Alumni Spotlight: Karnig Kazarian

Karnig Kazarian (FPPA 2005) is a council member for the City of Fowler and continues to work in his family’s agribusiness. He serves as chairman of both the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency County Committee (Fresno) and the South Kings Groundwater Sustainability Agency. In addition to completing his legal education, Karnig worked in the Office of Governor Schwarzenegger, the California Business, Transportation and Housing Agency, and the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Tell us one fun fact about yourself.
At the age of eighteen, I agreed to a one-month study abroad program in the heart of Mexico; but, in the spirit of self-discovery and exploration, I boarded a one-way flight and found my way home by land after the program.

How do you bring Coro experiences into your day-to-day work as a Council Member for the City of Fowler?
With a myriad of wide-ranging issues coming before a city council, it is critical to be able to identify the crux of the issue while evaluating the competing viewpoints and interests. Coro provided me with the tools, such as effective inquiry, to navigate this difficult terrain. Instead of succumbing to myopic statements disguised as questions, Coro taught me to uncover the truth by disposing of any assumptions, asking objective questions, and having an open mind when crafting a solution based on that truth-seeking pursuit.

What moment(s) from your time as a Coro Fellow do you think back to most often?
The moment was my first neighborhood meeting when I gazed around the standing-room-only space—hearing impassioned discourse on the problems facing the neighborhood and witnessing the commitment to working together to develop community-based solutions for the betterment of the neighborhood. This was the moment when I was able to put names and faces to the term civic involvement and thereby truly understand its meaning.

If you could go back and give yourself some advice during your time in the FPPA, what would you say?
This program is going to change your life, so continue to embrace each and every moment; but, you should understand that the shake-up is part of the process. My father always analogized his time in the Peace Corps to coins in a jar: You enter the program with your set of beliefs and assumptions as neatly stacked coins in a jar. Then, the jar is shaken, and coins are removed, added, polished, and restacked—causing you to leave the program in a completely different state than how you entered it. The FPPA has a similar transformative effect.