It’s not surprising that Ryan Nazari ’21 fell in love with the concept of “unpublished texts” in a Shakespeare class taught by English Prof. Andrew Keener. In many ways, his identity as an American of Assyrian and Armenian descent—cultures afflicted by war and genocide, with vast diasporas worldwide—is an “unpublished” one, little reflected in books or current news.
From kindergarten on, Nazari was regularly told by teachers and others that his language and culture didn’t exist. But he never stopped pursuing knowledge about both, finding it in places like Ethnic Studies Prof. Allia Griffin’s class on the Middle Eastern diaspora—where he had academic space to ask questions about his identity. He did much the same while studying abroad in Rome, after he received a grant to talk with Assyrians living in Sweden.
As a child of immigrants, he also didn’t have the normal role models to teach him how to read and write at the advanced level he desired. But Nazari did have strong problem-solving skills, which he learned especially from his mom, Roussana. While she doesn’t have a college degree, he credits her with raising him and his three siblings to be confident and successful adults: his brothers are studying at Harvard and University of Southern California, while his sister is graduating from high school next year.
Roussana, who now works as a project manager at a tech company, found ways to send her kids to private Jesuit schools, and encouraged them to find the means to attend college. Nazari, a double major in English and philosophy, was invited to become a LEAD Scholar at SCU for academically strong students whose parents did not complete four-year colleges. He received Pell Grants and other aid to attend Santa Clara.
As a Fulbright, he will teach at a university in Armenia and conduct English workshops for refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh, Syria, and nearby regions.
“Learning English is a way to help inspire agency and confidence,” said Nazari, who hopes to be either a college professor or lawyer. “When I studied English at SCU, I really became confident in who I am.”
Nazari also has been a writing tutor at the HUB Writing Center, a peer educator for LEAD Scholars, and a Canterbury Scholar, through which he conducted research into the works of Assyrian poet William Daniel and their relevance today. Nazari presented his research at a Johns Hopkins conference and an article on it may soon be published in Johns Hopkins’ Macksey Journal. He was active in the LEAD Program all four years, finding it a supportive environment that offered him extracurricular opportunities and funding, emotional support, and guidance.
About the Fulbright Program
The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The primary source of funding for the Fulbright Program is an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Participating governments and host institutions, corporations, and foundations in foreign countries and in the United States also provide direct and indirect support. Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields. The program operates in more than 155 countries worldwide. For further information please visit https://us.fulbrightonline.org/.