From a young age, Barlow Der Mugrdechian was raised to give back to his community. His grandparents were survivors of the Armenian Genocide and immigrated to the United States. His parents were both born in Fresno and deeply involved in the local community organizations, which meant Der Mugrdechian was involved.
After high school, Der Mugrdechian enrolled at Fresno State and graduated with a B.S. in Biology in 1979. Throughout his youth, he was enrolled in Armenian language classes on the weekends and was always interested in Armenian history and culture. With the encouragement of Dr. Dickran Kouymjian, director of the Armenian Studies Program at Fresno State at the time, he pursued his M.A. in Armenian Language and Literature at UCLA.
Prof. Der Mugrdechian began teaching at Fresno State in 1985. Since 2008 he has been the Berberian Coordinator of the Armenian Studies Program and Director of the Center for Armenian Studies at Fresno State.
“I love to impart my knowledge of Armenian culture in general to all of my students. I especially love to see when my students become equally as interested in the culture. Some of my best students have been non-Armenians who have completed a Minor in Armenian Studies,” said Prof. Der Mugrdechian. “I enjoy interacting with students and teaching about the rich arts, language, literature, and history of the Armenian people.”
In 2008, he was named the editor of the Armenian Publication Series, which publishes through The Press at Fresno State. There are now twelve books in the series, including four published in 2020 alone. He has served as the faculty advisor to the Armenian Students Organization and the Hye Sharzhoom/Armenian Action newspaper advisor.
“I am proud to be the advisor for Hye Sharzhoom for the past thirty-six years and to see the newspaper go out to more than 5,000 people throughout the world,” he said.
Under his direction, the program has grown exponentially. In addition to the books and the newspaper, the Armenian Studies Program programs 20 to 25 public events every year. These events have become a staple for the Armenian Community in Fresno and the surrounding area. During normal times, some of the larger events, such as the William Saroyan House Museum opening celebration and or the annual Armenian Genocide Commemoration, draw people from around the world.
“I have been proud to have seen our [Armenian Studies] Program grow to be nationally and internationally recognized,”
As the program has grown, so have the scholarship opportunities.
Prof. Der Mugrdechian explained, “When I began, there were only two Armenian Studies scholarship funds, while today there are over thirty. In the past few years, we have averaged 45-55 students per year who have received scholarships.”
Any student who takes an Armenian Studies course is eligible to receive a scholarship. The awards range from $1,000 to $2,000 per year, and students can apply through the Fresno State website.
“I think it is important to give back to support the institutions which had an impact on my life,” said Prof. Der Mugrdechian. “I have been involved with Fresno State for forty-seven years. I am proud of the University and of the community that I live in, and I want to make a contribution to improving it.”
Plus, he added, “It is satisfying to see that your contributions make a difference and that students can have an opportunity to attend Fresno State and to have the college experience.”
The Dean’s Council Annual Fund helps students and programs in the College of Arts and Humanities in two ways. 1) The Dean’s Council Scholarship Endowment provides scholarships and student assistance, while 2) The Dean’s Discretionary Fund provides curriculum enrichment, research and travel funding for students and faculty, technological and artistic support, as well as funding for the unique and unexpected needs of the College.