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New Faces: Vaneh Darakjian

Born in a refugee camp in Germany, Darakjian eventually settled in Las Vegas with her family and made her way to UNLV. Now this alum is busy promoting the high-quality graduate education offered by her alma mater.

People  |  Feb 27, 2017  |  By Diane Russell

Vaneh Darakjian, director of communications and marketing at the Graduate College. (R. Marsh Starks/UNLV Creative Services)

Vaneh Darakjian recently moved from a communications position at the law school into her new role as director of communications and marketing at the Graduate College. She said she values knowing that UNLV employees get to make a  difference in the lives of students every single day.

Why UNLV?

I’m a two-time UNLV grad (’06 BA Journalism and Media Studies, ’10 MBA), so when the opportunity to work here presented itself, I jumped on it. I wanted to give back to my alma mater.

Where did you grow up and what was that like?

I grew up in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, graduating from Palo Verde High School. My childhood was pretty normal, though people tend to think growing up in Vegas is so different from what it really is. I went to school, made friends, lived in a hotel … just kidding.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

When my mom was eight months pregnant with me, she, my dad, and my brother fled war-torn Iran and lived in a refugee camp in Germany, where I was born and lived for two years before immigrating to the United States. My parents tell us about the time a bomb was dropped at the airport where they were both working. Or about how they would travel out of the city and stay with friends in the countryside every night to be safer. I am forever grateful for my parents’ sacrifices and courage to leave family, friends, and all they had ever known so my brother and I could be safe and have a better life.

What is your job title and what are some of your duties?

I’m the director of communications and marketing at the Graduate College. Part of my job is to help tell the story of graduate education at UNLV. What are our students and faculty working on? What sets UNLV’s graduate education apart from that at other universities? It’s all in an effort to recruit more graduate students and faculty and help elevate UNLV to Top Tier status. The other equally important part of my job is to communicate with current graduate students and faculty. Our goal is to make sure they know about all the events, programs, and resources offered by the Graduate College to support them.   

How long have you worked at UNLV and what other jobs have you had here?

I started working here in 2012 as marketing specialist at the law school and eventually became the associate director of communications there. I had a wonderful boss and a great experience.

What drew you to your new job?

I’d heard only great things about the team and all the new and exciting things going on at the Graduate College, and I wanted to be part of that. Stepping into a newly created position can be intimidating because there isn’t a charted course, but it’s also exciting to imagine all the possibilities and help shape what will be.  

How is working at UNLV different from other places you have worked? 

I think we often forget that we are making a difference in the lives of our students every single day. We are helping them achieve their academic goals so they can eventually achieve their career goals, contribute to society, and create the kind of life they want for themselves and their families. Not every workplace gives you the opportunity to work toward something as important as this.

If you couldn't work in your current field, what career might you like to pursue?

I would pursue a Ph.D. in psychology and teach at a university. I think it’s interesting to explore why people experience life the way they do.   

Tell us about a time you have been daring. 

Before coming to work at UNLV, I worked at MGM Resorts International doing internal communications. My job afforded me the opportunity to do some pretty cool things, like interview Carrot Top and start a fountain show at Bellagio (it’s just a push of a button!). It also afforded me the opportunity to do something pretty daring. I climbed into the very tip of the Luxor light beam! Heights are not my favorite, and this ascent required climbing a few sets of very tall, 90-degree ladders without any sort of safety harness. I was terrified, until I finally got up there and saw the entire city in every direction. It was amazing, as was the number of dead moths scattered all over.

Tell us about an object in your office that is meaningful to you and why.

I have a photo of my daughter, Nyree, in my office that I love. She just turned 1. She inspires me every day.

One tip for success.

You never know what people are dealing with, so be kind. You’ll never regret it.

Proudest moment of your life?

Hands down, my daughter’s birth. My husband and I are so blessed.

Hobbies or pastimes? 

Before becoming a mom, I loved reading books and watching television. I guess my hobbies are still the same, but now I read books like The Very Hungry Caterpillar and watch shows like Sesame Street.