ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The University of Michigan Armenian Students Cultural Association (ASCA) has historically and currently been one of the most successful organizations of its kind in the United States. With predecessors dating back to the Genocide era, during which it was affiliated with the East Coast ASA (Armenian Students Association), the current version of the group is officially affiliated with the University of Michigan and its well known Armenian Studies Department, and dates back to circa 1979.
The Covid-19 pandemic has made 2020 and 2021 a tough time to be a college student, especially those who go away to school in college towns like Ann Arbor. The vibrant, diverse life of these microcosmic cities has disappeared.
The ASCA’s major annual event is the annual Hye Hop, a dinner-dance kef attended by college students from around Michigan and the Midwest. From its glory days in the 1990s when national figures would be present, to its more humble but still highly successful recent incarnations, the Hye Hop has always served as a platform for young people to have fun and raise money for a good cause while continuing Armenian culture through music and dance. Each year, the committee donates a large portion of the proceeds to a different charity in Armenia. This year, there could be no Hye Hop due to social distancing rules. So the students came up with something else.
Playing off the name and logo of networking site LinkedIn, the group dubbed their event, held on February 13, as “ArmenIn,” and it served as a combination networking event and career panel.
Celene Philip, a club member who helped organize the special event said, “Essentially because we couldn’t do an in-person Hye Hop, we wanted to do something with Zoom and it would be a good tool to use to our advantage to get people from across the country. So we wanted to do a networking event. It wasn’t hard to plan, but we needed to find the people.”
Philip explained, the fact that it was a Zoom event rather than an in-person affair, helped the group find a range of interesting Armenian professionals from across the country to act as speakers.