Born in Canada, Araz Najarian, BVG ’00, spoke Armenian and French in her family home, so when she arrived to Bayview Glen at age 7, she was a little shy about speaking English. “I remember being in a classroom on the first day, and I was unable to open a box of crayons. Another little girl helped me, and later we played together at recess,” Araz says, “and that was the beginning of a friendship that continues to this day. It’s a beautiful memory and for me it captures the spirit of the school.”
“It was easy to fit in because Bayview Glen was so multicultural,” Araz continues. “We celebrated different traditions through our holiday concerts and assemblies – eating latkes, learning other cultures’ traditional dances, celebrating Hannukah and Christmas. I will never forget the time that Mr. Renglich, the Music Teacher, taught the choir a traditional Armenian song that my mother brought to the School. My grandparents came to the concert and it was very special for them to see children of every nationality singing our Armenian song.”
In addition to the diverse student body, Araz appreciated the opportunities to travel abroad through the Round Square program. “ Bayview Glen gave me the chance to travel and see how other people live,” she says. “I went to Australia for six months at the age of 15; the following year I went to India as a volunteer for 2 months – where there was no electricity or running water and we were living in tents. These two experiences completely changed my worldview! Bayview Glen planted the seeds of wanting to move around and see the world, not as a tourist but actually living in different cultures.”
After graduating from Bayview Glen in 2000, Araz earned a Bachelor’s degree in Public Affairs and Policy Management at Carleton University. As an undergraduate, she worked part-time for the Ministry of Industry, with a focus on telecommunications and broadband projects. “I had the opportunity to see what is working and what is not working in government policy development,” Araz says, “and I found it quite slow and bureaucratic.”
Araz also volunteered for AIESEC while at Carleton. AIESEC is the world’s largest student organization. It provides young people around the world the opportunity to experience team and leadership roles locally and internationally in addition to professional international internships in private companies, public and educational institutions, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and independent socially-focused projects.
“AIESEC’s leadership is elected each year by the membership of the organisation,” explains Araz. “I was elected President of the Canadian office and a year later moved to the global office in Rotterdam to increase AIESEC’s market presence amongst young people and organisations in Latin America. The schedule was intense; she travelled to 18 different countries in a year to grow the organization. The following year she worked with teams in Brazil, Russia, India and China to stimulate their growth.
“AIESEC gave me the opportunity to see how to drive massive change – over 110 countries with 1000 chapters involved, plus thousands of volunteers – it was about learning how to drive change on a global scale,” explains Araz. “The experience taught me that volunteers are motivated by having a sense of purpose and belonging; the freedom and responsibility to make choices and have a say in the organization. What’s more, I recognized that all people in any organisation are motivated to perform at their best when they are fully engaged.”
For four years now, Araz has been working with ELP based in the Netherlands. A Supervisory Group member of AIESEC who is also part of ELP’s network recommended the organisation to her. Operating from the Netherlands, Belgium and the UK, ELP is an international network company focused on supporting organisations, teams and individuals realise breakthroughs taking their performance to the next level.
“My work is focused on supporting organisations transform to a new growth paradigm; one that sees future growth as more than just an extrapolation of the past and also as the transition to something new,” Araz explains. “This transformation requires both changes in processes, structures, systems and also in culture, values and individual behaviours.”
Working with ELP Araz continues to explore new countries and easily works with leaders of different ages, cultural backgrounds and levels in her client organisations. She also continues to speak at various conferences including the International Leadership Association, the Women’s International Networking Conference, LEAPWomen and the Wall Street Journal Europe’s Future Leadership Summit.
Though Araz now primarily works with corporate organisations, she continues to engage in projects with social and public organisations such as a global values based banking alliance, as a member of the Hub network and other non-profit organisations in the Netherlands. “Today, progressive organisations are recognizing that they need to engage people to perform by giving them a sense of purpose. Many successful organisations today use their organisation’s purpose as a guiding compass for decision making, products & services and innovation; by not directly focusing on shareholder value they achieve better results,” she says. “I am really enjoying being part of that change.”
“Bayview Glen taught me that that learning is a lifelong practice,” Araz shares. She continues to learn through self-study and holds various professional certifications including being an accredited practitioner of Cognitive Edge and Deep Democracy. She is an avid reader of literature and uses storytelling structures such as Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey in designing aesthetic experiences for her clients.
“Being a student at Bayview Glen gave me a solid academic grounding, and the confidence to be open to and create new opportunities,” she says in conclusion. “I also made great friends who I am grateful are still part of my life today!”
Bayview Glen is proud to include Araz Najarian amongst our Notable Alumni.