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Student Advice Corner: Introducing the Stanford Armenian Society

Updated: Apr 18

Danielle Mikaelian and Eric Markarian

Interview Overview: 

Danielle Mikaelian, a current Harvard Law student and Columbia University’s former Armenian Society President, recently interviewed Eric Markarian, the President of Stanford’s Armenian Society. They discussed the organization’s events, advocacy efforts, and strong sense of community for The Armenian Report's Student Advice Corner.

Questions for Stanford Armenian Society 

Danielle Mikaelian: It’s wonderful knowing that we have Armenians represented at Stanford! Can you give us some background information about your organization and its members? 

Eric Markarian: Absolutely! The Armenian Students' Association (ASA) at Stanford is indeed a vibrant and integral part of our campus community. ASA operates as a registered voluntary student organization (VSO), which means it’s officially recognized by the university and operates with a commitment to fostering diversity and cultural exchange.

ASA’s primary mission is to promote Armenian cultural values and heritage within the Stanford community and the broader Bay Area. ASA provides a platform for students to explore, celebrate, and engage with Armenian culture, history, and traditions. Members of ASA come from diverse backgrounds and experiences, united by their shared interest in Armenian culture and identity. Whether they are of Armenian descent themselves or simply enthusiastic about learning more about Armenian heritage, ASA welcomes all who are interested in joining their community.

Standford University Armenian Students

Danielle Mikaelian: What types of events do you hold on campus?

Eric Markarian: ASA organizes a diverse range of events on campus, catering to various interests and aspects of Armenian culture. One of our beloved traditions is hosting traditional Armenian BBQs, where members come together to enjoy delicious food and vibrant cultural performances. In addition to BBQs, we frequently host speaker events featuring prominent figures in Armenian culture, politics, and academia. Recently, we were honored to welcome Garo Paylan, whose insightful discussion provided valuable insights into contemporary Armenian issues and politics. Another popular event in our calendar is Soorj (Coffee) Nights, where members gather over cups of Armenian coffee to engage in stimulating conversations, share stories, and forge meaningful connections. These gatherings foster a sense of community among the tight-knit members of ASA and allow for the practice of traditional Armenian hospitality.

ASA is also extremely proud to be organizing Stanford's first Armenian Genocide Recognition Week this April. This important initiative aims to raise awareness about the Armenian Genocide and honor its victims through a series of impactful events. Highlights of the week include a speaker panel featuring, a candlelit vigil to commemorate the lives lost during the Genocide, and a public art display to reflect on its enduring legacy. 

Through these events and initiatives, ASA not only celebrates the richness of Armenian culture but also creates opportunities for dialogue, education, and advocacy on campus. We believe in the power of community and cultural exchange to promote understanding, empathy, and solidarity, and we’re excited to continue fostering these connections at Stanford and beyond.

Standford University Armenian Students

Danielle Mikaelian: How have you fostered a sense of community amongst Armenians at Stanford?

Eric Markarian: At Stanford, fostering a sense of community among Armenians is a top priority for the ASA. We recognize the importance of creating spaces where Armenian students can come together, connect, and celebrate their culture and heritage. To achieve this, we organize a wide array of events, meetings, and general opportunities for community building. Our events range from traditional Armenian BBQs to speaker events featuring distinguished guests from the Armenian community and beyond. These gatherings provide opportunities for students to engage with each other in both formal and informal settings, exchange ideas, and learn from one another's experiences.

Outside of ASA events, Armenians at Stanford often bump into each other at various campus functions/events. It's always heartwarming to see familiar faces brighten up when we unexpectedly run into another Armenian we know in a different setting. These spontaneous encounters serve as reminders of the strength and interconnectedness of our community. One fun tradition that often follows these encounters is the impromptu "take a picture" moment, where we capture the joy of reconnecting with fellow Armenians and share it with the broader ASA community on Instagram. These candid snapshots not only document our shared experiences but also serve as a testament to the bonds that unite us beyond formal events and meetings.

