For Research Leader, Giving is Personal

Jennifer Eburg

3 min read

Vice President for Research, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship Radenka Maric, Ph.D., says that when she experienced an obstacle during her own graduate school career—one that threatened her ability to continue her education—it was her mentor’s support that allowed her to overcome the challenge.

“I was blessed that I had a great mentor when I was a student in Japan,” says Maric, who is originally from the former Yugoslavia. “I’m that professor now. It’s my turn to offer support. And that goes beyond what I do for my students—it’s what they will do some day in the future for somebody else.”

Maric’s own experience inspires her to establish several funds in her name, including The Dr. Radenka Maric Fund for Graduate Programs, The Dr. Radenka Maric Fellowship Fund, The Dr. Radenka Maric Fellowship Fund for Engineering, and The Dr. Radenka Maric Scholarship for Graduate Students.

Dean of the Graduate School Kent Holsinger says that Maric shows the difference an individual can make through philanthropic support. “One of President Katsouleas’s pillars for the future is doubling research and scholarly impact for the University,” Holsinger explains. “This is not possible unless our graduate students are well supported and appreciated. Dr. Maric is a wonderful example of the kind of impact that support can have.”

Carnisha Gilder ’16 MS, recipient of The Dr. Radenka Maric Fellowship Fund, says Maric’s support has been crucial to her academic success.

“Dr. Maric taught me that if you stay focused on your goals you will succeed, and can then go on to help others,” says Gilder, who is currently studying health promotion science and hopes to graduate with her Ph.D. this spring.

Arpita Kurdekar, recipient of The Dr. Radenka Maric Fellowship Fund for Engineering and a current Ph.D. student, agrees. Following a life-changing experience, Kurdekar decided to redirect the course of her studies, creating a topic that incorporates both fine arts and engineering. She reached out for advice and Maric, she says, gave her the support and confidence to move forward.

“Dr. Maric said, ‘you need to do what your heart wants to do,’ and she supported me to follow my dreams,” Kurdekar says. “It just took off from there.” Kurdekar is currently conducting research involving virtual reality technology.

When Maric established her newest fund in December 2020, she earned recognition as part of the 100 Women Giving $100,000 initiative, a UConn Foundation Women and Philanthropy program initiative that celebrates female philanthropists and allies who support any area of the University. Maric also recently joined the inaugural UConn Women and Philanthropy Leadership Council, whose mission is to amplify and leverage the power of UConn women and allies to support UConn’s strategic initiatives, with a focus on supporting its women.

“It is our responsibility as successful women to stand at the door and let other women in,” Maric says.

Maric hopes that her colleagues will join her in giving back in whatever ways they can. “UConn is a wonderful community,” she says. “I would like to encourage my colleagues to think of the ways they can give and how they can make a difference.”

Maric’s students are certainly inspired by her example: Gilder and Kurdekar both say they plan to pay it forward when they are able to do so.

“My time at UConn has been amazing and Dr. Maric’s mentorship has made it even more so,” Gilder says. “She has inspired me to be persistent and never give up, and I have no doubt that I will continue to be successful and will give back and do the same thing for others.”

Kurdekar echoes this sentiment. “Dr. Maric is my role model and she motivates me,” she says. “I hope that in the future I am also able to give back to students facing challenges as she has done.”

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