Spiritual Rebirth

Over $1 Million in Scholarships Awarded

The programs include $130,000 for Syrian Armenian students


In the 2014-2015 academic year, AGBU awarded over $1 million in scholarships to students in nearly 40 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. 

AGBU awarded over $300,000 to 275 students in the form of AGBU International Scholarships to those pursuing study outside the United States. 

One of the scholarship recipients is Narine Kerelian, a PhD student in social work at the University of Hong Kong. In her research, Kerelian explores how transmigrants experience a sense of place in Hong Kong—an emerging global city—through the domains of residence, workplace and leisure places. “I hope to use my education to promote cross-cultural competency and diversity awareness in an effort to expand and facilitate heterogeneity in employment demographic profiles. My ideal position would be within a human resources/higher education advisory capacity, implementing diversity measures and ascertaining representation of minorities in the professional sector.”

Kerelian found that the AGBU scholarship was particularly helpful to her in the course of her doctoral research: “When the library did not have books or journals I needed, I was previously limited to my existing resources. The scholarship has allowed me to access and purchase cutting-edge publications, which have strengthened my research. Access to critical publications has helped ground my thesis proposal and methodological approach. I am truly grateful for the support.”

AGBU Performing Arts and Religious Studies Fellowships

For the 2014-2015 academic year, a total of $250,000 was awarded to 68 recipients of the AGBU Performing Arts Fellowship and 12 recipients of the Religious Studies Fellowship. Paul Mesrop Borekjian, a 2014 recipient of the AGBU Religious Studies Fellowship, is a master’s student in a dual degree program in theological studies and social work at the Princeton Theological Seminary, in partnership with Rutgers University in New Jersey. The unique melding of skills has enabled Borekjian to prepare himself to have maximum impact on both the Armenian and non-Armenian communities upon graduation.

Borekjian has a very clear idea of how he will make his mark: “I grew up in both the Armenian Apostolic and Armenian Protestant Churches. Since I began serving the Church, I have become convinced that Armenian Churches are in need of more physical service to the community—Armenian and non-Armenian alike. I’m studying divinity to be properly trained as a faith leader and studying social work to be properly trained in this field as well. I know that a strong knowledge of the two will equip me to help the Armenian Churches live up to the servanthood to which they have been called.”

Vasken Ohanian, a 2014 recipient of the AGBU Performing Arts Fellowship, is a student at the Bob Cole Conservatory of Music at California State University, Long Beach, where he is pursuing a master’s degree in composition and choral conducting. Fusing his musical expertise with his Armenian heritage, Ohanian is writing a symphony in honor of the centenary of the Armenian genocide. “The symphony is a five movement work for a large orchestra and chorus. I use biblical stories to depict not only the pain that Armenians have carried for a century, but also the hope for a better future,” he explains. Before the centenary, the Bob Cole Conservatory Chamber Choir premiered Ohanian’s choral piece “Song of the Knight” (Ասպետին Երգը), based on the poetry of Ottoman Armenian poet Siamanto. “With the powerful poetry of Siamanto as my guide I created a work that encapsulates the violence and tears associated with the genocide and loss of identity,” says Ohanian. 

Ohanian already has his eye on life post-graduation: “Ideally, I’d like to work in the media industry, writing for film, television and video games.  Although I do like writing music for the concert stage, I’d like to reach people emotionally with my music.”

Heritage Scholars Grants

To those about to start their college careers, AGBU also awarded Heritage Scholars Grants to five college-bound seniors. Each year, the grants are given to high-achieving high school seniors at the AGBU Manoogian-Demirdjian School in Canoga Park, California; the AGBU Alex and Marie Manoogian School in Southfield, Michigan; and the AGBU Vatche & Tamar Manoukian High School in Pasadena, California. This year’s recipients included honors students and varsity athletes, who demonstrated academic excellence, school spirit, community involvement and ambition.

Grace Torossian, a graduate of the AGBU Alex and Marie Manoogian School and a 2014 Heritage Scholar Grant recipient, is eager to explore the hundreds of opportunities and resources available to her at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She is currently a first-year student studying biology and working alongside researchers in a laboratory as part of the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program. Her interest in biology and her goal of conducting medical research grew out of a particularly trying period in her own life: “As a preteen, I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. Reading about medications and hearing doctors talk about treatment options caught my attention and taught me that biology is an integral part of my life. This sparked my curiosity about how the human body works and the medications that allow people to live ‘normal’ lives.”

