Scholar with eye on law degree trains with national women's rugby team

Jeff Rice
January 30, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Azniv Nalbandian isn’t a conventional planner. She prefers taking on short-term goals that are within her control to trying to plot out long-term goals that are not.

“Sometimes if you get too caught up in planning, the linear nature of life is a little constricting,” she said. “I’m just taking things as they come.”

At the same time, Nalbandian is a high achiever — on the rugby pitch, where she is a captain on Penn State’s women’s rugby team and a member of the United States national squad, and in the classroom, where she is a Schreyer Honors Scholar who carries a 3.83 GPA.

Liberal Arts student and Schreyer Honors Scholar Azniv Nalbandian

Schreyer Scholar Azniv Nalbandian is a double major in Russian and women's studies who hopes to attend law school after graduation.


Nalbandian spent three weeks with the U.S. Women’s 15s team this fall, the first portion of it in Chicago, where the United States team hosted New Zealand at Soldier Field.

“They’re the best team in the world,” Nalbandian said. “That was a little daunting, having my first game against them.”

The team then traveled to England and to Ireland, playing against the national teams in both countries.

“That was a really great learning experience, and you’re humbled in a way, too, because you’re thrown in against some of the best people in the U.S. but also against the best teams worldwide,” Nalbandian said. “Moving forward, it just gave me a glance of the commitment and hard work you have to put in every day to be selected.”

Nalbandian has been a part of two national championship teams since coming to State College in 2015, so she knows what it is like to raise or maintain high expectations. After graduating this May, though, she is looking for opportunities to play in competitive women’s leagues as she and her U.S. teammates prepare for the 2021 World Cup.

“The continued challenge is pushing yourself to be better,” she said. “That’s with anything. I try not to let myself get complacent. I’m always trying to push myself.”

Nalbandian was accepted into the Schreyer Honors College during the fall semester of her junior year, and though she joked that her friends asked her why she wanted to “add more work and stress to her life,” it was the same internal push that drove her to do so.

“It offered a challenge, which is something I look for,” she said. “The Honors College has a lot of resources and offers a lot of support, with funding, with career opportunities. It was just a way to maximize the opportunities I have here. It was something I thought I could do.”

A double major in Russian and women’s studies, Nalbandian is looking to apply to law schools. She may defer for a year to focus on training for the World Cup, but she has already spoken to several lawyers about what she might expect and the kind of work she could do with a law degree.

“Advocacy and self-efficacy is something that I’m really interested in and not everyone has the means or opportunities to seek that out,” she said. “Being an advocate for someone else was something that was really appealing to me, and law, because it’s so broad, you can do a lot with it.”

Nalbandian, who played ice hockey until deciding she wanted to try a new sport during her junior year at high school, couldn’t have planned the current path she is on. Nor would she have wanted to.

“I never thought I would get to the level that I’m at,” Nalbandian said. “I think that’s the same for when I came to Penn State. I never thought that I would be in the Honors College. For me, I think goal-setting and attainment is really important, but being specific, for me, would be stressful and constraining, in a way.

“I’d rather work as hard as I can and see what opportunities pop up.”

About the Schreyer Honors College

The Schreyer Honors College promotes academic excellence with integrity, the building of a global perspective, and creation of opportunities for leadership and civic engagement. Schreyer Honors Scholars total more than 2,000 students at University Park and 20 Commonwealth Campuses. They represent the top 2 percent of students at Penn State who excel academically and lead on campus.


Last Updated January 30, 2019