Graduate Colloquium Planning Committee

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Armen Adamian, born and raised in Los Angeles, is a recipient of a graduate fellow in UCLA’s Ethnomusicology program. He graduated with BA’s in both Music Composition and Psychology. Focusing on ideas of nation-hood and group identity, Armen aims to examine the socio-dynamic implications of Armenian musical practices worldwide.


Jesse Siragan Arlen is a 2nd year PhD student in Near Eastern Languages & Cultures. He has a B.A. in Linguistics (UCLA), an M.A. in Historical Theology (Wheaton College, IL), and an M.A. in Early Christian Studies (University of Notre Dame). He researches the languages, literatures, and histories of Near Eastern Christianities (especially Armenian and Syriac) in the Late Antique and Medieval periods, with special attention to their continuities and discontinuities with Graeco-Roman Christianity, and their location within the Arab Islamicate world.

Rosie Vartyter Aroush

Daniel Fittante is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at UCLA. He received his B.A. from UCLA (2005) and M.A. from the University of Chicago (2010). Daniel works on contemporary Armenian diaspora and immigration. His doctoral research evaluates the political incorporation of the intra-ethnically diverse Armenian community of Glendale, California. While his dissertation research largely pertains to the Armenian community of Glendale, his extended research assesses the distinctive multi-polarity of Armenian activity worldwide. Thus, he is also developing comparative research projects in Yerevan, Moscow, Paris, and others. 


Carla Kekejian is a M.A. candidate in Human Development and Psychology at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education & Information Sciences (GSE&IS). Currently, her work focuses on bilingual and second language development and acquisition across the lifespan and speech and language disorders among bilingual individuals. Carla is also affiliated with the Armenian Studies program at UCLA’s Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures where she studies gestural communication among women in rural Armenia.


Kristine Martirosyan-Olshansky is a doctoral candidate in archaeology at the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Her research interests focus on the prehistoric societies of the Armenian Highlands and Southern Caucasus, namely the early sedentary agricultural societies and their lithic technologies. She uses scientific methods to trace the geological origin of obsidian artifacts found at the Neolithic site of Masis Blur in the Ararat Plain to address questions of prehistoric mobility, resource utilization, as well as interactions with the inhabitants of nearby regions. Kristine has been conducting field research in Armenia since 2008. She has served as a trench supervisor at the Areni-1 Chalcolithic Cave site, a co-PI on the Survey of the Arpa River Canyon Project, a visiting archaeologist on the excavations of the Armenian medieval capital of Dvin, and is currently a co-director on the Masis Blur Archaeological Project, a Late Neolithic settlement in the Ararat Plain. She has also participated in archaeological research and excavations in Israel, Egypt, and Peru. Kristine is currently serving as the Assistant Director of research program in Armenian Archaeology and Ethnography at the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology.

Alyssa Mathias is a PhD Candidate in the UCLA Department of Ethnomusicology. She received a BA from the University of Chicago and an MA from UCLA. Her research explores the relationship between the creative arts and development in present-day Armenia. A violinist and singer, she performs a wide variety of music from Europe and the Middle East.


Daniel Ohanian is a PhD student in the department of history at UCLA. His research interests lie in social and intellectual history, the relationship between structure and agency, and Ottoman and Armenian history. He is co–principal investigator, with Prof. M. Erdem Kabadayı, of the research project ‘Recovering Armenians in Late Ottoman Istanbul and Making Ottoman-Era Population Data Available for All,’ funded by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, and director of research at the Sara Corning Centre for Genocide Education in Toronto. He holds a BA in history and French studies from York University, an MA in history from York, and an MA in history from Istanbul Bilgi University. His doctoral research concerns the involvement of Armenian and Orthodox Christian (“Greek”) trust networks in eighteenth-century Ottoman governance.

Maral Sakayan graduated from UCLA in June 2016 with a B.S. in Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology. She now pursues a Master’s degree in Biology with an emphasis in Evolutionary Medicine, performing research on bacterial antibiotic resistance. Maral is a former Undergraduate Colloquium in Armenian Studies committee member and presenter. Following her graduate studies, Maral plans to attend medical school.


Ani Shahinian is a third year graduate student, under the supervision of Professor S. Peter Cowe, in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at UCLA.  Before commencing her studies at UCLA, Ms. Shahinian studied Philosophy and Theology at the University of Oxford.  She received her B.A. in Philosophy and Professional Writing and Editing from the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). Prior to her graduate studies, Ms. Shahinian worked at the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), assisting with investigations and prosecutions of human trafficking cases and criminal civil rights abuses.  While working at DOJ, she detected parallels between contemporary and historic human rights violations.  Her career at DOJ became a corresponding journey of investigation and discovery of her identity as a Christian Armenian-American directing her research interests in the field of Eastern Christian Studies.  Her current research interests include the question of Christian martyrdom in the context of the Armenian Genocide and the Christian martyrs in Armenian history in general.

Ara Soghomonian

Sona Tajiryan is a PhD Candidate at the University of California, Los Angeles, Department of History, Chair in Modern Armenian History. She took her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Middle Eastern and Arabic Studies from Yerevan State University, Department of Oriental Studies (Armenia) in 2009 and 2011 respectively. She is mainly interested in the early modern global history of diamond and gem trade, as well as the role of Armenian merchants in the trade conducted between India and the Mediterranean (from roughly 1650s up to 1730s). She is currently in the process of writing her dissertation under the supervision of Dr. Sebouh Aslanian.

Christine Thomassian is a graduate student in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at UCLA. She received her B.A. in Hebrew from UCLA and is currently pursuing her M.A. in Semitic Languages. Christine’s research interest lies in the interrelation between Armenian and Syriac literatures in Late Antiquity and Medieval periods.


Ceyda Tinmaz-Steele is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, Los Angeles. She completed the Gender Studies Concentration program at the same university in 2015. She earned her Master of Education in Turkish Language and Literature Teaching from Marmara University in Istanbul. Her research focuses on Christian women, space and agency in the late-nineteenth and early twentieth-century Ottoman Empire.


Anatolii Tokmantcev
 is a PhD student at the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at the University of California, Los Angeles. In his research, he focuses on contemporary religious nationalism in the Republic of Armenia and the Armenian Diaspora. Before joining the Armenian Studies Program at UCLA, he had received his Bachelor’s in History from the Siberian Federal University in Russia. In 2011, he obtained his Master’s from the Department of Cultural Anthropology at the European University at St. Petersburg, Russia. Anatolii is one of the contributors to the recently published book, “Armenian Christianity Today,” which examines the social, political, and cultural impact of religion on Armenians in Armenia and worldwide.