The panel at the University of Connecticut

Discovering Armenian Heritage and Culture


HARTFORD, Conn. — Connecticut was home to a program of music, demonstrations, a panel of renowned scholars and Armenian food on Saturday, March 30, as the University of Connecticut presented a comprehensive program and festival titled “Discovering Armenian Heritage and Culture.”

Held at the historic Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford, the program drew some 150 people from Connecticut and the northeast eager to learn more about all things Armenian.

The event was sponsored by the University of Connecticut’s Office of Global Affairs and School of Social Work and was made possible by the generous support of the Alice K. Norian Endowment at the University. In 2004, Alice K. Norian bequeathed more than $500,000 to restart Armenian studies at the University of Connecticut. The bequest included funds to be dedicated to an annual lecture on Armenia, which would be open to the public as well as the University community.

The program began with a welcome by Dr. Nina Rovinelli Heller, dean of the UConn School of Social Work, who co-chairs the committee along with Daniel Weiner, vice president for Global Affairs.

Heller reviewed some of the history of bringing Armenian students to UConn and welcomed visiting faculty and students in social work from Yerevan State University. She also reviewed other joint programs including archeology social work and agriculture between the two universities.

During the first segment of the morning program, Yerezkin Maggie Stepanian gave a demonstration on making Armenian string cheese, with samples for all and Prof. Mari Firkatian of the University of Hartford discussed her new book, Home Again: Armenian Recipes from the Ottoman Empire.

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Brilliant musical performances were rendered by Tatev Amiryan, DMA ,composer and pianist and soprano Anna Hayrapetyan, with pertinent commentary between the various performances.

The musical selections were followed by a powerful panel presentation on “Discovering Your Armenian Roots: How to Research Genealogy & Ancestry”. The panelists included George Aghjayan, director of Armenian Historical Archives; Marc A. Mamigonian, director of Academic Affairs at the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR); Tsoleen Sarian, executive director of Project SAVE Armenian Photograph Archives; Armen T. Marsoobian, professor and chair of the Philosophy Department at Southern Connecticut State University; and Catherine Masud, documentarian and lecturer in Digital Media and Design at the University of Connecticut. The panel was moderated by Kathryn Libal, director of Human Rights Institute and Associate Professor of Social Work and Human Rights, University of Connecticut. Following the panel presentation, a number of comments and questions were posed by the audience.

Marsoobian was available to autograph copies of his book, Reimagining A Lost Armenian Home: The Dildilian Photography Collection, as was Firkatian for her book. Marsoobian and Firkatian are both members of the Norian Community Advisory Committee which is made up of members of the Connecticut Armenian American Community.

Following the presentation, a sumptuous and generous Armenian meal, inspired by some of the recipes in Firkatian’s book, was served at no cost to all attendees.

The program lasted through the morning and into the afternoon.

Weiner was delighted to see the turnout for the event. “Community participation is critical in making our events a success, and this event was a great success. The engagement by both the presenters and the attendees throughout the day was wonderful. Our relationship with the Armenian-American diaspora is very important to the University. Shedding light on Armenian History but also keeping memory alive is very important, and this is why we will be offering the “Armenian Virtual Memory Project” course in the fall, in consultation with the speakers from the March 30 event.”

Attorney Harry Mazadoorian, also a member of the Norian Community Advisory committee, praised the effort which had gone in to making the presentations of the day such a great success and particularly noted the work of Zahra Ali, director of Global Partnerships and Outreach at the UConn Office of Global Affairs as well as Maureen Zavodjancik, events assistant. He observed that the attendees had demonstrated great enthusiasm and satisfaction with the day’s activities.

The Norian Armenian Programs Committee is charged with supporting and enhancing the University of Connecticut’s Armenian programming and, in particular, its connections with Yerevan State University.

The faculty programs committee has representatives from the disciplines of anthropology, archaeology, geography, agriculture and resource economics, pathobiology, and social work.

More information on the Norian programs at Global Affairs Department can be found at

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