Five questions with four Armenian Studies scholarship recipients

headshots of Ariana Garabedian, Christine Pambukyan, Dustin Vartanian, and Carina Tokatian

Every year, about 50 to 60 students receive a scholarship from Fresno State through the Armenian Studies program. Awards range from $1,000 to $2,000. A total of more than $70,000 in scholarship and grants from endowments are given to Fresno State to aid students interested in the language and history of Armenian.  

To find out the impact the scholarships have had on the students, we asked them five questions. Here’s what they had to say.

1) What is your major? What scholarship did you receive from the Armenian Studies program?

Carina Tokatian
Carina Tokatian

Carina Tokatian: I am an English Education major with an emphasis in Composition and Rhetoric. I received the Charlie Keyan Scholarship last Spring 2020.

Ariana Garabedian
Ariana Garabedian

Ariana Garabedian: My major is Speech Language Pathology.  I have been awarded several different scholarships through the Armenian Studies Program, including the Pete P. Peters scholarship, the Walter Sepetjian Scholarship, and the Knights of Vartan Scholarship.

Christine Pambukyan
Christine Pambukyan

Christine Pambukyan: I am a Pre-Nursing Major with a minor in Armenian Studies. I have received the Pete Peters Armenian Studies Scholarship, The Armenian Studies Scholarship, and the Triple X – Selma Chapter Armenian Scholarship.

Dustin Vartanian
Dustin Vartanian

Dustin Vartanian: I am currently majoring in Business Management and minoring in Armenian Studies. This past year I received the Pete P. Peters Scholarship for Armenian Studies.

2) What draws you to Armenian Studies? 

Carina: This was a language always spoken in my family, but one I had never formally learned myself. I was also drawn to the Introduction to Armenian Studies (ARMS 10) course because I had heard from friends how it covered a broad overview of Armenian history from what is perceived to be our beginnings to the current day and age. I had always known, for instance, that there was a Genocide, but I never knew the extent to which it was caused and executed until taking this class. And so, this class inspired me to delve into my own family’s stories as well as Fresno’s story and the Armenian community here in the San Joaquin Valley. 

Ariana: I’m minoring in Armenian Studies because, as an American-Armenian citizen, I believe that it is important to do my part in preserving the Armenian culture and history.  Pursuing this minor has given me several opportunities to learn about my culture, heritage, local history, family history, and Armenian history in general.  I am drawn to the subject simply because I’m Armenian.  The Armenian Studies Program at Fresno State has given me a place where I feel as if I belong!

Christine: As a proud Armenian and Fresno native, I am minoring in Armenian studies to learn more about my heritage and deepen my understanding of the history I grew up learning through family and church. I am drawn to the subject of Armenians because prior to attending Fresno State, my exposure to Armenian culture was through family and church events. Our history books failed to mention anything about Armenian history, leading me to want to learn more.

Dustin: I am minoring In Armenian Studies because I love learning about my own culture. I have always had a desire to learn the Armenian Language. However, it was not until after taking my first course in Armenian Studies when I decided to pursue the minor. The more classes I take, the greater desire I have to learn.

3) Do you have a favorite memory from your time in the Armenian Studies Program?

Carina: I can’t recall a specific memory, but there were quite a few fun moments I experienced in the language classes. It felt as if I was always smiling or laughing about one thing or another, whether we were learning about fruits, exchanging play money, or watching a classmate try to recall all the colors in Armenian after bringing in a multi-colored disco ball (the kind you plug in the wall). So, you could say that one of the benefits of taking Armenian Studies courses was the community factor. Whether we were Armenian or non-Armenian, we all seemed to be having a fun time learning the language together.

Ariana: I don’t think I have one favorite memory that stands out to me. Rather, the people I’ve met and the classes I’ve taken through this program have all been very fun and memorable.  I haven’t gotten to experience the trip to Armenia with the program yet, but I’m sure when I do, my favorite memories will come from that trip!

