Radenka Maric, an acclaimed innovator in clean energy technology whose leadership as a vice president helped propel UConn to new heights in research funding, has been selected as the University’s 17th president.
Maric has served as UConn’s interim president since Feb. 1, a period in which she raised its national profile by hosting leaders of several top federal agencies for on-campus visits to demonstrate UConn’s successes in various areas of research and academia.
She also brought a highly student-centric focus to her interim presidency and says she will continue and expand those efforts in concert with others at UConn to prioritize student success and inclusion, access to mentoring and life-transformative educational experiences, and their personal and professional fulfillment.
The Board of Trustees unanimously confirmed Maric’s appointment Wednesday, saying she rose to the top of a highly competitive pool of candidates during the national search. Her five-year term began immediately upon the board’s vote.
“Being named president of the University of Connecticut is the honor of a lifetime. I am proud and humbled to have your confidence and your trust,” Maric told trustees and audience members at Wednesday’s meeting. “I will work every day to continue to earn it, as well as that of our students, faculty, staff, alumni, patients, and many supporters.”
Maric was vice president for research, innovation, and entrepreneurship for five years – during which time UConn received record-high levels of grant funding — before becoming interim president earlier this year upon the departure of previous Interim President Dr. Andrew Agwunobi.
Maric joined UConn’s School of Engineering faculty in 2010 and holds the rank of Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor. She is also the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund Professor of Sustainable Energy in the Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering and Department of Materials Science and Engineering.
In her eight months as UConn’s interim president, Maric has hosted visits from the leaders of the U.S. Department of Energy, National Science Foundation (NSF), U.S. Department of Education, National Oceanographic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and several other high-level state and federal officials.
She also teamed with Gov. Ned Lamont, other state leaders, and a UConn contingent in a highly successful economic development mission to Israel; and hosted Theresia Bauer, Germany’s Minister for Science, Research, and the Arts when Bauer spoke at the Neag School of Education’s undergraduate commencement ceremony.
Maric was among more than 150 applicants for the position, from which previous President Thomas C. Katsouleas stepped down in July 2021. She said Wednesday that among her many priorities, she plans to put students first and “lead with love and compassion,” ensuring their academic success and a positive college experience at UConn.
She added that the University will strive to cultivate trust among the campus community and statewide; provide students with vital resources, including those addressing mental and physical well-being; ensure affordability and accessibility; serve the state’s economic development needs; and build strong connections with alumni, elected officials, philanthropic supporters, and others.
Maric is the first internal candidate to be named to the position since Harry Hartley was selected president in 1990, and is UConn’s second female president after President Emeritus Susan Herbst, who served from 2010 to 2019.
“She is a force of nature: deeply committed to UConn, determined to get results, and all-in when it comes to leading this institution into a future that will be defined by success and achievement,” UConn Board of Trustees Chairman Dan Toscano said Wednesday.
He noted that Maric is deeply committed to student success and well-being; diversity and inclusion in the student body and workforce; supporting and growing the University’s research enterprise, including through innovations in emerging technologies; and engaging stakeholders across many realms such as alumni, families, UConn Health patients, fans of UConn Athletics, and others.
“There is a lot to do and Dr. Maric has her work cut out for her. We as a board have the utmost confidence in her to advance our priorities and achieve our highest aspirations,” Toscano said.
More than 150 people applied or were nominated for the president position, comprising a large pool of diverse and experienced leaders in the competitive candidate pool. Nine semifinalists were selected for interviews, including four sitting presidents, four provosts or chief academic officers from highly prestigious institutions, and one dean.
The steering committee recommended three outstanding candidates among those semifinalists to move forward for interviews with the full advisory committee and Board of Trustees. One finalist voluntarily withdrew from the search, and the remaining two finalists were interviewed last week by trustees and Gov. Lamont, who is president of the Board of Trustees per state statute.
The board also held six listening sessions over the search period to gain input from faculty, staff, and students from across all campuses, all of which were held virtually to maximize participation. Trustees say that after the interviews, it was clear that Maric was the unanimous choice.
“Dr. Maric has proven herself to be hard working, innovative, and dedicated to UConn students working hard to develop themselves personally and professionally,” Gov. Lamont said.
“Several years ago, I appointed Dr. Maric to serve on the board of Connecticut Innovations based on the incredible contributions made in improving and strengthening UConn’s prowess in research. She understands that making Connecticut the most innovative state in the nation requires collaboration between the world’s leading businesses and our higher education institutions,” he added.
“The strength of our colleges and universities benefits everyone who lives in the state, not just those directly enrolled in them, and she operates from a philosophy that success for UConn means success for Connecticut. Our Huskies will remain in good hands under her leadership,” Lamont said.
