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LAVC Faculty Member Makes a Difference for LGBTQ+ Students
Posted On: Feb 07, 2022

Hasmik Arakelyan, who serves on the Guild’s Adjunct Faculty Issues Committee (AFIC), has been a faculty member in the L.A. Valley College psychology department since 2014.

“I identified as a cisgender woman and a lesbian from a young age, and I love being a lesbian and a woman,” she says.

Her experience has motivated her to help others accept themselves.

At LAVC, Arakelyan has been extremely active in LGBTQ+ issues. She created a support program, an LGBTQ+ center, and a resource page on the student services website. She organized the first LGBTQ+ conference at LAVC in 2019 and is the advisor to the Gender and Sexualities Alliance (GSA) Club. She holds workshops, provides counseling on campus, and collaborates with the LAVC Health Center to reach students, in addition to leading Safe Zone training every semester for faculty and staff.

“I basically created a job for myself,” Arakelyan says.

One especially big task she recently completed was obtaining over 700 books on LGBTQ+ issues for the college library and the LAVC Multicultural Center, which is set to open in spring 2022. If the state approves the curriculum, Arakelyan hopes to create an entire LGBTQ+ department at LAVC.

Another remarkable achievements is the founding of the Rainbow Pride Scholarship, a scholarship dedicated to students within the LGBTQ+ community. Arakelyan used her own funds to seed the scholarship, and each year she donates more of her own money to keep it going and to make sure her students are supported throughout their college journey.

For her efforts, Arakelyan received the Outstanding Service and Mentoring to Students Award in 2017, which is bestowed to a person who helped one or more students by enhancing their education, personal lives, or career goals. That same year, she also received the Standout Educator Award, one of five Apple Awards coordinated by students of Tau Alpha Epsilon (TAE).

Arakelyan, who also teaches at Cal State L.A., serves on the LACCD’s Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on LGBTQTA+ Affairs. She holds workshops at numerous other colleges and universities throughout the Southland, including Pepperdine, UCLA, and Cal State L.A., and for various organizations such as the CFT Community College Council.

Outside of LAVC, Arakelyan provides counseling at the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center, conducts sensitivity training for a variety of clients, and hosts LGBTQ+ workshops for students struggling with issues such as coming out and maintaining relationships.

In 2019, she was featured on KNX radio as “Hero of the Month” for her work in the community. In December 2021, West Hollywood Mayor Pro Tem Sepi Shyne honored Arakelyan with a proclamation for her teaching/pedagogy, contributions to LGBTQ+ students, and LGBTQ+ activism.

What Arakelyan says she loves most is when her students change their perspectives about the LGBTQ+ community. She tells her students, “Some of you may hold homophobic attitudes, but it’s not okay to stay homophobic after this class.”

Seeing the growth of her students is what initially drew her to working as a professor.

“Education is the best form of evolution,” she says.

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