MBA Faculty Spotlight: An interview with Dr. Anjala Krishen
Anjala Krishen has been a professor in the marketing department at the Lee Business School for the past twelve years. Throughout her tenure, she has been heavily involved in teaching, research, and mentoring. In the Spring of 2020, Dr. Krishen joined the Lee MBA office as director of the program and we are very thankful for her leadership throughout the recent pandemic and transition to our hybrid program! We can’t wait for everyone to meet her in person on campus, but in the meantime, here’s a taste to hold you over from a recent conversation.
Are you obsessed with anything outside of work or family?
I've been a long-distance runner since 2000. I started with 5ks when my kids were little. It was just something I wanted to do to get in shape while spending time with the family. I was competitive in my division for years and, back then, concentrated more upon speed until I discovered my love for long-distance running.
These days I enjoy competing in a few marathons and ultras every year. Regardless of my personal or work schedule, I always make sure I run around 26 miles every week. Any mile is a good mile – it doesn't matter how long you take as long as you get there in the end.
What has been your best investment (this can be anything related to investments in time, money, energy, etc. - in other words, it doesn't have to be your best stock pick...)?
This is going to sound cheesy, but it's the truth - getting my MBA. I had an undergraduate engineering degree, and after three years working in the industry, I needed a new challenge. I took a few MBA classes, and I was hooked. Upon completing the program at Virginia, I got a 20% raise! The MBA provided me with the skills and confidence that I could perform when called upon – just like what happens in class.
For instance, in my previous job, my team dealt with the after-effects of an acquisition. I had to think on my feet and offer solutions to the upper management of the new company. The MBA helped me learn the language of business. When I needed it, I could fluently express the value we created for the company and how important our role would be in the years to come.
Lastly, since we're talking about investments, I'm a big fan of Vanguard Funds and dollar-cost averaging! Keeping it simple and consistent has worked well for me.
What book might you recommend to others and why?
Sound Shadows of the New World by Ved Mehta is on the top of my list. The author overcame adversity with flair and creativity. Through his writing, Mehta became somewhat of a hero to me. He taught me a lot about the ego, how to form a sense of self, and how to navigate the feeling of not fitting in. His books are plentiful and each one has so many lessons about life, love, humanity, and creativity. Themes of resilience and gratefulness are always present in his books, and those messages continue to be meaningful to me.
Do you have a favorite quote?
"Any mile is a good mile" is one that I coined, and it works for me. It's essential to set goals, go the distance, and commit/complete with integrity. Do what you say you will do and then get it done. It doesn't necessarily matter how fast you cross the finish line, just that you do - whatever that finish line looks like for you. I also want to mention that the zero-sum game and jealousy are two of my least favorite things. Notice that I never mention who else crosses the finish line, or how much money they make, or what they complete. Thinking that someone else's gain is your loss is a major fallacy and one that people should avoid. Of course, if they encounter someone who does think that way, then walk away, and fast.
What is your favorite failure?
When I ran my first 100-mile race on Valentine's Day 2015, I stopped moving forward around mile 86 or so, I at first didn't know how to sit with that failure. I was disappointed in myself and hurt that I didn't do what I set out to do. Shortly after, I had a simple but powerful epiphany – it is okay to fail. At times, we put so much pressure on ourselves to achieve a particularly lofty goal; we need to remember to dust off and try again.
Here I was on the weekend, spending my free time being miserable because I ran thirteen miles short of 100 miles? I had to reframe the moment and realize that it wasn't worth ruining my day or weekend over it! After all, I was doing something I love, being outdoors and engaging in a healthy practice! After that, I had a complete paradigm shift about failure and success. Failure means not trying, and success means giving my best to everything to do.
What inspired you to become a professor?
