Diana Dundukova might have been born for business. As a preteen in her western Ukraine town, she recalls selling her toys and magazines to other kids in the neighborhood. Some of the money she earned from that first business venture, she suspects, was used to help pay for plane tickets when she emigrated to western Wisconsin at age 10 with her parents, Igor and Nataliya, and her older brother, Dmytro.
Blessed with an artistic bent, Dundukova flirted with the idea of going into acting after graduating from Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau High School in 2018 before deciding to study graphic design at Western Technical College. At Western, her studies sparked an interest in marketing, and she decided to take advantage of the 2+2 program and transfer to Viterbo University to complete her bachelor’s degree.
That program made the transfer process seamless, she said, and the transfer student scholarship made Viterbo a good fit with her plans to graduate from college with little to no debt.
Now she’s about to graduate (a semester early, no less) from Viterbo with a bachelor’s degree in marketing and plans to earn a Master of Business Administration degree with an emphasis in strategic management. Long range, she envisions herself as an international business strategist, consulting with global businesses to help them find the best strategies to succeed.
“I am very excited for my future, and I am also very fortunate that I found my passion right away,” Dundukova said. “I don’t think many individuals at 21 can map out their next 10 years, but I feel that I can get very close to what I want my life to look like.”
Dundukova’s interest in strategic business came during a Viterbo class taught by Jeffery Nyseth. “That class was very eye opening,” she said. “It made business bigger for me, thinking about how you make a business successful in another country.”
Nyseth had Dundukova, a first-generation college student, in several other marketing classes, and it’s easy for him to envision her becoming an international business strategist or anything else she would decide to do. “She is a great student and really represents the finest attributes of an outstanding, motivated student and peer leader,” he said.
Looking back, a job shadow she did in high school with the creative director at Misty’s Dance Unlimited was a key turning point for Dundukova, inspiring her interest in graphic design as a step toward becoming a creative director herself. She began working for dance studio owner Misty Lown a few months after her job shadow, and upon graduation she has a full-time job lined up with Lown’s More Than Just Great Dancing, a business that helps affiliated studios on three continents achieve the kind of success Lown’s dance studio business has had.
“I think the big thing about Misty is leadership, and I’ve been blessed to have a great job working for someone who has a mission,” Dundukova said. “I’m super fortunate to work among very inspirational women. It motivates you to be successful and reach for something more.”
Meanwhile, Lown feels fortunate to have Dundukova on her team, too, saying she brings three important traits to the entrepreneurial arena: humility, hunger and intelligence.
“She is eager to contribute to the success of the team and doesn't care who gets the credit so long as the job is done well. I love that!” Lown said “On the ‘hungry’ side, she is so eager to learn and grow. She spends time outside of her role requirements researching new skills or trends that would benefit the team or clients. As for the smart part? Well, you only have to meet her to see that!”
Lown describes Dundukova as one of a kind.
“Her eyes literally sparkle when she talks about all she is learning at school and creating in life,” Lown said. “We recently had a new role open up for a leadership position on a new product. She volunteered to take it on, which is a big undertaking. The role requires a whole new skill set, but I don't have any worries. Diana will figure it out!”