September 18, 2015

Veronika Zonabend: IDeA and Scholae Mundi launch new joint educational projects

UWC Dilijan College welcomed 94 new students this year. As of now, 190 students from 63 countries study at the college. In May 2016, UWC Dilijan will have its first graduates, and the college founders are ready to help them continue their education. Mediamax talked to Chair of the Board of Governors of UWC Dilijan College, co-founder of IDeA and Scholae Mundi Charitable Foundations Veronika Zonabend.

Mediamax - UWC Dilijan College welcomed 94 new students this year. As of now, 190 students from 63 countries study at the college. In May 2016, UWC Dilijan will have its first graduates, and the college founders are ready to help them continue their education. Mediamax talked to Chair of the Board of Governors of UWC Dilijan College, co-founder of IDeA and Scholae Mundi Charitable Foundations Veronika Zonabend.

- In May 2016, the first students enrolled in the 2-year international baccalaureate at UWC Dilijan will graduate. Naturally, we can’t be indifferent to their future, and we launch a number of programs aimed at helping them continue studies.

We should remember that all our educational initiatives in Armenia are meant for turning the country into an educational cluster bringing together people of various nationalities who seek new out-of-box ideas and strive for changing the world. For this purpose, it’s necessary that Armenian citizens first of all be open to the world and know what’s going on in other countries. These goals are very ambitious and only joint efforts can help us address them. That’s why, we try to implement all our programs with partners - both private and institutional.

Jointly with Luys Foundation, our Scholae Mundi Foundation issues 50 grants covering 50% of annual tuition fee for graduates of Armenian descent from any of 15 UWC colleges, who are enrolled in one of the top 10 universities according to Academic Ranking of World Universities. It's a 5-year project and it will be administered by Luys Foundation in accord with their mechanisms.

Jointly with the American University of Armenia (AUA), Scholae Mundi launches a scholarship program for supporting students of non-Armenian descent who studied at UWC. 5 students will get a 50% annual scholarship for 4 years. The scholarship contenders will be selected by AUA standard procedures. Also, all the UWC Dilijan graduates may apply for our Foundation's financial support in case of entering one of the top 10 universities outside of the U.S. - Oxford and Cambridge Universities in the UK, McGill University in Canada, Federal Polytechnic School of Lausanne in Switzerland, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, National University of Singapore and others.

Another program is aimed at supporting secondary education. It is linked to 100LIVES initiative within which we allocate 100 scholarships for studying at the UWC colleges. The program is an act of gratitude on behalf of the Armenian people to the countries which helped Armenians survive the Genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Turkey 100 years ago. In 2016, the grants will be awarded to girls and boys from Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine and Egypt from refugee camps, as well as orphans and representatives of vulnerable society groups. We hope the UWC schools will do their best to bring these children back to normal life. The program is meant for 8 years. The selection will be carried out by UWC national committees in the relevant countries.

- Many UWC graduates enter leading universities of the world. Are you planning to familiarize the UWC Dilijan students with the terms of admissions in various universities?

- Yes, we are constantly doing this. On September 23-24, UWC Dilijan will host heads of admissions commissions of 5 U.S. universities - New York, Cornel, California, Wesleyan and Tufts. They will get acquainted with our students and tell them about the admission requirements. Generally, UWC graduates are very much loved by top U.S. universities, partially owing to large-scale Shelby Davis Scholarship program which annually issues 100 grants to UWC graduates who are enrolled in the U.S. educational institutions.

We are also going to organize visits of representatives from Higher School of Economics of Moscow, Innopolis University and the Yerevan branch of Moscow State University to the UWC Dilijan.

As English is the language of instruction at the UWC, naturally, the students are first of all interested in English-speaking universities. At the same time, we should take into account the fact that the prospect of free education is a good impetus for learning languages. For instance, the world currently sees growth of interest in German as Germany announced allocation of scholarships for their universities not only to the EU students, but outside of it. If Armenia had such a program, the number of people willing to learn Armenian would increase manyfold.

- You often say that UWC Dilijan should be maximum integrated in Dilijan's life and you regularly hold various events for the residents of the town. What new events are in store for Dilijan people?

- I'm confident we will be more active in Dilijan's life. Recently, we have reorganized Dilijan Youth Centre, which made considerable success engaging a lot of children from Dilijan, Ijevan and adjacent villages. Now, we have expanded the areas of its activities turning the Centre into Dilijan Community Centre to boost more active involvement of Dilijan people. Community Centre is a joint project of several participants. For instance, now, Scholae Mundi Armenia launches a joint program with TUMO. We are going to cooperate with the Central bank, Teach for Armenia and AUA in Dilijan. As for now, it is us who mostly fund the programs, but we hope that as the Centre develops, each participant will bring his expertise and resources to the project.

We're happy to see that Dilijan residents started giving us ideas and offers. For example, the Dilijan children initiated a football contest which was supported by the Dilijan Youth Centre. I think people start realizing gradually that often much depends on them, their readiness to come up with ideas and involve in their realization. It's a significant shift in people's mindsets. To ensure organic development, residents need to feel they are owners, believe in themselves and understand that they are the creators of their future. We hope in near future, Dilijan will become one of the most attractive places to live in Armenia, especially for families with children.  

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