A Final Year with Azniv Khaligian ‘22
- Copyright 2021. All rights reserved.
By William Dowell ’22
A wonderful part of Carthage’s liberal arts education is the ability to pursue multiple interests simultaneously. This could be as casual as an elective or a club, or could involve dedicating yourself to multiple academic pursuits. For Azniv Khaligian ’22, that meant majoring in both music and neuroscience. I spoke with Azniv about the coming year and lessons she has learned over her four years.
How was your summer? What did you do?
I worked as a lifeguard at Kenosha Country Club and also a few hours a week in the Music Department as Dr. Kawakami’s assistant. I tried to keep it a low-key summer because I had a trip planned to Armenia and Georgia for a humanitarian program for some of the kids living in villages there, but by the time we hit August, the delta variant reared its ugly head and the government in Georgia increased their travel restrictions that ultimately cancelled our program. The pandemic-induced FOMO is real, but at the same time the opportunity to just be still and enjoy being at home in the outdoors is one that I know I will be thankful for as the busyness of normal life returns.
As Carthage moves towards a more traditional in-person school year, what are you looking forward to doing again?
I’m thrilled to have music stand partners in Carthage Philharmonic again, and full science lab experiences as opposed to reduced/every other week. In larger music ensembles, string players are not used to playing six feet away from the rest of their section which can feel very isolating and takes away a lot of the fun and collaboration. As for the labs, I had severely reduced courses the past three semesters due to limited seats, which meant we did only about half the experiments that would normally be scheduled. I am so thankful that everyone at Carthage has been vaccinated, or at least has the privilege and opportunity to become vaccinated, which has allowed us to resume college’s most enriching activities safely at normal capacities.
What is something you want to try before you leave Carthage?
Harp is an instrument I have always been intrigued by, and as a senior music student I felt it was time to take advantage of Carthage’s harp program and finally study it! I’ve had one lesson and it’s already giving me a whole new musical perspective that I know will help me with violin and in other musical pursuits.
What is something that you are nervous about?
College is like a bubble; you’re surrounded by peers who are on similar paths and professors who are being paid to help you towards your post-undergrad goals, whatever form they may take. There are built-in opportunities for socialization, and the variety of classes we get to take is far from the monotony of a traditional 9-5 job. I’m nervous about the thought of leaving school for the first time since kindergarten and that the real world will not be as forgiving. Still, I look forward to the adjustment and the new experiences that come with it.
You are both a music major and a neuroscience major, how do you plan capping off both sides of your college journey?
I have thoroughly enjoyed pursuing music while at Carthage, and I plan to milk my music education for all it has to offer. I am preparing a senior recital in violin as a formal celebration and thank-you to myself, the instrument, and everyone who has supported me on my musical journey. I will always return to music as a practice of self-improvement and outlet for entertainment, community, service, and artistry.
The neuroscience end is kind of funny, because I have yet to complete three out of the five neuro-specific courses in the neuroscience major. I actually prefer this, because it has given me a sense of mystery and novelty that has lasted all the way into my final year. It is rewarding to see all of my chemistry and biology prerequisites coming together in an advanced class in neuroscience. I look forward to my thesis, and also a final research study and presentation in Dr. Dassow’s bioacoustics lab. The true “cap” to the neuroscience side of my college journey will be a position as a research assistant at a university upon graduation, and I hope to further my education in the sciences after a few years of experience at a research university.
What is something you never expected to happen during your time at Carthage?
I never expected to spend six hours a day with white-handed gibbons and meet one of my best friends in the same summer. In 2019, I participated in the Carthage Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) to collect data for original research in Dr. Dassow’s lab. My friend and colleague Joy Layton and I were tasked with recording and performing detailed analysis on several hours of ape play and vocalizations at the Racine Zoo. Later that year as a sophomore, Joy and I jointly presented our findings at my first national undergraduate research conference, another incredible honor which I could not have predicted. Opportunities like this for undergraduate students are rare at large research universities, so I believe it is a testament to the abundance and accessibility of Carthage’s programs that this was made possible.
What is your favorite spot on campus?
I love the grassy tree-covered areas overlooking the lake behind Tarble and the Caf. It’s so peaceful and meditative, and almost otherworldly with the sounds of the lake drowning out any other noise.
What is something you think every student should try before they graduate?
A double-toasted honey whole-wheat bagel with honey almond cream cheese from Einstein’s.
What advice do you have for incoming students?
Learn how to be comfortable doing things by yourself, and develop your personal tastes. Learn what it is that you enjoy for what it is, rather than for what your friends enjoy, or what is most popular among your peers. Sometimes being alone is scary, and is admittedly sometimes out of my own comfort zone, but I’ve discovered a faith and confidence that wherever I am in life, I will be able to create my own opportunities for happiness and emotional fulfillment. I do not mean to be insensitive to the many factors that are beyond your control, or that people don’t need friends or shouldn’t ask for help, only that knowing and liking yourself is best happened sooner than later no matter your circumstances.
Also, don’t pay full price for textbooks. Use bookscouter.com, ask around, and help each other out!
What is a life lesson that you have learned at Carthage?
I swear I’m not getting paid to say this. A liberal arts education is modern and useful. It cultivates an appreciation and acquaints one with different fields so that we might be more understanding, compassionate, and collaborative with others and ourselves. Furthermore, most scientific breakthroughs are not made by specialists, but by critical thinkers who make interdisciplinary connections and view a subject through diverse perspectives and lenses. I view the way that courses outside my major have challenged my brain in new ways of thinking as invaluable to me, and I will continue to draw on my liberal arts education long after my degree is completed.