RWU Senior Chosen for Competitive Fellowship with Armenian National Committee of America

The 2020 ANCA Maral Melkonian Avetisyan Summer Fellowship honors Tatevik Khachatryan for her commitment to the Armenian community as she participates in a legislative internship with the Armenian National Committee of America

By Anna Cohen
Tatevik Khachatryan in DC

"No matter what I do, I’ll always be an Armenian fighting for my people and my community in Armenia," said Tatevik Khachatryan, an RWU senior double major in International Relations and Philosophy and Vice President of the student body. 

This summer, Khachatryan was named the 2020 Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA)Maral Melkonian Avetisyan Summer Fellow for her commitment to serving the Armenian community. Each year, one young leader from the United States or Canada is chosen for this competitive title.

Named for a young woman who embodied community activism, the Maral Melkonian Avetisyan Summer Fellowship gives Khachatryan the opportunity to connect with legislators in Washington, D.C., to advocate directly for causes that affect the Armenian community. 

We recently talked with Khachatryan to learn more about her experience. 

What is your role as the ANCA Maral Melkonian Avetisyan Summer Fellow?

The original internship I applied to is an eight-week intensive legislative program for Armenian students. You go to DC and work on everything that relates to the Armenian cause: bills regarding Armenian aid, issues regarding the genocide, and negotiations. So far, we’ve had calls with members of the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives regarding the upcoming foreign aid bill.

The fellowship they selected me for is an additional title for a student who represents a true Armenian community member. The fellowship is in remembrance of a woman who passed away a couple of years ago. She was very devoted to the Armenian cause and community through all her involvements. 

Could you tell me more about Maral Melkonian Avetisyan?

When you say her name, everyone in the Armenian community knows who she was. Everything she did was devoted to the community. She had the spirit of a fighter. She devoted so much of her time to help the Armenian community and inspire others. She was so young when she passed away, and she had so much to give. This fellowship is in her name to recognize someone who has that spirit and who can continue her name forward even though she herself cannot. 

How long have you been involved with the Armenian community? 

I’m from Armenia. I came to the United States when I was five, and a couple of years later my family realized there was an Armenian community in Rhode Island. I became involved with the Armenian organizations that were in the area, and I’ve been involved ever since. 

What made you want to go into International Relations? 

When I was younger, I wanted to become an international lawyer to work on ties between Armenia and the United States. As I became exposed to more classes, opportunities, and courses at Roger Williams, I realized there is so much more out there, and many more paths. I’m trying to look at the bigger picture right now and see all the options I’ve been presented with. Although it’s such a small school, the amount of opportunities I’ve been presented with are truly incredible, and I could not be more thankful. 

How have your experiences at RWU prepared you for the work you are doing now?

I’m the Vice President of the student body. I’ve been on the Student Senate since freshman year, which taught me a lot of leadership skills. I’m the president of the Model United Nations team at RWU as well. Going to conferences, debating, writing bills, negotiating, and preparing groups of students has allowed me to understand what my weaknesses are, what my strengths are, and where I can look for improvement. It taught me to know myself better. 

Every faculty, advisor, and everyone I’ve come across at Roger has been so supportive and motivational. When I tell them what I want to do, they’ll say, “I know this person, I will help you. I’ll get you in contact with them so you can see if this is what you want to do.” Honestly, if it weren’t for them, I would never have had the opportunities I’ve had.

I can’t wait to see how this year will go. Even with the partially virtual education, I know I can apply the skills and knowledge I will gain to my future endeavors. 

What lessons have you learned from your fellowship? 

It’s important to know at the end of the day how much one person can have an impact on a larger scale. People might think that one person cannot affect change. In reality, your one voice is enough to create a better environment for yourself and for everybody around you. Everything starts at a local level. One person can affect change locally, which will create a ripple effect. Never underestimate your power.