published on January 15, 2016 - 1:12 AM
Written by The Business Journal Staff

Mariam Stepanian, President & General Manager

Valley Public Radio — KVPR Fresno,
KPRX Bakersfield

What we do:
Valley Public Radio is a public media resource whose mission is to expand the listener’s world through voices that inform and sounds that inspire. Valley Public Radio bridges artistic expression and gives voice to the diversity in our community.
BS in Psychology, CSU Fresno,
MS in Psychology, CSU Fresno
Age: Really?

Married to John M. Thoens, retired health care chief financial officer; step son, Jonathan Thoens, surgery resident, and daughter-in-law, Miri Thoens; two cats, Van and Gogh

How did you get your start with Valley Public Radio, Mariam?  
I first arrived at the station to fill the position of development director 35 years ago. My intent was stay only two years.    

Did you have previous experience in the communications field, Mariam?  
No, my experience was in fundraising. I helped launch the Marjaree Mason Center, and was involved in providing counseling services at the Fresno Police Department.  

What drew you to the public side of the industry, Mariam?
I have always been interested and involved in public service. The mission of public radio fulfills my personal mission and gives me great satisfaction in knowing what I do matters to the community. I believe strongly that to engage a community, we must first provide residents with access to information. Valley Public Radio is that gateway to information. Music is a universal language opening doors to cultural diversity.     

Valley Public Radio is closing in on the move-in date for its new facility in Clovis, what has that process been like, Mariam?
Well, more complicated than the last station we built. While Valley Public Radio is a public service, we are driven by technology and our ability to deliver our content on as many platforms as possible. The building of a new permanent broadcast center has allowed me the opportunity to connect with so many individuals from different agencies and businesses. Zumwalt Construction is the best.   

Why is it important for the station to have a new space, Mariam?  
The community wants and expects so much more from public radio, that it was impossible to sustain a local news presence in the current facility. The lack of office and production space, frustrating and limited Internet communications including lack of wireless availability, all made it impossible to do our jobs. Our award-winning news team and talented staff need space to be creative and to better serve the community.

How will the new facility further the goals of Valley Public Radio, Mariam?
The station’s primary goal is to be an important community resource. This new space will allow for so much more in the way of community engagement on a multitude of levels.  

How important is it to the station to grow its local news content, Mariam?
This is the primary driver for the expansion and relocation. The community wants to hear more local reports and stories, and given the changing landscape for media, public radio is an important resource in helping build healthy communities.    

The station has had several different parts to its fundraising campaign, how has the community response been, Mariam?
It has been a challenge to raise major gifts, however, building this new broadcast center has raised more money than ever before in the history of the station. The James Irvine Challenge Grant of $200,000 was met within 30 days of the challenge. Board leadership, the creation of the Barmann Chaney Performance Studio, the Assemi Family, and individual listeners, have stepped forward to bring this project to fruition. The City and community of Clovis have been welcoming, including the businesses that have partnered with Zumwalt Construction to provide goods and services for the new center.  

You’ve mentioned that the new site will include several community spaces, what types of events do you plan to host there, Mariam?
We plan to continue with the Young Artist Spotlight series now that we can actually have groups perform in the Barmann Chaney Performance Studio, and parents can watch. Before, we had to limit the number of performers, and the parents had to be in various spaces throughout the facility, with no visual connection. We are also looking at the possibility of hosting community groups for meetings and small events. Tours will be available since many people are curious as to what public radio looks like, and what happens in a public media center. Dream session focus groups with our Advisory Councils and community partners were held to obtain ideas for future opportunities in the new center. It will be fun to see which dreams become reality.  

What has been your proudest accomplishment, Mariam?
One of the most recent accomplishments that has given me great pleasure was watching Joe Moore, director of program content, recruit, build and develop an award-winning news team. This has many benefits for our region, and will have lasting impact on listeners of all ages.  

What was your first job and what did you learn from it, Mariam?
My first job was working in gift wrap at Gottschalks. I learned a great deal about people, how important kindness is, and that I did not want to spend my life in retail.  

What do you like to do in your spare time, Mariam?
I enjoy cultural presentations especially musical ones, gardening, entertaining friends, hot-air ballooning, and travelling. I’m a curious person and enjoy discussing what brings joy to others.

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