Dear Friends and Students of the ASP at U.C. Berkeley,
The Armenian Studies Program at U.C. Berkeley is facing a significant
challenge. In June 2019, it became clear that the annual income
generated by our two endowments–the William Saroyan and Krouzian
endowments—would no longer be sufficient to cover the expenses of our
program (salaries, benefits, conferences, lectures, etc.). The gap in
our funding was covered by funds I had set aside over the past six-seven
years, which were essentially my own research and travel funds. The
challenge we face today is, interestingly enough, a result of the
success of the program we have built over the past two decades: this
unprecedented situation stems from the fact we have a real program, with
two permanent faculty teaching Armenian history, politics, language,
literature, and culture. Close to 120-140 students enroll in our classes
yearly. We also offer two Bachelor’s degrees in Armenian Studies, a
major and a minor. In 2020, four or five students will graduate with an
Armenian major and eight others with an Armenian minor. We also have a
doctoral student. In other words, the ASP has come a long way; it is no
longer the one-semester visiting lecturership or professorship of the 1990s.
In order to solve the challenge of this financial situation, the Chairs
of the ASP Advisory Committee and of the Institute of Slavic, East
European, and Eurasian Studies (ISEEES), have been working to increase
the University’s support to the Armenian program. There are some hopeful
developments in this regard, which may be finalized by May, and I am
grateful to both Chairs.
Dear friends and students, in more than two decades, and unlike other
programs, I have refrained from endlessly appealing to our community for
financial support to the ASP. Now, however, is the time to act, for your
support is truly needed until we can secure a major donation that will
cover the financial needs of the ASP in perpetuity. In fact, the two
fundraising campaigns of the 1990s and 2000s were remarkable successes,
thanks to some major donors and all of you. They made possible the
creation of a full-fledged Armenian Studies Program at a world-class
university and, despite the expansion of our program and the natural
evolution of our expenses, even now the endowments they established
cover close to 90% of our annual expenses.
Two conclusions stem from this fact: first, the bulk of the task
has already been completed; second, if a permanent solution (a major
donation) is not found in the short to medium term, complemented by
yearly donations in the short term, our endowments will cover a
gradually smaller part of our expenses, and the integrity and continuity
of the program will be endangered. Indeed, we need to close the
budgetary gap immediately because it is inevitable that over time our
expenses are going to increase as a result of cost of living
adjustments, university-wide pay raises, merit increases, and promotions.
In order to address the short-term dimension of this situation, ISEEES
and the ASP have established a current use fund. Donations to this fund
will be used to cover the expenses of our conferences and lectures and,
thus, to alleviate the pressure on the income generated by our two
endowments. That income will cover the fixed cost of the program.
Simultaneously, some community members and I are working to secure a
major donation which will solve this problem permanently.
One cannot go wrong supporting education. It is the most worthwhile of
investments. Some of our former students have gone on to attend graduate
and professional programs at Harvard, Stanford, and other such prominent
universities. They are now specialized doctors, promising young lawyers,
professors, and key workers in human rights organizations. Whether
ethnically Armenian or otherwise, they are the future of the
Armenian-American diaspora and of our country.
Finally, to those of you who are ethnically Armenian, I would like to
note that a diaspora community that fails to ensure its cultural
survival and to produce young, educated future leaders will be reduced
to irrelevance, particularly in the Bay Area in the twenty-first
century. And to those who think in binary terms (Armenia or the
diaspora), I would note that gradually weakening diaspora communities
will result in a weaker Armenia in the medium and long term. The
community should thus do its utmost to preserve, maintain, and develop
its two educational and cultural pillars: the KZV School and the ASP at
Please support the Armenian Studies Program at U.C. Berkeley by
contributing to the above-mentioned current use fund here:
I have pasted after my signature an e-mail I received today from a
student of mine and an except from a lecture one of Dr. Myrna Douzjian’s
students gave on the East Coast. I have done so with their permission.
Please read what these students think about our program.
Thank you so much!
Stephan H. Astourian, Ph.D.
Director, Armenian Studies Program
Associate Adjunct Professor, Department of History
Hello Professor Astourian,
I hope you are well and the semester is going well despite all this
craziness with the coronavirus. After graduating last spring, I was
accepted into an LLM program at Leiden University in the Netherlands for
Advanced Studies in International and European Criminal Law. I hope to
work in The Hague one day and advance efforts for the Armenian community
as well as human rights initiatives.
Your Comparative Genocide Studies course left a formidable impression on
me; I believe education about these atrocities is integral for
proactiveness and peace. I’ve been working for about 9 months to raise
funds for my education because this program doesn’t offer too many
scholarships. So, I am looking at outside sources of funding.
I found the AGBU International scholarship for graduate students and
thought it would be the perfect opportunity. After thinking about who I
would be able to use as a relevant reference for this scholarship, I
immediately thought of you! You were very supportive of me as a student
and my post-graduate plans. I think your class had the biggest impact on
my decision to apply to this program and take the step towards becoming
an international lawyer. I know you must be extremely busy, but if you
do have time I would truly appreciate your letter of reference for me
since you know me as a student.
En attente de votre réponse,
Dr. Myrna Douzjian’s student :
From the start, Professor Douzjian seemed different. We began the course
by reading traditional poems about the role of Armenian language. Yet
she was not content with conceding to their views. She pushed us to
critique these canonical works and to consider the demands that culture
places on language to evolve alongside changing norms. I vividly recall
walking through campus after our first lecture, buzzing with excitement
in the face of what felt like an epochal revelation, as I mulled over
the many implications of considering language not as static and archaic
but flexible, intimate, and alive.
I often come home after my Armenian classes (since that first class, I
have taken every class offered by the Armenian Studies department) and
proclaim to my roommates that Professor Douzjian has changed my life.
And she really has. She crafts her courses to introduce her students to
innovative and provocative ideas and transform the narrative surrounding
Armenian culture and its inertia. I feel prepared to embrace my heritage
wholly, and it is because I have a role model of courage, intellect, and
power within my community whom I may aspire to emulate.