My dad came over to the U.S. to get his Ph.D. from Kansas State University. He worked in academics for some time and retired from NASA after a forty-plus-year career as a chief technologist. He's still heavily involved with multiple universities. He always encouraged me to challenge myself with higher education and led by example. While still in Virginia, I just decided to go back to school and get a Ph.D. I enjoyed the marketing classes I took in my MBA program, so that's what I chose to focus on in my studies. I may not have changed my career path had it not been for my father as an example of hard work and dedication to higher education.
What do you enjoy most about being a professor?
For me, being a researcher is so intertwined with being a teacher. I don't want to regurgitate knowledge for my students to consume. I want to teach my students how to figure things out independently and give them the tools to seek out that knowledge in the library. Research is at the core of everything when it comes to education. Once students understand how the web of knowledge works, their minds open up to the expansive set of possibilities and learning they can experience to enhance their command over any subject matter.
The confluence of research, teaching, and service provides the foundation of my pedagogical philosophy. We all benefit from the synergies amongst those three elements. I am also privileged to be a mentor. Mentoring is a large piece of the service component of my "professor triangle." As an interdisciplinary professor, I mentor/publish/collaborate with faculty in multiple disciplines – previous doctoral students, assistant professors, and many others. My goal is always to open doors for mentees and help them network with other faculty and leaders.
Why should people take the classes you teach?
I teach elective graduate courses in marketing; MKT 720 – Marketing Research, MKT 725 – Global Consumer Behavior, and MKT 747 – Global Digital Marketing Strategies. By and large, the students who fill my classes are already interested in the subject matter. For those who are a bit wary of marketing or unfamiliar with the subject, I would encourage them to give one of my classes a try. Marketing is both an art and a science and fundamental to life. Knowledge wouldn't exist without marketing. If you discovered something and never published it or got people to read it, that knowledge would disappear. Consumption is key, and marketing helps deliver value to those who produce and use tangible and intangible assets.
In my courses, I focus on higher-level skills (such as reflective learning). My students will be managers, professionals, executives, and professors one day. So, when you take my classes, you will learn about marketing, learning, and writing a good paper. My classes are a lot about creating content. I like to keep things exciting and connect the dots between theory and practice in our everyday lives.
You are primarily responsible for designing and implementing our new hybrid program. How do you feel it will enhance an MBA's education and experience while at UNLV?
I never jump into something without doing my due diligence and conducting research. When I started researching pedagogy in hybrid education, I found ample research in support of this modality. No matter what decision we make, we will always have to learn and adapt along the way, but I feel that the hybrid is a perfect mix of moving us forward a little bit in online learning while keeping our sense of community healthy and intact.
Our hybrid program will involve one week of in-person learning while the next week will be remote. We want to make the weeks we are on campus special, filled with mixers, speakers, and other outside-the-classroom networking/learning opportunities. Occasionally, we forget how special some of our interactions can be, so we hope people will take full advantage of these valuable opportunities.
Also, flexibility allows for more inclusivity. Having a week off from being physically present in a class, reducing the time spent in traffic, and saving gas on another commute, will benefit the many people we are trying to serve. We understand the daily grind, the deadlines, and family and work responsibilities. This flexibility will allow some people to now participate in excellent education and the experience we can provide with the LEE MBA.
Parting shot - anything you want to add that wasn't covered or inspiration for MBAs to take advantage of everything the program offers.
I would say that students should take full advantage of all the people they are surrounded by in the program, including faculty, staff, and classmates. An MBA is a rare opportunity to have access to graduate faculty and collectively learn from diverse backgrounds. An MBA can broaden perspectives and serve to strengthen individual identities. I recommend that students step outside of their comfort zones (their boxes) and be vulnerable.
They should also get to know our new MBA Advisory Board and apply for the new Director's MBA Advisory Mentoring Academy, which we will unveil in the summer, 2021. In other words, they should reach out and learn from people in the program. The bonds students develop in the program can extend well beyond graduation. Today is a great time to start learning, creating connections, and building a network with excellent professors, practitioners, staff, and classmates.