As the fall semester comes to a close, university students worldwide are enjoying the benefits of the AGBU scholarships that help to make their educations possible. For the 2013-2014 academic year, the AGBU Scholarship Program distributed more than $1.1 million internationally, of which $400,000 was awarded to 100 students studying in the U.S. These scholarships are supporting over 400 undergraduate and graduate students at top-ranking schools in nearly 35 countries, including those focusing on performing arts and religious studies.
An AGBU scholarship provides students with more than financial assistance. It signals they are part of a global community that recognizes their talents. For Monika Manişak, a Turkish citizen in her senior year at İzmir’s Ege University, this is especially significant. She noted, “What I appreciate most is that AGBU awards aid to all Armenians irrespective of their nationality. With my scholarship, I can put aside funds to take summer courses at the Armenian Association for Academic Partnership and Support in Yerevan and collaborate with academics from around the globe who share my passion for our cultural identity.” After obtaining her B.A. in American Culture and Literature, Manişak hopes to teach at her alma mater, the Getronagan Armenian High School in Istanbul.
Manişak is one of many AGBU International Scholarship recipients charting a career path. Rima Karapetyan, an LL.M. student at Leiden University in the Netherlands, intends to join Armenia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs after she completes her Public International Law Program. Karapetyan was accepted to the program in 2012, but was forced to decline due to financial constraints. This year, with her AGBU scholarship, she was able to take advantage of the opportunity. Next year, she, along with a select few graduates of the Diplomatic School of Armenia, plans to begin working at the Ministry.
As some students prepare to enter public service, recipients of the AGBU Performing Arts Fellowship are finding themselves in the spotlight. Aram Ohanian, an opera singer studying at the Bern University of Arts in Switzerland, will soon perform with the renowned vocal ensemble La Cetra in the city of Basel, as well as in Amsterdam. Ohanian began collaborating with the group two years ago at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, where he first received AGBU funding. Producing and singing in operas “requires a great degree of discipline and a very strict and organized schedule,” Ohanian noted. “If I didn’t have my AGBU scholarship, I don’t know how I would meet those demands. With AGBU’s assistance, I’m able to pursue my M.A. in Specialized Music Performance while making a name for myself in this field.”
On the other side of the globe, Vardan Gasparyan, a Yerevan native and student at The Colburn Conservatory in California, is another rising artist who has caught the attention of industry leaders. For two consecutive summers, Gasparyan has attended the Kneisel Hall Music Festival in Maine, which is led by teachers from the Juilliard School. At those festivals, and others, he plays the cello that the Conservatory has loaned him while he saves to purchase his own instrument—something he says he could never do without AGBU’s assistance. In 2012, the young cellist joined fellow AGBU scholarship recipients on stage at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall for the AGBU New York Special Events Committee’s Annual Performing Artists in Concert, which benefits performing arts initiatives.
Whether AGBU is supporting their work on stage or on the silver screen, all scholarship recipients are committed to keeping the Armenian culture alive. Martiros Vartanov, a Film & Television M.F.A. student at the University of California, Los Angeles, is currently producing a short documentary in Armenian, a rarity in his department. His AGBU scholarship allows him to focus more deeply on his studies and immediately had a positive impact on the quality of his projects. In recent years, Vartanov organized a tribute to William Saroyan at the Beverly Hills Film Festival in California, and curated the world’s first joint retrospective of Armenian masters Sergei Parajanov and Mikhail Vartanov at Korea’s Busan International Film Festival, the largest in Asia.
Award-winning composer Arpine Kalinina is also introducing Armenian artists to diverse audiences. Now a master’s student at the London Royal Academy of Music, for several years Kalinina was the Artistic Director of the classical ensemble she founded, Kantegh, which performs within and outside of Armenia. During that time, she earned a number of honors, notably the Russian Federation’s “Triumph” award for highest achievement in art. This year, many of Kalinina’s compositions will premiere across London, including a choir piece inspired by the Armenian poet Yeghishe Charents.
The AGBU Scholarship Program, along with other institutions, has played a critical role in allowing Kalinina to showcase her work. “For the past two years, I was offered a spot at the Academy but didn’t have the financial means to attend,” she remarks. “Now, I am training under world-renowned professionals and honing my skills in conducting and orchestration, as well as compositions rooted in traditional Armenian music.”
While Kalinina preserves Armenia’s musical heritage, religious studies students are examining ways the Christian Armenian faith has endured throughout history. AGBU Religious Studies Fellowship recipient Donna Rizk is a Ph.D. candidate at the King’s College London Department of Theology & Religious Studies. She is studying a Christian text that has been dated to the 10th century, but which she believes is actually from as early as the 5th century and has influenced the Armenian creed. Rizk has her sights set on using her AGBU scholarship to conduct future research at the St. Nersess Armenian Seminary in New York.
Rizk would be able to share ideas with a number of AGBU scholarship recipients who are already enrolled at St. Nersess. They are the future leaders of the Armenian Church, though for now they are enjoying their studies and expressing gratitude to those who have contributed to the AGBU Scholarship Program. Kathryn Ashbahian, who is working toward her M.A. in Theology and Youth Ministry, reflected, “I feel fortunate every day because I can focus exclusively on my studies and my work at the Diocese [of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern)] without worrying about how I will cover tuition and support myself. The individuals who so graciously give these financial gifts have lifted a huge weight off my shoulders. The generosity of the AGBU community, and the Armenian American community as a whole, is a blessing—one that is simply unparalleled.”
For almost a century, the AGBU Scholarship Program has championed the higher education of thousands of promising young Armenians enrolled in leading college and universities around the world. Financed through endowment funds established by generous AGBU donors since the 1920s, the AGBU Scholarship Program has proudly contributed to the academic achievements of gifted young Armenians, offering financial assistance to full-time students of Armenian descent from close to 40 countries across six continents. Today, through its AGBU U.S. Fellowship Program and added focus on specialized fields of study, such as the performing arts and religious studies, the AGBU Scholarship Program offers financial assistance to a broader range of Armenian students across the globe.