Carol Aslanian: A Symbol of Perseverance and Perpetual Legacy at AUA
Carol Bagdasarian Aslanian has been a supporter of the American University of Armenia (AUA) since the early years of the founding of the University and was appointed to the board of Trustees in 2002. As a champion for the Yes, Armenian Women Can! campaign, she set up the Armenouhi Bagdasarian Endowed Scholarship, in memory of her mother, to pass the torch of education and to keep inspiring and empowering women studying computer science and engineering at AUA for generations to come.
Aslanian was born in Manchester, New Hampshire, to parents who had immigrated from Bitlis. Her father, Sampson, had narrowly escaped the atrocities of the Armenian Genocide and arrived in the U.S. before 1915. Her mother, Armenouhi, nee Ablahadian, had endured the horrible impact of the Genocide that had ripped her family apart. Born in 1907, Armenouhi Bagdasarian lost her father in the massacres and was separated from her mother and siblings as she was forced out of their home and marched into the desert, helpless and terrified. Separated from her family members for ten years, Bagdasarian was sent from one orphanage to another for seven years until her uncle, a Protestant minister, found and moved her to Istanbul. She lived there until she was miraculously reconnected with her mother and siblings who were saved from the desert marches and had relocated to Massachusetts. At the age of 17, Bagdasarian found a new haven in the U.S., and within two years, was married and began to grow her new, budding family.
Armenouhi Bagdasarian Aslanian, circa 1920’s
Growing up in New Hampshire, Carol Aslanian recalls a community of very few Armenians, and thus, very limited interactions that would have helped explore her heritage. After the passing of her father when she was seven, her mother took charge of their small, family-owned foodstore and raised her four children. Working hard as the sole parent and provider, Aslanian recalls her mother, who had always wanted to go to college herself, being determined to provide them with the best options for a solid education. “She always said: Education is something no one can take away from you,” recalls Carol. Thus, all four of the Aslanian children went on to complete undergraduate studies, with a few of them also going on to pursue graduate studies.
In her adolescent years, the family moved to Syracuse, New York so that her mother would be closer to her elder sister whose child had fallen seriously ill. Carol enrolled in high school, enjoying a typical teenage life, and subsequently was accepted to Cornell University, a time which she regards as four wonderful years of her life. Upon graduating, following the advice of a professor, she entered Harvard University to begin studies in Education and pursue a career as an educator.
After teaching for several years, Aslanian yearned for a career path that would enable her to make a greater difference in the field of education. After meeting and marrying her husband, the late John Aslanian, they moved to New York where he worked in advertising, and she worked in a higher education organization dedicated to improving teaching practices. Aslanian then moved on to the College Board, where she directed the Office of Adult Learning Services, aimed at helping colleges and universities serve the growing numbers of adult learners entering higher education to begin or finish their undergraduate and graduate studies.
Soon after, she started her own organization, Aslanian Market Research, to help institutions serve this growing population of adult learners. Within the past ten years, Aslanian has continued her relentless pursuit in becoming the most seasoned professional in the field, realizing the most recent successes of her career with EducationDynamics, an organization that serves colleges and universities in meeting the needs of all students, with a particular interest in online education, which she says now attracts one-quarter of all college students and continues to grow steadily. Having a breadth of knowledge in the field, she takes pride in her accomplishments. “After working with more than 300 colleges and universities over my lifetime, I have gained a sound reputation in the field and continue to service organizations and schools in gathering the data they need to improve their services to college-bound students, particularly those who enter over a lifetime.”
With a rich background in higher education, it’s no surprise that she is heavily involved in the American University of Armenia, an institution that she was introduced to and invited to serve on its Board in 2002. For two decades, she continues to advise the Board on matters that will help the betterment of the University overall. “I continue to serve in this role and appreciate the great strides the University has made over the past 20 years or so. I wholeheartedly support AUA with my personal skills, as well as monetary contributions so that Armenian youth can have the opportunity to benefit from an American-based higher education institution,” she expounds. “Given the circumstances and opportunities women worldwide face and particularly those in Armenia, it was very important to me to support the Yes, Armenian Women Can! campaign.”
Carol Aslanian with her daughters, sons-in-law, and grandchildren
Her strong support of AUA and dedication to help boost opportunities for students and youth in Armenia is also held by Aslanian’s two daughters. Her elder daughter, Leslie, is based in Connecticut with her husband and three sons and now she devotes her professional life to co-directing AGBU's Scholarship Program, which has deeply connected her with her heritage through the process of awarding financial aid to needy Armenian students worldwide. Her younger daughter, Elizabeth, based in Toronto with her husband and two children, is an administrator at LinkedIn and recently became an AUA ChangeMaker. “I am so proud that she has joined the 200 ChangeMakers campaign — it is a role she treasures greatly and which has also deepened her ties to her Armenian heritage,” Aslanian proudly remarks.
With an established life and career that has produced two equally talented and successful children that any mother would be proud of, Aslanian’s perspective is that of gratitude for her own mother, Armenouhi, whom she endears as her idol and inspirational figure. “What she endured during her early childhood and the skills and love it took to care for four children after the early death of her husband, has always been remarkable to me and has set a very high standard of what it means ‘to make a difference in life,’ she exalts. Making reference to her mother’s constructive influence and hoping to pass that on to the emerging generations, Aslanian counsels all young women: “First, engage in a career in which you have an affinity for and can foresee how you, yourself, can make a difference. Do what you love to do and do your very best to try to be a leader in your field and help others follow in your footsteps.”
As AUA celebrates 30 years of success in helping develop the future leaders of Armenia, Aslanian recognizes that opportunities have truly expanded for women over the years and it has become clear that science and technology are key areas in which it is necessary for them to pursue. “While over time, women have not actively participated in this field to the extent they could have, there are no roadblocks any longer. The field needs the intelligence, wit, and unique skills of women to aid the Armenian nation, if not the world.”
AUA is grateful for the staunch support and professional contribution Carol Aslanian has made to date and for her commitment to the University and to generations of students, past and future. More specifically, her belief in the power of advancing women to lead in a scientifically and technologically advanced future through the Yes, Armenian Women Can! Campaign stands as a shining example of steadfastness and anchor for the future of Armenia!