SWLAW Blog | Events

Commencement Slide of LL.M. graduate Arman Asryan

May 27, 2022

Graduating LL.M. Student's Journey from Artsakh to Southwestern

When Arman Asryan walks across Southwestern’s commencement stage on May 29 and receives his LL.M. degree, we want you to know how he made his way from Artsakh[1] to Los Angeles. His story is remarkable.

Born in Artsakh, his origin story is colored and stained by war, conflict, and turmoil. Notwithstanding the struggle for ongoing survival, Arman has an unshakeable loyalty to Artsakh and an overarching societal purpose dictating his educational journey.

Arman was not a typical student. He became fluent in English, became the student body president, excelled in his classes, served in the army, and read Charles Bukowski poems. His fourth and final year of his legal studies at the State University of Artsakh was interrupted by a call to active duty (he had already completed his compulsory military service). Thankfully, he was able to complete his studies post-war.

Arman chose to pursue law as a career path when he realized human rights and international law are the foundation of his country's future.  Because he experienced the devastating consequences of combat, he seeks war-free resolutions and the elimination of all human rights abuses in Artsakh.

Arman was determined to study law abroad and learned about the Southwestern/Artsakh scholarship program. Artsakh's State Minister himself, Artak Beglaryan, recommended Arman for the program. Shortly after that, he "met" Armenian Bar Association Chair Lucy Varpetian '96. He and Lucy developed an excellent rapport. So much so that she was the second person (after his parents) with whom he shared his acceptance notice.

His greatest worry in applying to Southwestern wasn't whether his grades or application packet were enough, but whether we would accept his degree from Artsakh State University - a four-year institution of higher learning that is off America’s higher-education grid. There is the added complication that even though Artsakh declared its independence, it is not a “recognized” state.  Southwestern’s administrators (led by Vice Dean Anahid Gharakhanian) and admissions team, identified Arman as an ideal LL.M. student both academically and as a man of strong character with a passion for human rights.

When Southwestern offered Arman a seat in its LL.M. program, it was only 30 years after Artsakh declared its independence. 

True to Arman’s story, the hurdles continued; there was a global pandemic, he needed a visa and travel arrangements, and he had to emotionally prepare to leave his home and family. His U.S. LL.M. journey was off to a bumpy start. Arman participated in evening classes remotely from Artsakh (with an 11-hour time difference) for two weeks until his visa arrived.

Finally, on August 29, 2021, Arman arrived in Los Angeles. Arman quickly embraced the "every day" of Armenian-American culture. He attended community forums, events, and visited significant Armenian sites, like the Armenian Genocide Memorial in Montebello, and the old Armenian quarter and Massis Cemetery of Fresno. It was important for Arman to learn and understand the Armenian diasporan communities that had established themselves over the past several decades throughout the State of California, and yet had never lost their sense of belonging to Armenia and Artsakh.  

Arman describes himself as having “a desire to never see tears of mothers who lose their sons” and quotes Martin Luther King, Jr. by adding “A man dies when he refuses to stand up for that which is right.”

Portrait style photo of Arman AsryanTo commemorate successfully completing Southwestern’s LL.M. program Arman will join his student colleagues on Sunday, May 29, at the Rose Bowl for our 107th Commencement Ceremony. We suspect a large Livestream audience from his home country and we join his family and friends in celebrating Arman’s amazing accomplishments as well as the commitment and grit it took to achieve them! We are looking forward to the force for change and peace Arman will be for Artsakh and the world.

Southwestern's entire community was honored to host such a deserving and determined future Artsakh international human rights lawyer and is delighted to continue building our relationship with the Republics of Armenia and Artsakh, and are grateful for the support of the Armenian Bar Association.

The Good News Continues!

This spring, Southwestern Law School signed memoranda of understanding (“MOU”) with the Human Rights Defender’s Offices of the Republics of Armenia and Artsakh (respectively).

For the next four academic years, Southwestern is offering up to two full scholarships for our LL.M. program. The two annual scholarships are a shared opportunity and the respective offices will collaborate on the student recommendations for the duration of the MOU.

We hope to see students from Armenia and Artsakh follow in Arman Asryan’s footsteps in futurecommencement ceremonies.

Southwestern’s relationship with the respective Human Rights Defender’s Offices and the resulting scholarship program, would not have been possible without the critical roles played by Southwestern alumna, Lucy Varpetian '96, and the Armenian Bar Association. Lucy and the Armenian Bar Association will continue to consult with all parties and we are humbled and grateful for their commitment to the program and to the people of Armenia and Artsakh.

[1] The Republic of Artsakh was arbitrarily carved out of Armenia in 1921 by Joseph Stalin and placed under Soviet Azerbaijani administration. During seven decades of Soviet Azerbaijani rule, the Armenian population of Artsakh was subjected to discriminatory policies aimed at its destruction. On September 2, 1991, Artsakh declared its independence by a democratic vote in which 82% of the voters participated and 99% of those votes were for independence. (Source, Armenian National Committee of America)