Standford University Armenian Students

Danielle Mikaelian: How have you helped expose our culture to other Stanford students, no matter their backgrounds? 

Eric Markarian: Absolutely, promoting Armenian culture and heritage to the broader Stanford community is one of ASA’s central focuses. 

One of the key ways we do this is by organizing all-campus events that are open to the entire Stanford community. From our popular BBQs featuring delicious Armenian cuisine to speaker events that delve into the complexities of Armenian history and politics, we strive to provide diverse and engaging experiences that appeal to the broader Stanford community. These events serve as entry points for students from all backgrounds to explore and appreciate Armenian culture in a welcoming and inclusive environment.

ASA actively advocates for the inclusion of Armenian language and global studies courses within Stanford’s curriculum. Through our efforts, we have successfully petitioned for the addition of new Armenian language courses and are currently working to introduce Armenia-specific global studies courses. These courses are available for any Stanford student to take, providing an opportunity for deeper exploration and understanding of Armenian culture, history, and society. There are actually quite a few non-Armenian students in the language courses who have committed to learning the language for the past year. By offering accessible avenues for cultural education and exchange, ASA aims to foster cross-cultural understanding and appreciation within the Stanford community.

Standford University Armenian Students

Danielle Mikaelian: Your organization has convinced Stanford to add Armenian 1 and Armenian 2 as language courses. Beyond this, Stanford has also piloted an Armenian Studies Program. What was your organization’s role in advocating for these changes?

Eric Markarian: In our efforts to introduce Armenian language courses, ASA worked closely with the Stanford Language Center to petition for the inclusion of Armenian 1 and Armenian 2 as formal language offerings. We actively engaged with the Stanford student body, rallying support for the courses through petitions and forms to demonstrate strong interest and demand. ASA members were instrumental in collecting signatures and feedback from students who expressed enthusiasm for learning Armenian. Throughout the process, ASA maintained open communication with the Language Center and relevant departments to ensure that our advocacy efforts were heard and taken into consideration. We provided ongoing feedback, shared updates on student interest and engagement, and successfully advocated for the continued offering of the courses beyond the 1-year period in 2022. 

Regarding the establishment of an Armenian Studies Program, we collaborated with the Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies (CREEES) at Stanford. Through the generosity of donors, ASA is able to facilitate the organization of events, panels, and discussions focused on Armenian studies within the broader context of the CREEES department. These initiatives have helped raise awareness of Armenian culture, history, and issues among the Stanford community. Looking ahead, we are actively working with CREEES to secure additional funding for global studies courses specific to Armenia. 

Standford University Armenian Students

Danielle Mikaelian: Last question — some Armenian students were admitted to Stanford recently and are deciding between schools. Why Stanford?  

Eric Markarian: Stanford is truly a magical place, to say the least. It’s a hub of innovation and excellence, situated at the forefront of research and the cutting edge of discovery. Whether students are interested in the humanities, sciences, engineering, or any field in between, Stanford offers unparalleled opportunities to delve deeply into these areas and pursue these passions to the fullest extent. The collaborative environment at Stanford, where interdisciplinary collaboration is not just encouraged but actively nurtured, leads to incredibly fruitful results and fosters a spirit of innovation and creativity.

Beyond just academics, Stanford truly fosters a strong sense of community and belonging. From the moment students step foot on campus, they are embraced by a supportive and inclusive community that values diversity, equity, and inclusion. Whether through freshman dorms, supporting student organizations like ASA, or a myriad of other initiatives and programs, Stanford goes above and beyond to ensure that every student feels valued, supported, and empowered to thrive. Personally, a tight-knit Armenian community was something I prioritized when deciding between colleges, aside from strong academics, and I was happily surprised to find such a vibrant community at Stanford. The Armenians here quickly became some of my closest friends and the events held by ASA made me feel right at home. So, in my objective opinion, choose Stanford!  


Search 'Student Advice Corner' to read past articles from Danielle Mikaelian.


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