Christine: My favorite memory from my time in the Armenian Studies Program was visiting St. Paul Armenian Apostolic Church with Professor Barlow and learning about all the hidden symbolism of the church I grew up attending. This field trip was a part of our two-day course about the Armenian Church in Fall Semester 2019.

Dustin: There are too many great memories to pick one, but in general all of the lectures apart from the Armenian Studies Lecture series every semester have always been memorable. Every lecture is always interesting, and afterward, many of us from Armenian studies go eat somewhere. It’s a great combination of learning about Armenia’s history and having a great night with all of my friends. 

4) What impact has the scholarship you received through Armenian Studies had on you and your education?

Carina: The scholarship I have received through the Armenian Studies Program has greatly benefited me. A college education certainly comes at a cost in terms of tuition and the materials needed to be successful in those courses. Therefore, the scholarship I have received has helped to cover the cost of some of those expenses as I further my education. It has also made my enrollment in Armenian Studies classes all the more rewarding. 

Ariana: The impact of the Armenian Studies Scholarships I’ve received is one of motivation.  In receiving these scholarships, I know that there are people donating in order to push students to continue learning about the Armenian culture and history.  These scholarships motivate me to continue to work hard in school and the Armenian Community.

Christine: As a result of the scholarships I have received through the Armenian Studies program, I am able to comfortably focus on my education without worrying too much about paying off my tuition. The scholarships have opened up my horizons to learning opportunities I previously would not have been able to afford. For that, I am truly grateful.

Dustin: Receiving scholarships from the Armenian Studies Program motivates me to do more in Armenian Studies. I feel honored to be a recipient, and I feel determined to learn more after receiving a scholarship. 

5) If you could meet the people who fund the scholarship(s) you received, what would you say?

Carina: I would give them a huge thank you for their generosity. It was quite an honor for me to receive the Charlie Keyan scholarship. It is my understanding that the late Charlie Keyan was a strong advocate for education as the donor of the Charlie Keyan Armenian school. As I plan to enter the educational field myself one day, he inspires me to also give back to the community in my future endeavors as a teacher. Therefore, I could not be more grateful and honored to have received this scholarship.

Ariana: I would first express my gratitude for their support of the Armenian Studies Program, of my own (and other students’) studies, as well as in the Armenian community.  Then, I would ask why they donated or why a donation was made under a person’s name.  I love getting to know the people in my community and the history behind them.  There are so many Armenians in the Central Valley that care deeply about preserving their heritage, and I think it’s such a beautiful thing!

Christine: Thank you for your generosity towards the education of students interested in the Armenian culture. With your donations, I am able to focus on my studies, achieve high grades, and enjoy what Fresno State and the Armenian Studies Program has to offer. I am truly honored to have received your aid throughout my educational career thus far.

Dustin: I would tell them how thankful I am to have received their scholarship. I would explain all of the great things I have been able to learn and experience because of their support. I appreciate all donors to the Armenian Studies Program. I cannot thank them enough for all of their support.  

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Christine: With the help of Professor Barlow Der Mugrdechian, Dr. Hakop Ohanessian, Dr. Sergio La Porta, the Armenian Studies Program offers many enjoyable courses, including Armenian art history, Armenian literature, Armenian language, and Armenian history. Our Armenian Studies professors make our classes enjoyable and interesting, causing me to look forward to signing up for Armenian Studies courses when time allows. 

Carina: I would highly recommend that other students explore and enroll in some of the Armenian Studies courses offered at Fresno State. They provide such great insight and cultural awareness of the Armenian community in both the Central Valley and worldwide.


Students can find more information on these scholarships in the Armenian Studies area of the Fresno State website. If you’re not of Armenian heritage, don’t worry, these scholarships are available to any students taking Armenian Studies program courses.

Posted by

Fresno State College of Arts and Humanities Communication Specialist

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