Armenian topics, our youth can learn the best path towards a more secure, sustainable, and developed Artsakh, whether it is socially, economically, or politically. Despite the many positive developments in Armenia today, our homeland faces further challenges such as job security, lack of resources, governmental exploitation and continued blockade from Turkey and Azerbaijan. Without comprehensive education on the vast array of topics surrounding Armenia today, we cannot formulate strategies to battle the forces preventing our nation from advancement.

Lack of education is an existential threat to the diaspora and Armenia. As the number of Armenian students attending colleges and universities increases, the opportunity rises to incorporate Armenian studies in each institution’s curriculum, may it be through student petitions, demonstrations and fundraising. If numerous universities had an Armenian studies program, there would be a greater motive to engage in Armenian Genocide comparative research, a study abroad program to Armenia and Historic Armenia for history and archaeology students, modern Armenian issues such as causes and resolutions to emigration and an expansion into other fields such as Armenian psychology, philosophy and so on. And why not take a giant step further and establish our own institutions of higher learning worldwide? Perhaps, a few AUA’s (Armenian University of America).

Most Armenian studies programs across the country have been successful in producing experts in Armenian history and culture, who research, document, gather data and deliver new ideas. Some examples include UCLA with prominent figures as Professors Richard Hovannisian and Peter Cowe, the University of Michigan as well as Fresno State University and Boston University, both housing one of the oldest Armenian communities in the United States.

Currently, there is an effort to initiate an Armenian studies major at the University of California, Irvine that looks rather promising. The program was established in 2007. With continued course demands and generous sponsors, UC Irvine hosts a yearly Armenian lecture series on many different topics pertaining to culture, language, and history to stimulate enthusiasm in the prospective Armenian studies major. Also, ancient or modern Armenian history courses are offered each quarter to students. The program is an example of diasporan perseverance and hard work, but most importantly the belief in education as a panacea for the problems of the Armenian nation. Some of the benefits include interaction with the community, the opportunity to engage with students through lectures despite interests in other subjects, and the establishment of a closer relationship between students and the community, thereby creating a stronger diasporic center.

For those who have faith in the Armenian Cause and love for the homeland… “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
–Nelson Mandela

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4 Comments

  1. sylvie tertzakian said:

    Hasmik, thank you for a great article. Education is the passport to the world’s opportunities. Educating our young people should be our top priority. We are lucky to be living in U.S.A., where there is no shortage of excellent institutions for higher learning. The benefits of Armenian Studies lectures are many– they bring students and the community together, they share experiences.The young educated generation in Armenia will easily communicate with the diaspora. The latest project of founding an undergraduate program at the American University of Armenia (AUA), will foster that relationship between Armenia and the diaspora. We are a nation that despite its tragedies, has managed to survive for thousands of years. It is our duty to pass on the torch to our young, in order to continue preserving our culture, language and history. It is part of nation building.

  2. karen gevorgian said:

    Can you name some of the experts of Armenian studies? Who have done actually done something for the republic of Armenia and “delivered new ideas”?

    • Hasmik Piliposyan said:

      Absolutely. Now, its not only a matter of delivering new ideas but exposing to the world knowledge of Armenians as well as the dissemination of the Armenian culture, language and history. I’d like to point out that many educated diasporan Armenians today, with Bachelor’s, Masters or PhD degrees in Armenian studies are moving to Armenia and creating their own or joining civil society initiatives that deliver new ways to ease life circumstances in Armenia. For instance, the HDIF (Homeland Development Initiative Foundation), which is a non-profit organization dedicated to the creation of jobs for women in the regions of Armenia, using traditional techniques and materials. Just an example of how our country is improving with the help of the many other civil society initiatives in Armenia, including RepatArmenia. The main goal is maintaining contact and communication with the Armenian people in Armenia, so that diasporans become aware of the people’s wants and needs, since the county politically and economically lacks this aspect.

      With regards to experts in Armenian studies who have contributed to the betterment of our homeland, by merely just teaching and providing knowledge, Armenia becomes integral and fundamental to the world. And I’m assuming, most go far with mass support. Unfortunately, at this moment we lack the efficient support needed to provide much social, economic, and political assistance to Armenia. Although, maybe you should ask, what haven’t these experts done? For one, If there were no experts in Armenian studies, the world would not know of Armenia’s existence. Secondly, they have provided literary works that reveal the legitimacy of the Armenian state and its history, thereby contributing indirectly. And thirdly, peoples who have large contributions to the academic world help to shape the discourse and education about the topics related to the people and the nation to which they belong to. For example, if Turkey produces many denialist books and articles with no research coming from the Armenian side to counter it, then the discourse around the genocide will be shaped however Turkey presents it. More directly regarding Armenia, Nora, who just got her master’s degree in Armenian studies is moving to Armenia to support change and democratization in Armenia.

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