By Ramin Rajaii
UCLA Luskin Student Writer
Lucy Martikyan emigrated to the United States from Armenia when she was just shy of being a teenager. Her birthplace suffered under the influences of former Soviet rule, teetered with widespread corruption, and lacked educational opportunities for women.
Her parents, one a jewelry shop owner and the other a professor, were financially established in Armenia. Yet with no hesitation they began anew in a
foreign country for the benefit of their children.
In the U.S., lacking English proficiency, Lucy’s father became a truck driver and her mother a teaching assistant at an elementary school. At the time, Lucy, just shy of her 13th birthday, did not fully understand her parents' sacrifice but realized that with newfound opportunity, she was to take full advantage of it. Little did she realize the obstacles she would face in both learning the language and in acclimating to an often-times biased culture.
“I studied really hard and went to my teacher's offices to make sure I was understanding everything,” explained Martikyan, a 2011 Public Policy graduate from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, about learning the language in the classroom.
However, it was adjusting to the social and cultural atmosphere
that Lucy truly felt like an outsider. As she recalls, when she was in middle
school, her peers traveled in cliques and would often alienate her.
“Surprisingly, I felt this most from the Armenians at my middle school,” Martikyan recalled. “It was they who, born Armenian but in the U.S., looked at me like an unwelcome outsider.”
Although she felt isolated from her
Armenian peers, she found comfort in making friendships with others who had
similarly come from different areas.
“My good friends, being a Vietnamese girl and Indian guy, immigrated from different areas and shared the same stories," she said. "Knowing them helped me open up. For once, I was not feeling like an outsider because I had not watched the same cartoons or TV shows during my childhood.”
Having acknowledged her parent’s sacrifice and found her niche as an
Armenian-American immigrant, Lucy Martikyan was ready to effect change as her
parents had wanted. Keen to get her hands dirty and influence U.S. public
policy, she earned her Master's in Public Policy from Luskin in 2011 and was involved both inside and
outside the classroom.
During the program, Martikyan oversaw a governmental project exploring new city revenue streams. She researched issues impacting the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power including water pipe bursts, health hazards, and water and energy rates.
“I desired to see Los Angeles as a more environmentally friendly place; I wanted to ensure that the DWP became more transparent, ensuring that the ratepayers had access to information to better understand the need for a rate increase,” she said.
Upon graduating, Martikyan then shifted her gaze to politics. She became the director of voter outreach for Austin Beutner in his campaign for Los Angeles Mayor. During his seven-month run, she managed volunteers and interns during campaign events, directed a research program and helped guide key communication efforts.
Although her experience with Beutner was rewarding, it was in campaigning outside of Los Angeles in which she felt the pressure to perform, now fully immersed in the politics and culture of the U.S.
“I moved to Nevada and became deputy campaign manager for Justin
Jones, who was running for Nevada State Senate," Martikyan said.
"On the night of the election, Justin's number came in last and by that time the other democratic candidates had lost, so it was all on him."
In the end, however, they came through; her contributions helped them win by several hundred votes.
Most recently, Martikyan has been hard at work supporting Cindy Montanez to be the only woman candidate running for LA City Council.
“My objective here has been to ensure the campaign runs smoothly and to resolve strategic and administrative obstacles," she said. "With elections on July 23, we simply need to keep up the momentum.”
Ultimately, one of the most important qualities Martikyan valued from her UCLA education was the curriculum’s emphasis on practicality. She was able to carry these traits seamlessly into leading the change she planned in the classroom.
“I learned to listen to the needs of the community. I learned to plan the next steps — to devise solutions that show understanding of the issues at hand,” she said, explaining her experiences from UCLA Luskin.
Once an immigrant searching for a niche, Lucy now understands these same issues and her community — a community she once felt was unwilling to accept her. Martikyan has found her niche in the world of policy making. She has overcome the obstacles of transitioning to a new country, intent on sacrificing for others as her parents have done for her.
An Armenian-American immigrant, student turned UCLA Luskin grad, she is ready to change a country she can now call home.