Los Angeles, CA – This week marked the formal inauguration of the Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region’s (ANCA-WR) Spring 2016 Internship Program. Lusine Aslanyan, Vazgen Barsegian, Michelle Khazaryan, and Nayiri Partamian come from diverse educational and professional backgrounds, but joined the internship program with common, unified goals: to give back to the Armenian community and develop leadership skills that will enable them to advocate for Armenian-American issues. Selected from a competitive pool of candidates, the spring internship class will serve on organizational planning committees, attend weekly workshops and lectures, assist in organizing the many planned advocacy days throughout the region, coordinate efforts for the April 24 Rally for Justice, as well as help prepare for the 2016 Elections.
“We are fortunate to welcome such a diverse and dynamic group of youth and young professionals to our spring internship session and look forward to providing them varied opportunities that will hone their grassroots organizing, advocacy, and leadership skills, ”stated ANCA-WR Executive Director Elen Asatryan. “The 2016 spring class is truly unique as each participant already comes with much needed skills and from backgrounds that will help take our programs and initiatives to new heights,” added Asatryan.
Aslanyan, born and raised in Gyumri, Armenia, spent the last three and a half years pursuing a degree in Economics at Utah State University. After being awarded a full-tuition scholarship from Jon M. Huntsman to study in the US, Lusine realized the great responsibility granted to her in using the knowledge and experience gained during her studies at USU to help Armenia and her community here in the US. During her undergraduate career, Aslanyan spent a semester studying business practices in Vietnam, China, and South Korea. She is fascinated by the speed and development of these countries’ economies in such a short period of time, and believes that strategies used by these countries need to be integrated into the Armenian economic structure as well. Aslanyan spent two months in summer 2015 interning for the Nagorno Karabakh office at the Armenian Assembly of America, and describes those months as some of the best in her life. She learned a great deal about the Armenian-American community during that time, and believes that the ANCA-WR is the best place for her continue learning about Armenia-US relations, and to give back to her community. “I used to think that being far away from home makes it more difficult to sustain the traditions, values and beliefs you were raised with,” Aslanyan stated. “I now realize that distance does not matter when something means so much to you.” Lusine is planning to continue her career in public health and business administration at the conclusion of her internship and hopes that one day she will work in the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Armenia.
Barsegian identifies as “Vazgen the Armenian” because of his passion for his cultural values and his desire to help his community in any way possible. Barsegian’s story begins in Van, Turkey where he and his family resided for most of his childhood. Barsegian grew up and attended school in Van not being able to fully understand and express his ethnic identity among the Turkish and Kurdish populations. Barsegian’s immediate family moved back to Los Angeles when he was in the sixth grade, and he has been co-attending community college since his sophomore year of high school in hopes of eventually pursuing a degree in law. “Living in a community which allows me to express my ethnic and cultural identity is a blessing. Coming from a community which did not enable me that freedom, has taught me to appreciate the freedom I have now, and to express my ethnic and cultural identity.” Barsegian’s extracurricular activities range from playing many Armenian folk instruments such as duduk, oud, saz, kamancha, kamani, zurna, pku, daff, and tar to writing western Armenian classical music, participating in regional western Armenian dances, and making Armenian carpets. For the last several years Barsegian has also been a devoted volunteer for the ANCA-WR Hye Votes initiative, helping register community members to vote and subsequently helping get the vote on during elections.
Khazaryan graduated cum laude from the University of Southern California in May 2014 in International Relations and English, with an emphasis in Creative Writing. She completed her English honors thesis on first-generation bildungsromans and their relationship to the canonization process with a component of prose poems entitled “Little Armenia.” During her time at USC, Khazaryan spent a semester abroad at Sciences Po Paris, and had the opportunity to enroll in a joint-course with Singapore Management University, which allowed her to conduct policy research in Singapore and Malaysia. Khazaryan interned at the Indiana Economic Development Corporation’s Taipei office in summer 2012 through USC Global Fellows. “I believe that the ANCA Western Region Internship Program is uniquely suited to help me in engaging with the vibrant community of Armenian-American advocates that the ANCA-WR represents. I am confident that at the completion of this program, I will have gained a comprehensive understanding of the American political system and the critical thinking skills to successfully adapt my advocacy efforts to societal changes,” Khazaryan stated. She currently works for the International Public Policy and Management Program in the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy. She has conducted research since fall 2012 for the Near Crisis Project under the direction of Dr. Patrick James at USC, serving as co-project leader her senior year. Khazaryan hosts an evening radio show for USC’s student-run radio station, KXSC.
A recent Fulbright semi-finalist, Partamian graduated from UC Irvine and Universität Wien in Honors International Relations and German, with a focus on International Trade. Her undergraduate thesis focused on Armenian coffee traders. She enjoys attending OC UN-Coffee Talks and volunteering with the Students for Global Peacebuilding (SGP) at UC Irvine, of which she is one of the co-founding members. She was also a volunteer during Fair Trade Week Milano sponsored by the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO), AGICES, and EquoMercato in Italy. “The words I will never forget from Irina Ghaplanyan, co-owner of Yerevan’s first sustainable coffee shop Green Bean, were during her 2013 TedxTalk. ‘Being green and sustainably cultivating our land is in the construct of our national identity,’ she said. Her words made me realize that Armenia needs sustainable foreign and trade relations, through initiatives like alternative energy or organic farming.” Nayiri hopes through the ANCA-WR internship she can learn how to contribute to this growing sustainable Armenia through the power of advocacy. She believes each intern serves as youth scholar liaison between America and Armenia.
Established in summer 2006, the ANCA Western Region Internship Program is a selective part-time leadership program, which introduces high school seniors, college students, and recent college graduates to all aspects of the public affairs arena. The program provides an opportunity for student leaders and activists to gain an in-depth understanding of the American political system, Armenian-American issues and advocacy efforts on the local, state and federal levels.
The Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region is the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots advocacy organization in the Western United States. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the Western United States and affiliated organizations around the country, the ANCA-WR advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues.