A Conversation with Minerva Graduate Student Diana

Apr 17, 2021

This is part of a series of profiles introducing Minerva’s Master in Decision Analysis (MDA) students from the Class of 2023. If you would like to learn more about the MDA program, please visit minerva.edu/graduate-programs.



Since she was a teenager, Diana Hrankina has strived to challenge herself to explore the world outside of her home country, Ukraine. After graduating from high school with a strong academic record, she enrolled in Kyiv Technical University to study chemical engineering in preparation to work in factories, which she thought could give her a stable job in the future. However, her university experience was not what she expected as she felt her studies were not preparing her for life after graduating. Instead, she transferred to Kyiv National University (KNU,) which had more open-minded staff and allowed her more freedom to explore.

At KNU, Diana joined AIESEC, an international youth-run organization that provides young people with leadership development, cross-cultural internships, and global volunteer exchange experiences. In her third year, she was invited to study in Kyrgyzstan as a financial consultant through the organization, where she had the chance to experience a new culture. When she completed the exchange, she stayed in Kyrgyzstan for two more years as the Vice-President in Organizational Development of AIESEC and, then, served as the President of another non-governmental organization. The goal of her time there was not to be an international tourist, but rather to work and learn from the local people. Her time abroad was pivotal and transformed her personality as she was able to expand her comfort zone and begin to understand the differences in mindsets between people and cultures.

“I remember when I went to Kyrgyzstan, people greeted me with hugs, which I had never experienced at home. That was the first interesting cultural difference,” Diana shares. “[For example, I saw how] people communicated closely with each other. Those things showed me how different each country is in terms of culture and communication and taught me how to adapt to new environments. Gradually, I started hugging people and learned how to listen and understand people’s mindsets and behaviors.”

Feeling more mature and open-minded from her time in Kyrgyzstan, Diana’s curiosity about the diversity in cultural communication continued. She wanted to know what influenced the mindsets and habits of different groups of people. To start, she began to learn foreign languages as a possible reflection of different cultures’ cognitive processes and communication styles. Now fluent in Ukrainian, Russian, and English, Diana is currently studying Arabic, where she notes the ambiguity in the creation of many words. In her opinion, this ambiguity leaves space for people to invent and diversify their uses. Ultimately, Diana wants to be able to use her knowledge of the language to better understand how Arabic-speaking people solve problems and communicate with each other.

Another of Diana’s motivations is to understand the impact of Western influence on the rest of the world. She observed that when seeking solutions for an issue, the people she worked with tended to look at the successful examples of developed Western countries. However, when they applied these Western perspectives to solve challenges in communities that are culturally and contextually different, the same outcome was not always produced. Moreover, Diana believes that larger nations often fail to recognize the opinions and accomplishments from smaller countries. Instead of applying a one-size-fits-all approach, she suggests more effective change will only happen when larger countries begin to pay more attention to the unique needs of smaller countries. But how can she get the attention of powerful global forces? By learning how to become a dynamic leader who knows how to make complex decisions.

Diana first learned about Minerva five years ago when she was applying to undergraduate programs. In her opinion, Minerva offers the only curriculum in the world that is modern and preparing students for the changing world. Therefore, in her mind, if there was any chance that she would go back to school for a graduate degree, Minerva would be the only institution she would consider.

“I understand the importance and applicability of data to different fields and jobs. Minerva’s advantages are: (1) It has an active learning model where students always receive feedback, guidance, and advice from professors, and have the opportunity to ask for more details; (2) The MDA program focuses on skills-based instruction and conceptual understanding of data analysis which students can apply to virtually any career or field; (3) The students, who have diverse backgrounds and profound experiences in professional jobs, will shape the dynamics and atmosphere of the program. I am so excited to meet my classmates and learn about their different perspectives in class.”

Coming to Minerva, she said, “There are no right or wrong answers, it always depends on your approach. I hope learning at Minerva will be a chance for me to expand my point of view and explore the world through my professors’ and classmates’ lens.”