NEW YORK — In the 2015-2016 academic year, the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) awarded nearly $1 million in scholarships to 435 students in nearly 30 countries. For almost a century, the AGBU Scholarship Program has helped further the educational pursuits of tens of thousands of promising young Armenian university students enrolled at some of the world’s top-ranked universities.
Each year, AGBU accepts applications for five categories of scholarships: Heritage Scholar Grants for high-achieving high school seniors at the three AGBU high schools in the United States; US Graduate Fellowships for students in professional, master’s and doctoral programs in the United States; International Scholarships for students studying outside the United States with special funds for the United Kingdom, France and Syria; Performing Arts Fellowships for undergraduate and graduate students in music, drama and film; and Religious Studies Fellowships for graduate students pursuing theology and youth ministry.
This year, the AGBU Scholarship Committee was particularly proud to support young women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The STEM fields are one of the fastest growing employment sectors and considering its historically large gender imbalance, the committee was honored to help prepare Armenian women for successful careers in these areas.
Susie Sargsyan, a doctoral candidate in applied mathematics at the University of Washington, began her academic interest in math at Yerevan State University: “Education in Armenia still carries the remnants of the Soviet Union methodology and pays too much attention to theory and less to practice. This fact made me want to continue my studies abroad.” But Susie is not planning on staying in the United States after she graduates. She intends to return to Armenia and develop the field of applied mathematics in her native country with a focus on real world application. “It was great to finally see how mathematics can be applied for modeling and better understanding diseases, the behavior of neurons, predicting weather, analyzing data and more. All these facets keep me amazed and excited about the future and what I can do using mathematics.” During the school year, Susie works as a research and teaching assistant, but during the summers her budget is tight: “It’s very stressful to think about saving money when I’m not working. The AGBU scholarship helped me feel less pressure, so that I could concentrate on my research and for that I am grateful!”
The AGBU Fellowship has also helped medical students like Claire Alexanian, a first-year student at the Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington D.C. For Claire, medicine runs in her family: “My mother, a practicing pediatrician, was a tremendous influence on me growing up. From a young age, she would teach me about science and medicine, which really piqued my interest in the field. My love of science and inclination to help others made medicine a natural fit for me.” At Georgetown, Claire has encountered a supportive learning environment with stellar classmates and patients who often share their personal stories with her. But she is not just acquainted with patients in the American healthcare system. Claire spent July 2015 in Armenia with the Armenian American Health Professional Organization (AAHPO) to provide medical treatment for villages, where there is a lack of access and affordability. “As my first exposure to healthcare in Armenia, I became better acquainted with their healthcare system and have a clear understanding of their medical needs.” She hopes to come back in the future and continue to improve the health in the villages of Armenia, but in the meantime, she will continue to study on an AGBU scholarship, which has helped her with her medical school essentials: books, tuition and her very first stethoscope.
Outside the United States, the AGBU Scholarship Program has also helped young women to excel in the STEM fields. In Istanbul, Turkey, Sila Temizel is not only a master’s student in environmental engineering at Bogaziçi University, but also a researcher at the Bogaziçi University Sustainable Development and Cleaner Production Center, which focuses on eco-efficiency, sustainable consumption and green entrepreneurship in Turkey. “Environmental issues together with chemistry captured my interest as an undergraduate. I felt I should gain some practical experience working in a research environment to gain first-hand knowledge of what the life of a research scientist entails. I have enjoyed every moment of my work: especially the opportunity to participate in important projects and discuss ideas with senior engineers and chemists.” After Sila graduates, she hopes to pursue engineering as a doctoral student in the United States. “The AGBU scholarship has enabled me to buy important books related to engineering and even the laptop I needed to present at conferences in Italy and Spain as well as prepare my PhD applications.”
In Linz, Austria, Armig Kabrelian is pursuing her bachelor’s degree in biological chemistry at Johannes Kepler University. Armig, born and raised in Aleppo, fled to Austria with her family when the conflict began in Syria. “As a non-European Union student, tuition fees are very expensive at my university. I want to thank AGBU for awarding me this scholarship and easing the financial burden on me and my family.” As a child, Armig was raised on stories of Armenians with great talents, including scientists, and she was determined to become one of these great talents herself. “My motivation to continue my education in the sciences was to strengthen Armenian society and keep the Armenian voice strong in this challenging world. Every time I hear about achievements of fellow Armenians, I feel a great sense of pride.”
Also in Europe, Arpine Martirosyan studies civil engineering at the Dresden University of Technology in Germany. Arpine grew up in the up-and-coming Armenian town of Dilijan, home to the prestigious United World College Dilijan. “During my childhood, I saw many important schools and factories in my hometown built by my grandparents and parents. It is an indescribable filling when one can see that the results of his work help people over so many years.” This feeling led Arpine to study bridge and tunnel design to help her country develop with modern technologies and creative designs. In Germany, she has seen herself grow as a professional and gain international experience, including language skills which Arpine has used her AGBU scholarship to improve: “Thanks to my scholarship, I could afford German language courses, which will be a great help for increasing my career opportunities in Germany.”
The AGBU Scholarship Program is now accepting applications for its 2016-2017 season. Please visit http://www.agbu-scholarship.org/ to apply.
Established in 1906, AGBU (www.agbu.org) is the world’s largest non-profit Armenian organization. Headquartered in New York City, AGBU preserves and promotes the Armenian identity and heritage through educational, cultural and humanitarian programs, annually touching the lives of some 400,000 Armenians around the world.
For more information about AGBU and its worldwide programs, please visit www.agbu.org.