On Saturday, December 8, 2018, Nelly Miranda, MBA ’19, became the first Oregon Executive MBA student to receive the Vijaya Nair Transformation Award. The award was announced during the Portland-based program’s annual winter celebration.
Miranda will receive a scholarship of $5,000. Her concept: a private line of coffee sourced completely from women-owned cooperatives and farms around the world. The eventual goal is to create a product made entirely by women working together, with women heading every step of the supply chain.
“Not everyone knows that coffee is the world’s second-largest traded commodity. Coffee is big business, but in coffee-growing regions, women are less likely to own land or have executive roles in the industry. This idea is a step toward changing this status quo,” said Miranda.
The Vijaya Nair Transformation Award is the brainchild of Oregon Executive MBA faculty member Mohan Nair, who teaches Strategic Business Transformation, a popular elective that he developed based on his third book.
Nair has pioneered a concept he calls cause-driven business and personal transformation and made it the driving force of his work and teaching. Cause-based transformation is a business principle that blends serving society while generating wealth, using personal transformation as the source.
Seeking a way for executive MBA students to gain hands-on experience with the ideas he teaches, Nair developed the idea of an award competition.
Nair chose to name the award after his living mother Vijaya Nair, honoring her lifelong commitment to entrepreneurship and serving others. Vijaya Nair, who currently lives in New Zealand, became an entrepreneur in the 1950s in Singapore, working at a travel agency (the first of several ventures) when she was just 18 years old.
“My mother always dreamed of doing things beyond other people’s expectations,” said Nair.
Throughout her career, Vijaya Nair showed a strong commitment to serving the needs of the unnoticed or underserved.
“She has always asked her children to go beyond simply serving themselves. Rather than waiting until we ‘made it,’ she encouraged us to incorporate giving back from the very beginning of any endeavor,” said Nair.
A senior vice president and chief innovation officer at Cambia Health Solutions, Mohan Nair brings a broad range of experience to the Oregon Executive MBA. In keeping with the family tradition of entrepreneurship, he has founded several high-tech startups and has also written three books—with several more in the pipeline. In addition to his current role at the Oregon Executive MBA, he taught for 12 years at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
“We are so fortunate to have Mohan as a member of our faculty. His professional achievements are inspiring, of course. But even more important is the integrity of his vision and values, which align so well with the mission of the Oregon Executive MBA,” said executive director Julianna Sowash.
Eight second-year students took on the transformational challenge and submitted proposals for the inaugural award.
“The candidates for this award all reflected the attitude of humility and challenged their own present-day predicaments to create a future-day dream,” said Nair.
Still, for Nair, Miranda’s proposal stood out from rest.
“I was really taken by Nelly’s proposal when I learned that 25 million people worldwide depend on coffee farming. So why not start the value chain with women driving this industry—all the way through this value chain—so we can create wealth in a positive way—not just economic, but emotional, sustainable, and from the heart,” said Nair.
This year’s award is the first of what Sowash and the rest of the Oregon Executive MBA staff hope will become a longstanding tradition. Current first-year students are encouraged to begin working on their ideas for the 2019 Vijaya Nair Transformation Award. Proposals are due August 31, 2019 and next year’s award will be presented on December 7, 2019.