Norman Miller scholarship recipients talk about choices, challenges and opportunities ahead
Posted on July 30, 2013
When Hermine Grigorian, a student at the State Engineering University of Armenia (Polytechnic) in Gyumri, was asked why she chose to study Information Technology, she explained that it is a developing science and a profession in great demand. “In the beginning of my academic career, “she reflected, “I was not sure that I had made the right decision. But after starting my lessons and getting to know my professors and classmates, I started to love this field. I am very happy with the decision I have made and I hope that it is a choice that will benefit me in my future endeavors.”

Yet Hermine may have missed the opportunity to discover her professional calling if not for the financial support she receives as a recipient of the Norman Miller Scholarship Fund. It was established in 2009 as an endowment by the family of the late Norman Miller. A highly successful engineer, inventor, businessman, American citizen, Armenian patriot and philanthropist, Norman Miller understood that the driving force behind his success was his education.

Born in Turkey on the cusp of the 1915 Armenian genocide, Norman Miller had the quintessential American success story. It was built on hard work and the opportunities that came his way to propell him to achievement. Near the time of his passing in 2009, at the age of 94, Mr. Miller was convinced that the best way to give back to his homeland was to create educational opportunities for young engineers with the talent, drive and ambition to make a productive difference.

Hermine, one of the 10 recipients of this year’s scholarships, earned her place at one of Armenia’s best engineering learning centers on the basis of academic excellence and financial need. Today, she can focus on her studies, without the worries of paying for tuition, books and other expenses covered by her scholarship award.

Engineering a better future for Armenia, one industry at a time.

Five of the 10 recipients have chosen Information Technology as their specialty. According to Shoghik Tadevosyan, the city of Gyumri is poised to become a leading center for the IT industry. “Already, so many technological centers are being constructed,” she explained. “I believe that, after graduation, I will have an easier time finding a job within Gyumri and its outskirts. All this will aid Gyumri in its progression and development.”

Clearly, for a nation struggling for over two decades with economic challenges, especially high unemployment, those coming of age are keenly aware of the link between education and real-world success. The rising cost of education and a highly competitive labor pool are strong motivators for choosing a profession with commercial relevance. As one scholarship recipient put it, “It is important to think about what our strengths and weaknesses are when we choose a profession in life. But it is also very important to think about what kind of knowledge and professions are in demand.”

Yet, not all of these young scholars have chosen such an obvious path as IT. This bodes well for the future of the nation, as a more well-rounded cadre of engineers is prepared to fuel the economic engine.

For example, Michael Nalbandyan is currently working toward a graduate degree in Textile Products Design and Development at the State Engineering University of Armenia (Polytechnic), Gyumri branch. He recalled how it started. “Prior to this, I received my bachelor’s degree in Engineering. During that time, I had the honor to participate in a scientific conference; I presented my article about technology and the textile industry. This article was later published. Soon after my graduation, I was called to serve in the army. Upon my return, I received a lot of support and encouragement from my parents and professor to continue my studies. But having to work and attend classes, I realized that it was hard to keep my grades up.” Today, Michael no longer has to compromise, thanks to the financial support he receives as a Norman Miller scholar.

Seda Popova is also taking a road less traveled. “From a young age,” Seda recounts, “I was interested in food and how various foods come about. It was inevitable that I chose Food Sciences as my major at the university. This major has answered so many of my questions, but as they say, knowledge is endless and everyday I learn more. I still have so many questions that have not been answered. After graduation, I hope to become a good researcher or specialist based on the knowledge that I have acquired through this program.”

Hovsep Ananikyan described how he decided to make energy his industry focus. “It was not a coincidence, but rather a choice based on my great understanding of this complex science,” Hovsep noted. “Armenia’s hydropower plants, thermal power plants and nuclear power plant are currently experiencing rapid development. There is a need to find applications of electricity from non-traditional methods. That’s why I decided to receive my graduate degree in Enterprise Economics and Management. I am sure that, once I am done with my studies, I can dedicate a lot of my knowledge to this field.”

Life lesson 101: The virtue of giving back.

In a meeting with Irina Lazarian, the executive director of Armenia Fund USA, the students expressed their genuine appreciation to the Miller family. Michael Nalbandyan expressed how pleased he was to know that “there are people spreading kindness and happiness throughout the world. I would like to let the Miller Family know that they have a new friend in Vanadzor awaiting them.” Seda Popova thanked the Miller family “for its warm and humane attitude.”
Such sincere sentiments of gratitude were seconded by the rest of the group in attendance, including scholarship recipients Mariam Petrosyan, Vardan Bagaryan, Arakya Harutyunyans, and Armine Tonoyans.

Ms. Lazarian, who also holds an advanced engineering degree in Computer Sciences from Yerevan State Engineering University and an Industrial Engineering Master degree from American University of Armenia, chimed in by stating that it was Norman Miller’s intention that those who benefit from the scholarship will one day enjoy the privilege of giving back to future generations. She expressed to the group that, “It is important to live up to Norman Miller’s own dream: that, one day, you too will be in a position to help those following in your footsteps. Like you, they can also rise higher. That is how we build a nation built to last.”