YEREVAN — Dianna Torosyan (MA Teaching English as a Foreign Language, ’16), a student at the American University of Armenia (AUA), is the recipient of the Hripseme Zoornajian Kulhanjian Scholarship, which was established in 2014 in memory of Hripseme “Rose” Kulhanjian by her granddaughter, Dr. Julie Kulhanjian.
Hripseme was an orphaned survivor of the Armenian Genocide. She truly valued education, though she was not able to receive a formal one herself. Despite the many difficulties she faced throughout her life, she had an extremely positive outlook and was a passionate defender and champion of those less fortunate in the world. By establishing this scholarship, Kulhanjian hoped to keep her grandmother’s community-minded spirit alive, and in talking to Dianna Torosyan, it seems she has succeeded in doing so.
Torosyan, who has just completed the first year of her program, is having an incredibly enriching experience, both at AUA and as a volunteer at Democracy Today, an NGO that supports democratic achievements and human rights in Armenia. Volunteer service with this organization was one of the requirements of the Kulhanjian Scholarship. “We were inspired to incorporate a volunteer internship at Democracy Today into the scholarship because of the work of the organization’s founder, Gulnara Shahinian,” remarks Kulhanjian. “Her work at Democracy Today provides educational, emotional and social support to underserved children. These programs can provide the skills to help keep these young people away from human trafficking and to lead healthy, productive lives.”
Torosyan has taken on a variety of roles at Democracy Today, like increasing the organization’s social media presence, but one of the experiences that has stood out the most for her was participating in a blogger training session with women from rural areas. “Hearing their stories gave me perspective and inspired me,” she says. She plans to continue volunteering with Democracy Today after graduating from AUA, but that’s not all. In the long term, she hopes to pursue a PhD in applied linguistics, and in the short term, she is already making plans to open a language center that brings modern teaching practices to rural areas of Armenia.
If it were not for the Kulhanjian Scholarship, she explains, she wouldn’t have even considered this exciting opportunity. Before receiving the scholarship, she was told she would receive 90-percent financial aid, so she did her best to pull together the remaining funds for tuition. “When I found out that I have a 100-percent scholarship,” she says, “I decided that I would not waste the money that I had set aside, that I would invest it in something else: something for the greater good.” She is already working on a pilot, bringing volunteers from Yerevan to train teachers in the village of Goghtanik, where her family is from. Things are just getting started, but Dianna is thinking big. “I want to expand it and I want to promote volunteerism in rural areas across Armenia,” she says. “That is my vision for the future.”