Maric has a wide range of skills and achievements, including holding multiple patents and publishing hundreds of scholarly works. She has also received more than $40 million in research grants, has been elected to prestigious professional organizations, and is fluent in the Croatian, English, German, and Japanese languages, with a working knowledge of Italian.
Maric said Wednesday that she came to UConn as a faculty member because she wanted to be part of a top-tier public research institution where she could educate and advise gifted, creative, and motivated young people, and especially where she could help students from middle-class and economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
“Today, as president, I aspire to have UConn join the ranks of the greatest universities in the world while serving our state, our nation, and students from all walks of life,” she said Wednesday. “UConn has the talent, perspective, and confidence to create a better future by becoming a more powerful research university that produces an even greater flow of ideas, sparks invention and collaborations, and works to improve the human condition and the quality of life in our community, state, and nation.”
As someone who has mentored scores of students and whose three children graduated from UConn, Maric also can relate to the perspectives of families who want to ensure their children have the best academic and personal experiences possible during the critical formative years they spend in the UConn community.
“We need to keep UConn affordable and accessible: A college degree and the college experience has never been more important for motivated leaders of our future,” she said.
“Our society badly needs an innovative workforce to address pressing issues in areas such as public health, climate change, and social justice. We provide the best and most transformative education to our students by giving them opportunities in financial literacy, entrepreneurship, innovation, and more to help them tackle those challenges,” she said.
“However, attaining a college degree has also never been more expensive. We must always strive to provide the highest quality education at the greatest value for students and families.”
Maric was born and raised in the former Yugoslavia and earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of Belgrade in Serbia before moving to Japan to earn her master’s and Ph.D. in materials science and energy at Kyoto University.
Her time in Japan was critical not only professionally, but also personally. She was studying at Kyoto University when Yugoslavia broke up in the early 1990s, seeing her scholarship disappear and eventually finding that even affording food was difficult, much less juggling academic costs and responsibilities.
With the support of a mentor, however, she was able to overcome that challenge; in fact, they still stay in touch with regular emails even now, decades after that experience.
It was so impactful that she has committed to assisting students herself as well; she has personally established more than $100,000 in fellowship funds through the UConn Foundation to assist students.
Like UConn itself, Maric has multi-faceted interests and skills. Having lived and worked in several countries, her international experience is expected to be a boon to UConn as it prepares students to live and compete in a global economy and to celebrate other cultures and traditions.
After graduation from Kyoto University with her advanced degrees, she stayed to work in Japan for about a decade before moving to Atlanta to work for a fuel cell research company in 2001. She transitioned in 2004 to become a group leader and program manager for Institute for Fuel Cell Innovation in Canada, then joined UConn in 2010 as a faculty member in the departments of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, and Materials Science and Engineering.
She is an elected member of the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and has also earned many other professional honors and designations for her work.
In addition to her scientific pursuits, Maric’s personal interests are as diverse as the University’s portfolio itself, particularly in humanities realms. She is a talented painter and pianist, an amateur chef, and designs and makes much of her wardrobe, having been first inspired by receiving a sewing machine as a birthday gift when she was a child.
Several trustees said Wednesday that they had gotten to know Maric well over the past eight months in which she has been interim president, and have been impressed by her many personal and professional talents. Her commitment to UConn and its students has been especially evident, they said, and they praised her as an ideal choice to lead the University to the next level.
Trustee Sandy Cloud, who also is chairman of the UConn Health Board of Directors, said they are confident in Maric’s strength as a leader and her commitment to that portion of the University’s enterprise, in addition to the talents she brings to Storrs and the regional campuses.
“She understands the mission, and the challenges and opportunities to reach our full potential at the Health Center,” Cloud said.
The presidency is complex and requires skill to understand and lead in many areas, trustee Jeanine Gouin ’87 (ENG) said Wednesday, and Maric is the perfect choice for the challenges.
“It’s her unwavering commitment to students and their success, to the faculty who are so critical to our mission, and to academic excellence. With everything that is required day in and day out, Radenka is first and foremost a leader of academics and everything that is required around that to achieve excellence,” Gouin said. “We are most fortunate to have her talents, unending enthusiasm and her bright, forward-looking vision.”
UConn Trustee Thomas Ritter said he had always known of Maric’s reputation and often heard people discussing “Radenka” with the kind of admiration that made her known by just her first name.
“Now after working with her, I’ve come to learn that just as rock stars go by one name, she qualifies as our rock star,” he said. “She is the perfect change agent, one that can strategically and thoughtfully make meaningful change from within.”
Maric’s resume, high-resolution downloadable photos, and other information are available at: president.uconn.edu