by Samuel Armen
A doctor, lawyer, and engineer walk into a room… and work together to mentor the youth. Every spring for the last ten years, Fordham University has hosted the Armenian Engineers and Scientists of America (AESA) and the Armenian American Health Professionals Organization (AAHPO) - organizations aimed towards empowering Armenian youths through networking, guidance, and even scholarship opportunities.
On Friday, March 2nd, 2020 was the 10th Annual Mentoring Forum. Though attendance was understandably reduced given a torrential rainstorm and fears from the ever-spreading Coronavirus, those who were in attendance represented an impressive range of fields. Though AESA was started in California three decades ago as a foundation to support Armenians in engineering and the sciences, its membership has broadened and its presence has expanded to the east coast. This occurred through the works of Vahan Tanal, an Armenian Civil Engineer born in Istanbul along with a group of like-minded Armenians, like pediatrician Dr. Garbis Baydar and Optometrist Dr. Lawrence J. Najarian - who together decided to open networking forums to connect Armenians across the tri-state area.
With the essential work of Dr. Harold Takooshian, Professor of Psychology at Fordham University, the Mentoring Forum has found a home at the university’s campus on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
As aforementioned, the organization has largely broadened their network. The 10th annual forum at Fordham University had mentors and mentees in the fields of Architecture, Business, Education, Health, Finance, Law, Media, Psychology, and Real Estate.
What was equally impressive to the range of careers was the diversity of the attendees. Though primarily Armenian, every member had a unique background.
For example, after the opening remarks, groups divided into separate rooms to engage in more personal conversations. In one of the corners, I came across a group of individuals. It was there where I saw the true power of this mentoring forum.
I met Vana Markarian, an Iranian-born Canada-raised senior at Columbia University and intern at Neuberger Berman; Leon Baburov, a Moscow-born Brooklynite working as a wealth management advisor at Northwestern Mutual; Katia Ariyan, a New York-born senior at Barnard studying creative writing and working as a writer for What Do You Meme?; Marie Papazian, a Michigan-born creative writing junior at Barnard; and Scott Toppi, a New-York born Armenian-Italian senior manager of capital markets technology at PwC.
We discussed a variety of topics: the nature of creativity, how to self-publish, what an entry-level position in wealth management necessitates, what the Armenian-American experience has been, how Armenia has been thriving with the new government, and so on. We all shared the core belief that we wanted to give back to the Armenian community, which has helped us each in unique ways.
Needless to say, we all connected with each other via social media. More importantly, we learned from each other.
And this is what makes AESA powerful. Vahan Tanal and the pioneers of AESA’s east-coast presence all share the belief that knowledge cannot thrive in a vacuum. It is only through the exchange of ideas and resources that we can truly empower ourselves and those around us. AESA has taken this truth and applied it to the next generation.
AESA’s pragmatic philosophy has attracted six like-minded organizations as sponsors, such as the Armenian Bar Association, the Armenians in Banking and Finance, the Armenian International Women’s Association, the Armenian Behavioral Science Association, the Armenian Network of Greater New York and the Armenian Students Association.
Through AESA's unyielding passion and through the growing membership of mentors and mentees, all of us are hoping to continue empowering the Armenian youth.
A booklet containing the mentors participating in this forum was created and placed on the AESA Northeastern Section’s website. To access the booklet, please register at www.aesa-ne.org and go to “Events & Projects” > “Mentoring Forum”.
Please enjoy this video produced by Voice of Armenian TV!