By Jacqueline Karaaslanian
Luys Foundation - Education
To the editor,
I wish to formally respond to Maneh Hakobyan's article that she entitled "A little bit about Luys Foundation," published here on May 17, 2013.
I would like to question the "little bit" that means a great deal to me and so many others.
First of all, Luys has a two-fold mission: Learn and Do.
1-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.
2-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—we need to know how to use it.
I am the grandchild of Armenian Genocide survivors, and I am very aware of how the killings of April 24th mark the painful intention of wiping out all of our intellectuals and therefore our future. It took until 2009 to finally see a foundation charged with the mission of rebuilding our brain trust. Today's technology allows us to address and unite ALL of Armenia's offspring and make a call. If you are 18 to 40, are an Armenian citizen or of Armenian decent, and get accepted to one of the world's top universities, Luys is ready to support your education.
Why the world's top 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.
Luys scholars have already secured successes. Only recently a Luys scholar at MIT 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 was congratulated by Prince Charles on the occasion of receiving a special award for his research in material physics to respond to the ever growing need of new energy sources. Another scholar at Columbia University has been given a grant award for her research in Architecture for Peace. These are only the latest accomplishments from the past 5 months, and there have been many since the creation of the foundation 4 years ago.
Our accomplishments do not measure only in the number of scholarships we grant—although it is high at 200 per year—but in the quality of what our thinkers produce for Armenia and by extension for the world.
This mission is the motivation behind my move from the US to Armenia in 2009 and accepting the task of shaping and running the Luys Foundation's education programs. I left my position of 28 years at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston where I was running the Future of Learning and Media Fabrics groups. MIT is listed by US News and World Report as the number one university in the world. I came to Luys with solid experience of knowing how to go from concept to full implementation of a project. I learned how to be patient and forgive small thinkers and to focus on the work and mission handed to me. It takes time, dedication, and hard work to be able to deliver tangible results, and we do.
The Luys Foundation serves a mission that is bigger than anyone's ego or personal agenda.
Luys scholars are setting the goal of creating a self-sustained education fund. Each of the 10 million Armenians worldwide needs to contribute a minimum of only $10 dollars a year for 3 or 4 years to reach $300,000,000 by 2015. The yearly interest rate of the fund will allow us to grant an average of 350 scholarships per year perpetually.
That said, Luys is already growing the brainpower that is propelling us towards a positive future at a very healthy pace.
In addition to granting scholarships Luys Foundation engineers the infrastructure to harvest and invest the knowledge of its scholars in Armenia while participating in shaping the knowledge trends of the world.
We all need to stop thinking about Armenia as being isolated from the rest of the world and start considering her as an active contributor to the knowledge-based economy. The fuel of the future comprises brainpower, education, and innovation, and we can and must excel in this field.
So far 260 scholars have received Luys Scholarships. If we are to count annually granted scholarships this figure reaches 411 with an average of $22,000 per scholarship and a total of $9,042,000 over a period of 4 years. This is an all-time high scholarship granting process and the largest in the Armenian world since 2009. Thus far the funding has only come from Armenia's private sector. The message is powerful—Armenia is standing tall and working hard to emerge from mainly a charity model of survival. Its private sector is still in major need of development and support but also of workers with a 21st century set of skills. Luys is responding to that need.
Luys generates the highest rate of students with a top education settling in Armenia. To date 54% of our graduating population is happily employed, of which 20% are from the Diaspora.
The foundation's achievement is already visible in the world's top centers of excellence. Abroad Luys scholars have successfully branded Armenia as a country with powerful brainpower and a land of opportunities.
Here are some figures about the placement of our students: 39 students at Columbia University, 18 students at Harvard, 15 students at MIT, 57 students at UCL, 16 students at Cambridge, 17 students at Oxford, 18 students at Toronto, and the list goes on. The numbers are incrementally doubling every year. You can meet our scholars and read about their profiles by visiting www.luys.am/armenianworld.
The Luys operations cost is very low, as it should be, for any efficiently run foundation with only 7% of its full budget, and the rest of the 93% goes to scholarships.
Our foundation has a significant presence in the world's public eye with an average of 122 countries visiting our website on a monthly basis. This statistic is accessible from all pages of the Luys site; see the footer at www.luys.am
The information and figures you have gathered to write your article do not correspond to reality. We are a new foundation with applied programs in constant growth, operating thus far with funds from the Armenian corporate industry only and with a lean staff of 12. It is simply not possible to grow faster until our Diaspora joins in.
We intentionally did not start our fundraising campaign until this year, because we did not want to be about promises but about results that are not only measured by the number of scholarships but by what our scholars and their designed programs accomplish in the country and the world. We have a very long and eloquent list of successes that we consider the success of all Armenians.
Our intention is to continue raising the number of Luys scholars annually. Although it is true that Luys does not produce 1,700 scholars worldwide, please pause a minute to think about what such an undertaking would mean in terms of time, preparation of our youth, and funding in real dollar figures to grant scholarships that would amount to the $45 million annual budget you are fathoming. The actual funding resource needs to exist first.
Be reassured that Luys has a very realistic fundraising strategy to achieve by 2015-2016. We need all of you to please take action: http://www.luysfoundation.org/contribute.
We regret that your article reports completely fabricated information. Instead we invite anyone to directly talk to any of the 260 Luys scholars that can easily be contacted through our website and read about them on www.luys.am. You may also wish to chat with one of the additional 500 high school students enrolled in our mentorship and internship programs.
As is customary, we always respond to people that wish to verify facts and not solely rely on gossip. We believe that the code of ethics journalism demands prevails over slander and assumptions. We need reporters to rise up to the occasion to rebuilding our brain trust. Unfortunately there are people who still confuse journalism with propaganda or sensationalism. But we have hopes for change in the near future with the generation of new thinkers that we help grow at a fast speed.
I wish for all readers to please stay away from the massive dark cloud of gossips that is presently hurting every good organization in Armenia. Please take the time to read and check facts personally so that people who not only dream big but work hard—and there are many of us—have the chance to build the positive future of our homeland. Join us!