Student and community involvement is at the heart of Marine Vardanyan, a dedicated student who has used her undergraduate career at Fresno State to its fullest potential. As a Public Health major, with an option in Community Health, she maintained a 3.98 GPA, having been on the President’s List numerous times. She is an extraordinary student of the college who exemplifies the college’s mission to foster leaders in the health and human services field.
When Marine Vardanyan talks about her time at Fresno State, she displays a refreshing dose of enthusiasm for not only the campus community, but for the region as a whole. As an exemplary student of Public Health, she uses her compassion to aid others in her efforts to improve the health for all. She does it all with a bright smile and a giving heart, full of candor and spirit.
Her love for the health field has deep roots that stem from her childhood in Post-Soviet Armenia. Her parents, natives of Yerevan, Armenia, uprooted their family, including Vardanyan and her older brother, to America when Vardanyan was just 6-years-old. Even though the English language was difficult to grasp at first, Vardanyan caught on quickly and was soon acting as a translator for her parents and grandparents.
This included many trips to doctor’s appointment for her grandfather, who lost several limbs in his earlier life, including both legs and some fingers.
“I knew from the beginning that I wanted to go into health,” says Vardanyan. “I saw firsthand the hardships my grandfather, in particular, went through and how well he’s adapted. It inspires me to want to help others, whether they’ve had an accident or with mental problems. I want to help them adapt to everyday life and function as normal, healthy individuals.”
Vardanyan entered Fresno State in the fall of 2011, having already completed over 200 hours as a volunteer at the VA Central California Health Care System and a clinical internship in nurse assistant training. All this while she was just in high school at Duncan Polytechnical High School, where she would graduate with a 4.30 GPA.
She came to Fresno State with a distinct goal in mind – to pursue her academics with the core values of discovery, diversity and distinction at hand. She credits her background as a first-generation immigrant as the reason why she challenges herself, personally and academically. It is her desire to grow, learn and discover that has sparked her passion of community involvement.
The passion she displayed in the classroom was a vital component in Vardanyan being chosen to join the College of Health and Human Services’ Honors Scholars Program inaugural cohort during the 2014-2015 academic year. She worked alongside her peers from various majors within the college, providing an opportunity to enhance her skills in inter-disciplinary collaboration in order to address health and social needs within the Central Valley region.
“Being part of the first group of Honors Scholars and not knowing what to expect and then coming out with so many different skills and perspectives has been such an awesome experience,” says Vardanyan. “The program has really changed my outlook on teamwork. Everyone brings so many unique things to the table, which just made the whole experience so much better. My classmates have become like family to me and I am honored to have been one of the first students in that program.”
Vardanyan’s group implemented a health fair at the Hinton Center in West Fresno, which is known for its highly impoverished population. They brought out valuable resources not readily accessible in this targeted area, including oral screenings, vision tests, blood pressure monitoring and provided basic health education on nutrition and diabetes.
“We just try to help with what we can as students,” says Vardanyan. “Health fairs like that have the potential to make a big impact on the community. It was very empowering to think ‘wow we can really make a change’!”
In addition, Vardanyan is actively involved in the Fresno State community, having been a part of several clubs and organizations throughout her four years on campus. Most notably, she served as the editor and contributing writer of the Armenian student newspaper Hye Sharzhoom, which sparked her decision to minor in Mass Communication and Journalism. She also regularly volunteers her time to host KFSR radio show “Hye Oozh”. In fact, every Saturday morning you can catch her live on the station – something she has been doing since she was a junior in high school. To date, she has dedicated over 600 hours to talk about a topic that she holds dear to heart – her Armenian heritage.
“I really like getting involved with the Armenian community,” says Vardanyan. “The radio station, especially, has a special connection to my family. When we first got to America, it is all we listened to. So it is exciting to now host the same show that my family listens to every Saturday morning.”
Vardanyan prides herself in her heritage and applies that same concept to her academic career. Coupled with her love for her native country and her role as president of the Fresno State Armenian Student Organization on campus, it should come as no surprise that Vardanyan is also pursuing a minor in Armenian Studies.
Even with so many activities already on her plate, Vardanyan was never one to turn down any opportunities to advance. She wanted to continuously involve herself with the campus she loved, and for the past two years, has served as the event coordinator for University Student Union Productions. She considers herself a proud Fresno State Bulldog.
“Fresno State has given me so many opportunities to grow and I don’t think I would be who I am today or be as involved if Fresno State didn’t foster that,” says Vardanyan. “I feel like this University captures the best of what we have – great faculty, great students who are driven and we do so much on campus, educationally and culturally, that inspire people to feel more empowered in their lives. Being a Bulldog is so important to me. I take so much pride in it.”
Going forward, Vardanyan plans to take a year off from her educational pursuits to gather more field-work experience in her field of study. Her next goal, one of many, is to attend graduate school, focusing on the areas of epidemiology or occupational therapy. No matter which road she chooses, Vardanyan knows her parents and family will be right by her side supporting her. And come commencement day, she will walk the same path as her older brother, Vachagan, who on that day, will also be receiving his bachelor’s degree in computer science.
“I have a great, supportive family,” says Vardanyan. “My parents had a good life in Armenia, but they sacrificed all that to come to America so that their children could have a better life. I hope that by seeing their children graduating and succeeding, it will show them that what they did was worthwhile.”
Marine Vardanyan is a candidate for the prestigious California State University, Fresno University President’s Medal, which is the highest honor the University presents to an undergraduate student. The President’s Medalist is selected from the nine undergraduate Dean’s Medalists who represent the academic colleges and schools and the Division of Student Affairs. The awardee will be announced at the University Commencement on May 16, 2015.