The Armenian Student Association was presented with the CSUN Club of the Year award May 6, beating out 10 other club nominees.
“Looking at a lot of the other clubs, I thought it was a 50/50 chance (that we would win),” said ASA President Gor Vardazarian, junior kinesiology and biology major. “It was a great experience, especially when it’s under your watch. I was excited; I was jumping off the wall, and I’m a quiet guy. It’s definitely great to be recognized in front of a lot of other people, and a lot of leaders.”
Selection for the award is based on messages posted (on campus), campus involvement, how many members participate, the extent to which their activities reach others, and the overall quality and performance of the program, said David Black, clubs and organizations development and training graduate assistant in the Matador Involvement Center.
The ASA is one of CSUN’s longest-running student organizations. It was started by Suzy Mahserdjian in 1976, and today boasts a roster of over 200 active members.
“The purpose (of the club) is to help the Armenians that are on campus acculturate, but not assimilate — to keep their identity as a group going,” Vardazarian said. “It’s more of an educational and social club.”
Vardazarian had been a member of the ASA for four years, during which time he has served as event coordinator prior to the beginning of his current term as president. He took over during a time of much executive member turnover in the group, and he wanted to lead the way, Vardazarian said.
“There were many changes happening, so I decided to step up to take on a leadership role,” Vardazarian said. “Many people left, (and) had to go out of state. It’s not easy being an executive member. It’s a big job. You have to be very serious about it.”
There are nearly 3,000 students of Armenian descent at CSUN, and it is important for he and the rest of the members to represent those students well, Vardazarian said.
“Being a part (of the ASA) means a lot to me,” said Ani Asatryan, junior journalism major and vice president of the ASA. “I’ve created a lot of new friendships, network opportunities, and (have) been part of a lot of events and programs that I’m proud of.”
Since she attended an Armenian private high school before coming to CSUN, she said she had gotten used to being around members of her own culture. When she got to CSUN, which has a much larger Armenian population than her previous college, she joined the ASA and “it was almost like being home,” Asatryan said.
Asatryan also said she has been proudly carrying the Club of the Year award plaque around with her since the group received it.
Eileen Khachatourian, environmental and occupational health major and ASA treasurer, said she did not grow up around other Armenians, so being in the ASA has put her in touch with other members of her own ethnicity.
“All throughout my life, up until college, I never went to any Armenian schools,” Khachatourian said. “In Thousand Oaks, where I lived, (it seemed like) there were only two or three Armenian families.”
Being involved in the organization has improved Khachatourian’s Armenian language skills, since she now has people to speak it to other than her own family, she said.
The ASA holds frequent meetings and events, including educationally-oriented events and those done purely for enjoyment. Twice per month, the group holds a general meeting for members to talk, ask questions and interact with other members of the group.
The club throws an annual Halloween costume party, held a formal event on Valentine’s Day this year, and sponsored a play by a group of younger Armenians. It also holds conferences to help members network with past members, has showcased guest speakers from Armenia, and holds group book readings. Later this year, the ASA plans to take a four-night trip to Big Bear.
There are 10 active ASAs on college campuses in California, and an All-ASA Confederation Council. While each ASA club is independent, under the All-ASA Confederation Council, representatives from each ASA meet once per month and sometimes organize events that multiple ASAs participate in, including charity fundraisers.