US Graduate Fellowships

For the 2014-2015 academic year, close to 100 students enrolled in professional, masters and doctoral degree programs were awarded nearly $365,000 in the form of US Graduate Fellowships.  Harutyun Gevorgyan, one of this year’s recipients, studies agriculture extension education at Penn State University in Pennsylvania. His doctoral research concerns developing an effective extension service in Armenia by studying similar services in the United States and Italy. “I chose this field, because there are a lot of gaps in agriculture in Armenia. We need to coordinate it and manage it properly to develop sustainability of agriculture and rural development.”

The AGBU Graduate Fellowship was crucial in enabling Gevorgyan to conduct research at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Washington DC during the initial phase of his dissertation research. Upon graduation, Gevorgyan plans to return to his native Armenia where he will teach at the Armenian National Agrarian University and collaborate with the Ministry of Agriculture to introduce his field of research to Armenian specialists.

American University of Armenia (AUA)

AGBU is also committed to supporting institutions of higher learning in Armenia. This year, $50,000 in scholarships was awarded to 10 undergraduate and 20 graduate students at the American University of Armenia (AUA). Stressing the importance of the scholarship program, AUA president Armen Der Kiureghian said: “We are grateful to AGBU for providing scholarship funds in support of our students. This fund allows us to admit students based on their scholastic qualifications, regardless of their financial ability to pay the tuition. Thanks to this and similar scholarship funds, we are able to ensure an economically diverse student body.”

In conjunction with AUA, 2014 marked the launch of a scholarship program for soldiers and representatives of the military through the Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces that AGBU will fund and AUA will implement. The program, designed to create more education opportunities for service members, provides scholarships for ministry representatives enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs at AUA. Vasken Yacoubian, AGBU Central Board member, praised the venture, stating: “The Armed Forces is one of [Armenia’s] key pillars and a source of pride and confidence for Armenians everywhere. We believe that this new program will further strengthen its efficiency and capabilities while continuing to produce highly qualified officers and professionals. AGBU is very proud to play a role in it, working alongside the Ministry and AUA.”

As one of the founding organizations of AUA, AGBU has been involved with the university since its inception in 1991.

L’Université française en Arménie (UFAR)

Also in Armenia, AGBU distributed $30,000 to 23 students at the l’Université française en Arménie (UFAR) in the form of AGBU Scholarships of Excellence. Since 2007, AGBU has covered the tuition fees of the top students in years two, three and four. During this period, more than 200 UFAR students have received assistance.

One of this year’s recipients, Anatoli Chernyayev, a third year marketing student at UFAR, is grateful not only for the financial support to further his studies at the university, but also for the prestige of the scholarship on his applications to international competitions: “Fellowship committees pay a great deal of attention to the applicant’s achievements. When I applied to the 2014-2015 Global Undergraduate Exchange Program (UGRAD) to study in the United States for a semester and the Council of Europe’s 2015 Youth Peace Camp in France, I know seeing the AGBU scholarship on my application made a difference.”

Scholarships for Syrian Armenian Students in Armenia

AGBU also allocated $130,000 to covering the tuition fees for Syrian Armenian university students in Armenia. The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Armenia also lent their support to the initiative. This year, the scholarships were distributed to 400 undergraduate students and 15 graduate students.

AGBU Armenia’s interim director Hovig Eordekian sees this program as an essential step in reversing the brain drain that continues to afflict the Republic of Armenia: “In October 2013, all Syrian Armenian students who submitted the papers from their universities benefited from this program. Taking into consideration the vitality and urgency of the matter, the parties have committed to continue the program for the next two academic years. This important educational initiative will help Syrian Armenian students continue their education in their homeland and not leave Armenia for other countries.”

Financed through endowment funds established by 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 added specialized initiatives, the AGBU Scholarship Program offers financial assistance to a broader range of Armenian students across the globe. 

Originally published in the 2015-09-01​ issue of AGBU Magazine. Archived content may appear distorted on your screen. end character

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