Joshua Torosyan, a senior in molecular biology & biochemistry, excels in the classroom, but he feels most accomplished when assisting others. And as a mentor and tutor, the Reseda native is making a difference on the UCI campus by helping fellow undergraduates overcome the same fear of academic failure he once had.
Torosyan is a member of Peers Under BioSci, a mentorship program for biological sciences majors, helping incoming students adjust to new workloads and schedules. He also tutors for TRIO Scholars, a government-funded program that seeks to support first-generation, low-income and disabled students in their educational endeavors.
“I believe that everyone is capable of being knowledgeable in any subject,” Torosyan says. “It’s always such a pleasure to see the look on a student’s face when, after working with difficult material for so long, they finally grasp a concept – and with that comes a big sense of relief and an even bigger smile.”
As a peer tutor for organic chemistry last year, he kept office hours that drew both regulars and one-timers. Torosyan’s goal was to provide a safe space for students to learn the subject matter – and leave with greater confidence in themselves.
“I always emphasized that there should be no fear when asking a question and that I was once in their shoes,” he says. “A student can’t possibly learn if they worry about the nonexistent judgment they believe will come along with the question they’re asking.”
His sentiments transcend academia. Torosyan has found that this fear of judgment inhibits success in many areas of life. “Being a tutor made me realize that people should never place limits on themselves, and this goes beyond a classroom environment,” he says.
In his spare time, when he isn’t mentoring or tutoring, Torosyan can be found volunteering. It’s “another great opportunity to not only help others, but also help yourself grow as an individual,” he says.
Last summer, he offered his time to ICM Medical Group, a clinic in Inglewood. Torosyan – who hopes to become a surgeon – checked patients in, recorded their vital signs, asked about their health history, conducted oxygen measurement tests and shadowed doctors to learn the different aspects of operating such a facility.
Many of the people there were Ethiopian, and Torosyan enjoyed getting to know their culture and language, Amharic. “I loved working with the older patients,” he says. “I would greet them in Amharic and ask how they were doing, and it would put such a big smile on their face, because they saw someone trying to engage, be friendly and learn more about them, instead of just treating them like another name on a list.”
His campus and community contributions have been enabled by the Rose Hills Foundation Scholarship for undergraduates planning careers in science or engineering, which he was awarded this past school year. It allowed him to shift his extracurricular attention from financing his education to helping others.
Torosyan is one of many grateful UCI students who benefit from philanthropic support. These scholarships partly cover university expenses and enable recipients to engage in activities outside the classroom – such as research or community service – that enrich their UCI experience and increase their success after graduating. UCI provides nearly 1,000 scholarships funded by generous donors, giving students more than $4 million in academic aid.
“A scholarship, to me, is practically a blessing, and I am so thankful,” Torosyan says. “It impacts me in the sense that I don’t have to worry my mom about how we’re going to pay for certain parts of tuition, rent all the way through the school year and books for particular classes.”
“Seeing the relief and sense of security in my mom’s face was the best part about my scholarship,” he adds. “She’s done so much in order for me to go to school and accomplish my goals that she deserves to not have another single worry in her life.”
After earning a bachelor’s degree, Torosyan plans to attend medical school. Until then, he’ll continue to mentor, tutor and volunteer.
“When I graduate from UCI, I’d just like to be able to say that I’ve made an impact on someone’s life for the better,” he says. “You can have all the fancy awards, titles and honors, but I think the biggest achievement is how well you’re known for helping others.”
Publicly launched on October 4, 2019, the Brilliant Future campaign aims to raise awareness and support for UCI. By engaging 75,000 alumni and garnering $2 billion in philanthropic investment, UCI seeks to reach new heights of excellence in student success, health and wellness, research and more. The School of Biological Sciences plays a vital role in the success of the campaign. Learn more by visiting http://www.bio.uci.edu.