Elena Mityushina ’08 shares culture and connections with fellow alumni
This story originally appeared in the Spring 2023 edition of Wooster Magazine.
During the first year of the pandemic, while working full-time as a customer success manager at an education technology company, pursuing an MBA at the University of St. Thomas, and raising two young children, Elena Mityushina ’08 also cooked over 400 new recipes at home. Mityushina, who grew up in Russia and spent her high school years in the United States before coming to The College of Wooster, realized that she had many of the skills needed to open a Russian/Siberian restaurant. “I really like sharing Russian culture, I’ve been doing my MBA and have been in sales for eight years, and I know how to interact with customers,” she said. In her job at Newsela, an instructional content platform, Mityushina works with school districts to maximize their use of the curricular products and instructional tools that the company sells.
Mityushina searched the Fighting Scots Career Connections database to find fellow Wooster alumni to ask for advice in the food service and restaurant industry. She connected with Jonathan Webster ’05, vice president of Aramark, an international food service provider, and asked if he would mentor her. Though they did not know each other at Wooster, he set up several meetings, connected her with others, and provided helpful documents over several months.
Mityushina first discovered her love for connecting people through food when she was part of the Ambassadors Program at the College, which gives international students the chance to share their culture with the greater Wooster community. “I gave presentations to the local community and I sometimes cooked. I always liked bringing people together over food and culture,” she said.
When the University of St. Thomas announced a business plan competition last December, Mityushina spent three weeks putting together a 20-page plan for her restaurant. She worked with a graphic designer in Russia to design a logo, created a menu, and calculated expenses. She won second place in the competition and $5,000 to launch her restaurant. But when Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 and the war broke out, she immediately had to shift her focus.
Mityushina had family members in Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus, all of whom were affected by the war. She has spent months helping the Ukrainian part of her family move to Canada, mourning the stories she was hearing from the war, and helping settle Ukrainian refugees where she lives in Minnesota, an effort for which she recently received a Rotary Club Annual Community Service award. With her energy elsewhere, the restaurant idea is now on pause.
“If I do something in life it has to be out of inspiration. Starting the restaurant doesn’t feel right with all the suffering going on,” she said. “I’m following my intuition and just concentrating on my family right now, my MBA, and helping refugees.” However, Mityushina has a wealth of knowledge from her MBA classes and meetings with Webster to make it possible to return to her restaurant idea when she is ready. She thinks it would look a little different and is considering including Ukrainian culture.
In the meantime, Mityushina remains connected to a strong network of Wooster alumni whom she is constantly motivated by. “I always reach out to people, and they’re doing amazing things,” she said. “We exchange ideas and inspire each other. All those people are a constant presence in my life.”
Posted in Alumni on March 15, 2023.
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