Maureen Chand Kotecki ’08, ’10, the first recipient of the Elizabeth C. Tierney Award, established her own scholarship. Photo: Maureen Chand Kotecki ’08, ’10 

Nurse’s New Scholarship Continues a Circle of Giving

Maureen Chand Kotecki’s commitment to supporting the next generation of nurses began as soon as she graduated from the UCI Sue and Bill Gross School of Nursing in 2010. She’s served as a clinical instructor at the UCI Medical Center, regularly speaks to classes, and participates in virtual mentoring events. 

But now, she’s taking her support to a whole new level by creating a scholarship for UCI nursing students.

“I know how hard it was working as a nurse through COVID-19, and some people might feel doubtful about going into the profession,” says Kotecki. “Anything we can do to support our future generation of nurses is extremely valuable.”

At just 16, Kotecki left her family in Fiji to come to college in California. She planned to go into healthcare, but it wasn’t until she graduated from UCI with her bachelor’s in biological sciences in 2008 that she decided on nursing. This meant earning a second bachelor’s – in nursing science – and quitting the EMT job she relied on to pay her way through school so she could focus fully on coursework. 

When Kotecki received the inaugural Elizabeth C. Tierney Nursing Scholarship, she appreciated the financial relief plus something else intangible yet just as valuable: a sense of support and encouragement.

“Here’s someone so generous, who is willing to help a complete stranger,” Kotecki says. She remembers with a sense of awe, meeting Tierney at a school reception. “It was a mesmerizing experience, especially with me being so young and coming from another country.”

Kotecki’s scholarship, providing $20,000 over four years, will support students in the UCI Master’s Entry Program in Nursing (MEPN), likely someone switching careers to enter the profession. And she hopes those students will explore and consider lesser-known specialties in the field, such as the Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA), which is her chosen path.

After completing her nursing degree in 2010, Kotecki enjoyed four years as an ICU nurse and clinical instructor at the UCI Medical Center before she shadowed a CRNA and loved the position so much that she decided to go back to school to earn the specialized master’s required for the job.

“In the operating room, things can happen very quickly. The CRNA doesn’t have to wait for an order. You can diagnose and make the decision to act on the spot,” says Kotecki. “That’s what lured me in.”

During the pandemic, Kotecki reconnected with Elizabeth Tierney via Zoom, and reflected on the countless patients she’s been able to help in the years since their first encounter. Kotecki felt inspired to pay it forward.

“I remember all the times I suddenly couldn’t work because of the demands of school. You want to do well in school, and you need to survive. I know students can use whatever help can be offered to them.”

- Maureen Chand Kotecki

“I remember all the times I suddenly couldn’t work because of the demands of school,” says Kotecki. “You want to do well in school, and you need to survive. I know students can use whatever help can be offered to them.”

Every time she meets with UCI nursing students, Kotecki feels invigorated by their enthusiasm and their brilliant future in the nursing profession.

“They are so willing to learn and so excited,” says Kotecki. “They are just starting out, and that’s the part I love.”

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