NEW YORK, NY—Approximately 110 students from throughout the United States attended the Norian Youth Connect Program (YCP), a bi-annual event organized by the Armenian Relief Society (ARS) of Eastern United States. The March 2 gathering at Columbia University featured a variety of speakers from different fields, including science, arts and politics.
ARS Eastern USA Board Vice-chairperson Sandra Vartanian provided the opening remarks. She acknowledged fellow ARS board member Maryanne Bonjuklian, welcomed the students and then highlighted the ARS Eastern USA's various programs. “The Armenian Relief Society is an international charitable organization which holds a close place in our hearts,” said Vartanian. “It was established in New York in 1910 order to support the humanitarian, social and educational needs of the Armenian people and especially our youth. With our 32 chapters in the Eastern USA, we have invested a great deal in establishing and supporting kindergartens as far away as Artsakh, our elementary and Saturday schools, the Armenian school curriculum at Camp Haiastan, as well as offering scholarships to our undergraduate and graduate students.”
Vartanian then introduced Columbia University professor Dr. Khatchig Mouradian, who has been successful in his capacity as Director of the Norian Youth Connect Program over the past six years. Dr. Mouradian also leads the university's Armenian studies program; as moderator, he introduced Professor Heghnar Z. Watenpaugh to speak first.
Professor Watenpaugh spoke about her new book, The Missing Pages: The Modern Life of a Medieval Manuscript from Genocide to Justice , which was published in February by Stanford University Press. Her talk explored the journey of the Zeytun Gospels, a manuscript illuminated by the great medieval Armenian artist Toros Roslin from historic Armenian churches and towns to the Madenatarian in Armenia and, in the case of the missing pages, to the Getty Museum. Watenpaugh is a professor of art history at the University of California, Davis. Her research has been supported by fellowship from the J. Paul Getty Trust, National Endowment for the Humanities, Fulbright-Hays and other associations.
Next, Mari Manoogian, a fourth-generation Armenian-American, spoke about her journey of becoming a State Representative for Michigan's 40th District. Manoogian's great-grandparents came to the U.S. in the 1920s to escape the Armenian Genocide. Manoogian spoke about her various duties as State Representative, her identity as an Armenian-American in politics and answered questions from students in a moderated Q&A session with Dr. Mouradian.
After lunch at a nearby restaurant, students heard from Christina Mehranbod, the United Nations Coordinator for the ARS. Mehranbod works to promote a strategic partnership with the UN and the ARS. She promotes the ARS mission, which includes support of optimal social conditions, health and the educational well-being of women and children in Armenia.
Following Mehranbod, Alexandra Boghosian, a graduate research fellow in the Department of Earth and Environmental Science at Columbia University, gave an insightful presentation about her work studying ice shelves in Antarctica. Boghosian discussed how scientists and explorers have been quantifying and understanding the polar regions for more than a century. Employing historical evidence and modern-day satellite and aero-geophysical data, she highlighted measurements that show how the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are changing today.
During her comments, Stonehill College political science and international relations Professor Anna Ohanyan spoke about her research on Russia and post-communist Eurasia, situating Armenia in the regional dynamics. She too answered thoughtful questions from students regarding Armenia's current political situation.
Lastly, author Nancy Kricorian spoke about her journey of becoming a published author. Kricorian began her writing career as a poet, but she is now a New York-based writer and organizer and the author of the novels Zabelle , Dreams of Bread and Fire , and most recently, All The Light There Was . She is currently working on a new novel set in Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War, from which she read an excerpt to the students.
The day was filled with insights into various fields, as well as thoughtful questions, and many networking opportunities between students from all over the United States and Canada to be able to connect with each other.
Samuel Chakmakjian, a student and young professional from Boston, says he was grateful to the ARS for organizing this event. “I've been coming to YCP for many, many years. I feel like I can have intellectual conversations with my peers and connect with different people.”
At the day's end, the presenters were presented with a special gift, a beautiful plate designed by Michael Aram for the ARS. After taking one of the largest group photos in YCP history yet, Dr. Mouradian announced that the next YCP would be taking place in November.
The 2019 Norian YCP concluded with a final dinner at Elysian Fields Café.