MBA Student Spotlight: Marina Vanyan

Marina Vanyan is no stranger to Woodbury University. Marina graduated with her Bachelor of Architecture degree from the Woodbury University School of Architecture in 2002. After having spent twenty-four years at a corporate firm, Marina went on to start her own firm, Vanyan Studio, five years ago. With a passion for leadership and entrepreneurship, in the Summer of 2022, Marina decided it was time to earn her MBA degree. For this, she returned to her alma mater and enrolled in the Woodbury University School of Business. As Marina embarks on this new chapter of her educational journey, she discusses her journey as an entrepreneur, her decision to pursue her MBA, why she chose to return to Woodbury to continue her education, and the lessons she has learned along the way.  

Having received your Bachelor of Architecture from Woodbury in 2002, what made you want to return for your MBA? Why did you specifically choose the Woodbury University School of Business to pursue your MBA at?  

While I majored in architecture, design has always been my interest and strength. Business, on the other hand, has always been something I was fascinated by, and always looked for opportunities to research and educate myself on. Furthermore, I never sought leadership, it found me.  

[In] early June 2022, I had the privilege to join a Woodbury MBA Workshop and listen to an amazing presentation given by Dr. Paul Sabolic. It was just a glimpse of the concept of the business plan. I then realized that knowledge in this field [would be] a significant improvement that [was] needed for my business growth.  

I had been seeking to merge my creative and entrepreneurship skills and strengthen my leadership abilities. For me to be able to gain that knowledge, I was seeking a program that was reliable and in alignment with my core values. I could only think of Woodbury University to be that source. The three tenets of Woodbury University’s MBA program– Responsible Leadership, Sustainable Business, and Self-Empowerment– will provide the pillars that will allow me to advance [towards] the successful long-term vision for my future ventures.  

Please describe your entrepreneurial journey.  

I received my Bachelor of Architecture degree and continued my work experience in a medium-sized architectural firm for the next 24 years. [I] worked on several types of projects [in] all phases of architecture. My responsibilities included marketing, project programming, schematics, design development, construction documentation, research and specification writing, budgeting, and project and construction administration. 

After 24 years of work experience at a corporate firm, I finally started my own firm 5 years ago. My passion for entrepreneurship and quest for knowledge, best practices of leadership, and business success could no longer be ignored. I then allowed myself to seek knowledge from others on how to succeed in business. As my children grow [into] their adulthood, I decided to pursue my MBA to enhance my management skills, become a better business owner, and learn to be an authentic leader. I am currently the Principal at Vanyan Studio. We are a Certified Women-Owned Business design firm with a primary focus on healthcare. The majority of our work is with Kaiser Permanente, where I can really put my passion to work and be part of bigger conversations for innovation and growth. I am delighted to bring leadership abilities, innovation, and my passion for design. Our vision is to design a powerful and passionate future, one project at a time. 

How have the courses that you have taken so far in the MBA program benefited you or influenced how you make business decisions?  

So far, it has been an amazing journey. Starting from the theories and concepts learned [in] economics, finance, and statistics to reading great excerpts from Plato, lessons from Socrates, and Harvard Business Review articles on strategy, leadership styles, philosophical theories, etc. I am now amazed at the amount of knowledge this program has been able to offer thus far in a such short amount of time. The highlights of the program have also been the inspirational stories shared by Professor Satinder Dhiman. In my experience, inspirational short stories can shift our thinking and compel us to make positive life changes. They can even shed light on concepts and teach us to alter our perspective. Furthermore, having opportunities to work on group projects has been a great way to [simulate] a business environment [and] work on a forum with members from diverse backgrounds. This team-based approach has demonstrated a common collaboration with colleagues from all different, personal, professional, and academic backgrounds.  

As an entrepreneur, what is an important lesson that you have learned?  

There comes a point in an entrepreneur’s journey to realize that leadership is not about me. It is about the vision and all this capsule can offer to make a small, tiny impact on this world [and] to empower the people around me. People are one of the greatest investments in life, family, and business. But, specifically in business, choosing the right people can help [a business] to succeed.  

The best part of my profession is that I hope I can shape the environments of others through my work. This is something that is an attraction to most people who study architecture and think the work we create can make a difference in people’s lives, even if it is just for a mere second. Imagine the bigger impact we can make on an individual’s life with the way we work and our authentic leadership style! Another important lesson that I have learned is not to focus on immediate results. Everything that I have done with consistency that is in alignment with my values and discipline has compounded. So, doing the right thing– every time, every day– is a proven strategy for me.  

What do you hope to achieve during your time in the MBA program and what do you hope to gain the most from this experience? 

During my time in the MBA program, I am hoping to achieve continuous improvement and [fulfill] my commitment to learn [and] to apply new skills to help my company to grow.  

The most that I hope to gain from this experience is confidence. Improving effective verbal and written communication skills will help me to better convey concepts to different team members and ensure an understanding of working together toward a common vision.  

This has been an inspiring quote that has had the power to motivate and encourage me to live my life to the fullest: 

“Why you lead and the way you lead are important. They define YOU, your leadership, and ultimately YOUR contribution.” – John Maxwell 


Last Updated on December 8, 2022

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