If you ask Marianne Vydra to do a job, be prepared to hear “What’s next?” before you turn around.
Finding her career path
Women’s athletics were still small at MSU in the 1980s. But for Vydra, it was the perfect time and place to discover her calling: becoming a college administrator in athletics.
A science major who stands barely 5 feet, 2 inches tall, she managed to convince Coach Linda Dollar to let her be part of the volleyball team.
It was there Dollar said that Vydra demonstrated an “Energizer Bunny” work ethic, a quick mind and a natural talent for organizing. Dollar also hired her to manage the volleyball team.
“When we were training, she would run circles around the varsity team,” she said. “She set certain standards for others.”
Cheryl Burnett, then the Lady Bears assistant basketball coach, often saw Vydra when the two shared space in the athletics department offices. Burnett was putting together a recruiting program, but the department had no computers at the time. She asked Vydra to help her out.
They scoured the campus and found an outdated computer Vydra could use.
“I got to know Marianne and her brilliance,” Burnett said. “After I became head coach, I needed someone to run our study hall. I asked Marianne to run that because I knew she had a handle on every subject.”
Vydra’s experience with MSU athletics sent the biology and physics major down a different path to a rewarding career. She started reading about the psychological development of students, and found that student development could be her career path.
Few schools offered a program in the field, but Vydra applied to all that did. She picked the University of Maine. There, she earned a master’s degree in education specializing in student development and counseling. She also worked as a counselor for the men’s ice hockey team.
Becoming an administrator
Though she was only in her late 20s, she next took a job as a “one-person show in an academic services program for 500 student athletes” at Oregon State University, a Division I school with few state-of-the-art athletic facilities and a small staff.
It was a challenge, but challenges are what Vydra loves most. She worked hard to get scholarship funding, improved facilities and more women’s sports, as well as academic support for the athletes.
She also likes to find her own challenges, things most athletics administrators are not even thinking about. For example, she’s working on getting solar panels to power
the athletics facilities, and she is focusing on the future of travel in athletics.
But the best part is getting to influence young people.
“I love ’em because they’re really messy,” she said. “I give them permission to fail. … I tell them, the faster you fail, the farther you’ll get.”
Her hard work and determination earned her promotions — she is now deputy athletic director of administration, the highest-ranking female administrator for the OSU athletic department.
In 2000, she was named Pac-10 Administrator of the Year for women’s gymnastics, served on the NCAA softball rules committee and as regional representative for women’s volleyball, soccer and basketball.
In 2002, she became a member of the Pac-10 Executive Committee and the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament Committee. From 2006-’08, she chaired the NCAA Division I Softball Committee. She played a key role in creating the (OSU) Beavers Without Borders international service project in 2011, and, in 2015, CollegeAD named her one of the Top 10 Senior Women Administrators in the NCAA.
Vydra is less impressed by honors than by results.
“My proof is in my work,” she said. “It’s nice to get recognized. It’s validating … but there are outcomes. I feel good about what I’ve established here. I’m definitely going to leave this place better than I found it.”