When Dr. Valerie Rico was an RSDM student in the 1980s, a visit to the administration office was something to dread.
“A student never came down this hallway unless they were in trouble,’’ said Rico, RSDM’s Director for Academic Affairs and a Chancellor’s Challenge Scholarship Donor. “Today, the environment is much more open and welcoming to students.’’
As a member of the Class of ‘88, and someone who works closely with students, Rico empathizes as they cope with the physical, intellectual and emotional demands of dental school.
From her many conversations with students, she is constantly reminded of their anxiety over repaying loans and sometimes affording every day expenses. “I’ve been a part of the Rutgers family for seven years, and I’ve listened to students discuss their financial concerns. I serve on the admissions committee, and one of the things that prospective students ask is, do you have scholarships available? They’re very concerned that they have to deal with debt.’’
Rico wanted to help but didn’t think there was much she could do besides listen and give advice. Even after she heard about the 2019 Chancellor’s Challenge, a scholarship match campaign that will double or triple all gifts toward RSDM scholarships, she couldn’t envision herself as a donor. But once she understood that gifts can be stretched over five years, she began to consider the idea. Learning that gifts from alumni faculty would be matched 2-1 was another incentive.
Rico mentioned the Challenge to her husband John Maglione and they decided to endow a scholarship for incoming students. “I became excited because I realized it was something we could seriously think about doing,’’ declared Rico. “John and I discussed it and committed that afternoon. It’s a simple process since I’ll be making my donations through payroll deductions.”
Added John Maglione, “As both my father and father-in-law always shared; education is something that no one can ever take away from you. It is an honor for Valerie and I to participate in RSDM’s Chancellor’s Challenge and most importantly, support the financial and educational needs of our next generation of healthcare providers.”
Rico has been closely involved with RSDM for many years. After majoring in biology at the University of Delaware, she decided that dentistry was a good fit for her and enrolled in dental school. “I wanted a profession where I’d be working with people, I’d be challenged, and I’d be helping others, the dental profession has been all those things and more.’’
Back then, dental school was not a nurturing place. There was little acknowledgement that students often struggled and scraped to graduate and it wasn’t something they discussed with faculty. “It was just, deal with it and get through it. Straight to business and get the job done,’’ she remembers.
After working in private practice for 26 years, Rico, who had always been interested in teaching, decided to give it a try. In 2014, she graduated from RSDM’s From Practice to Preceptor program, which teaches dentists to work in academia, and later joined the RSDM faculty and staff. She is proud to foster a culture that responds to students with compassion and understanding.
“The priority is just being open and taking into consideration, not only the academic demands, but the personal demands that might be affecting their mental health and other aspects of their lives,’’ says Rico.
Rico and her husband are gratified to know that they have also made a difference as donors with the establishment of the Valerie C. Rico D.M.D and John C. Maglione endowed scholarship. “The Chancellor’s Challenge scholarship match opened a door to help me address a need I saw and created an opportunity to do something about it.”