Portrait of Monica Maldari EXSS

Faculty Award: Monica Maldari

May 28, 2024
Maldari is the 2024 recipient of the Vincent J. Mara Award for Excellence in Teaching
Portrait of Monica Maldari EXSS
Monica Maldari accepts Vincent J Mara Award for Excellence in Teaching 2024

Professor Monica Maldari sees every class as an opportunity to connect with her students, a philosophy that has earned her the admiration of her classes and the respect of her peers.

A member of the Exercise and Sports Science Department faculty since 2011, teaching represented a career change for Maldari, who had worked for years in cardiac rehabilitation centers. She spent years teaching a full course load while taking doctoral courses two nights a week.

“The students gave me inspiration to do it,” she said. “They’re working, some of them are raising families of their own. If they can do it, I can do it.”

She also learned the importance of flexibility with her students, even as she recognized the value of keeping them accountable for assignments.

“I’ve always envisioned my job here as a service industry and my students are our customers,” Maldari said.  

Her students noticed. Gretchen (Segelhorst) Clark, a 2016 graduate, said Maldari was a major influence on her career. “When you think back on your own tenure at university, often one or two professors are special enough to hold space in your memory,” Clark wrote in nominating Maldari for the Mara Award. “It is an exceptional occasion when a professor goes beyond memory, becomes a mentor and maintains a place in your life. For me, and many others, this notable professor is Monica Maldari.”

Maldari was Clark’s advisor in the Exercise and Sports Science Department, and she credited the professor for sharing her passion for health and student success. 

“She leads by example, showing compassion for others, and demonstrates the importance of listening and learning from those around you,” Clark said. “Her desire to understand what drives students to be more successful has blossomed into her own research, continuing the passion to help develop a better way to support those during their own discovery of a stronger self.

“Part of what I garnered is finding the positive in the world and situation you are in, and using that energy to be a catalyst within a community and to help create a better place,” Clark continued. “I wouldn't be where I am in my career and life without the continued encouragement and championing of my mentor.”

It is an exceptional occasion when a professor goes beyond memory, becomes a mentor and maintains a place in your life. For me, and many others, this notable professor is Monica Maldari.

Gretchen (Segelhorst) Clark '16

Another of her former students credited Maldari for fostering a classroom environment in which they wanted to learn, and described as “an incredible professor, mentor, role model, and human being.”

Maldari’s colleagues saluted her teaching techniques by adopting them for themselves.

This professor’s peers have become friends and admirers, citing her exemplary teaching techniques and adopting her tactics for themselves. They describe a caring, conscientious and tireless educator who takes great interest in the success of her students, with an exemplary record of research and service to the department, the university, and wider community.

“She is a creative educator and caring advisor who works tirelessly to create opportunities for students to succeed in their academic careers and beyond,” said Professor Danielle Wigmore, a colleague in the Exercise and Sports Science Department and the Faculty Award for Service in 2023. “She has an excellent rapport with her students that fosters an environment of collaboration and engagement. Her assignments challenge students and help them apply what they’ve learned in practical ways that translate to real-world situations. As a colleague, Dr. Maldari is someone I often go to for feedback and ideas.”

“It is truly a privilege to work in this field,” Maldari told her colleagues in accepting the award days after the end of the semester. “How lucky are we to have this front row seat to witness someone’s personal growth during some of the most formative years. I feel like the 20’s are truly a time of great personal growth, but also angst as students want to know what their futures will hold. I acknowledge the responsibility of supporting them and helping them navigate through this time. It is truly a humbling experience and one in which I am honored to play a part.”