YEREVAN—It’s that time of year at the Luys Foundation headquarters in downtown Yerevan. The Luys scholars are just returning to participate in the Develop Armenia Program (DAP), where they’ll utilize their acquired knowledge and skills to mentor the youth, who are mostly in their early twenties.
The summer is packed with nonstop activities. From July 6-9, Luys scholars, their mentees, and the Luys team will convene in Yeghegnadzor to review DAP project proposals and prepare teams for the fieldwork to be carried out. Then, starting on July 11, DAP participants will split into groups, each comprised of around 15 people, and will go out to the regions of Armenia and Artsakh. They will have the opportunity to see the country from a different perspective, listen to citizens, and collaborate with one another to identify community needs. The goal is to collectively design and run projects and activities that address those priorities.
What Luys does
Luys has a two-fold mission: learn and do. Learn: The Luys Scholarship program augments the number of Armenian scholars in the world’s top universities. Luys ensures that Armenians come together as creative thinkers for Armenia’s benefit and contribute to the world. Several countries share many of our challenges. Do: The Develop Armenia Program harvests the fundamental knowledge and best practices of its scholars. Luys creates the transition from academic knowledge into real-life practice through concrete, meticulously planned field programs. Possessing knowledge is not enough; what’s vital is how to use it.
Luys is ready to support the education of any Armenian citizen or someone of Armenian descent aged 18-40 who is accepted into one of the world’s top universities.
For 28 years, Luys Foundation Executive Director Jacqueline Karaaslanian worked for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where she ran the Future of Learning and Media Fabrics groups before moving to Yerevan in 2009 to assume her new role. “Some ask, ‘Why only the world’s top-tier universities?’ Because the entire world struggles with the challenges that Armenia also faces, and the most creative and inventive people gather and design the future at those institutions. Armenians must be among them,” Karaaslanian said.
“It’s the first time in this century since 1915 that an institution was created by the country to bring together the Armenian brain trust,” she explained. “I think it’s a powerful vision from Luys Foundation’s founders, President Serge Sarkisian and Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan.”
Luys scholars have already secured successes. Only recently a Luys scholar at MIT, Armen Mkrchjyan from the city of Armavir, filed a patent for his invention of a technology that will enable farmers anywhere in the world to better manage their crops. A Luys scholar at Cambridge University in England, Vahe Tshitoyan, was congratulated by Prince Charles on receiving an award for his research in material physics to respond to the ever growing need of new energy sources. At Columbia University, Luys scholar Lilly Djaniants was awarded a grant for her research in architecture for peace. These are accomplishments from only the past five months.
“Our accomplishments do not measure only in the number of scholarships we grant—although it is high with 200 per year—but in the quality of what our thinkers produce for Armenia and by extension for the world,” said 36-year-old Gayane Ghumashyan, who has been with Luys from the very start.
How it all works
Luys scholars are hoping to create a self-sustained education fund. “Each of us needs to begin contributing a minimum of only $10 a year for 3 or 4 years to reach $300 million by 2015,” Karaaslanian said. “There are 10 million Armenians worldwide. The interest rate generated by the endowment fund would provide a more than healthy average of 350 scholarships per year and perpetually.”
In addition to granting scholarships, the Luys Foundation engineers the infrastructure to harvest and invest the knowledge of its scholars in Armenia while shaping the knowledge trends of the world. And about 500 high school students are enrolled in Luys’s mentorship and internship programs.
“Armenia cannot be isolated from the world,” Karaaslanian said. “Our founders envision Armenia as an active participant along with the leading nations. Armenia must contribute to the new knowledge-based economy. Luys scholars, while participating in shaping the knowledge trends of the world, also bring their knowledge to Armenia for the benefit of our people. The fuel of the future is brainpower, education, and innovation, and we must produce.”
Since it was founded only four years ago, almost 260 Armenian students have benefited from Luys with an average of $22,000 per scholarship and a total of $9,042,000. This is an all-time high scholarship granting process and the biggest in the Armenian world. The funding so far has come from the private sector and all successful Armenian companies from Armenia.
Luys scholars have been attended such universities as Columbia, Harvard, MIT, UCL, Cambridge, Oxford, Toronto, École Polytechnique, Hong Kong University, and ETH Zurich. The numbers of grantees are incrementally doubling every year.
Why Luys is a good investment
Luys generates the fastest rate of students with the highest education settling in Armenia. To date, 54 percent of the nation’s graduating population is happily employed in Armenia, of which 20 percent are originally from the diaspora.
The foundation’s achievement is already visible. The high concentration of Luys scholars in the world’s top centers of excellence has successfully branded Armenia as a country with powerful brainpower and a land of opportunities.
The operational costs are the lowest of efficiently run foundations, using only 7 percent of its full budget; the remaining 93 percent is dedicated to scholarships.
The message is clear: Armenia is standing tall and working hard to emerge from a charity model of survival. Armenia’s private sector is still in major need of development and support but also in need of a workforce with a 21st-century set of skills. Luys is responding to the need.
Luys is the instrument for creating an ecosystem of private and public institutions that work together in Armenia. Luys alumni work in every sector of the economy, and they know the meaning of co-creating and co-producing.
“We have a very long and eloquent list of successes that we consider the success of all Armenians. The intention is to continue raising the number of Luys scholars annually. We believe that Luys’s fundraising strategy can be achieved by 2015-16 and we need everyone’s help in order to get there.”
Any of the 260 Luys scholars can be contacted through the Luys Foundation’s website (http://www.luys.am/en/armenianworld), where their biographies are posted.
Karaaslanian has high expectations about the Luys Foundation’s future undertakings for promoting excellence in education throughout the Armenian world. “We want young people who not only dream big but work hard to build the positive future of our homeland.”