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Rise and shine

The Carlini-DeLuca Undergraduate RISE Award will assist science and engineering students who have overcome significant barriers
May 9, 2023

Rina Carlini wears a floral shirt and purple blazer, Tony Deluca wears a blue blazer and blue shirt Rina Carlini says the Carlini-DeLuca Undergraduate RISE Award acknowledges how supportive Concordia was as she navigated a range of personal struggles to write her own story of resiliency.

They triumphed over adversity. These words are frequently used to describe the odyssey some students face on the way to academic and professional success.

This was front of mind for Rina Carlini, BSc 93, and her husband, Tony DeLuca (pictured), BComm 91, when they started a new award to help students persevere through exceptional challenges.

Established in 2022 with a gift of $30,000, the Carlini-DeLuca Undergraduate RISE Award (Resilience In Science and Engineering Pathways to Success) will annually assist two students — one in science, one in engineering — who have overcome significant barriers to excel in the classroom.

The award, Carlini says, acknowledges how supportive Concordia was as she navigated a range of personal struggles to write her own story of resiliency.

“It started with the warm welcome I received after I transferred from McGill University, following a year off school, to find a new path as an undergraduate in chemistry. The faculty at Concordia, particularly Ann English and Raymond Zienius, and the staff at the Institute for Cooperative Education were incredibly kind and helpful.”

Carlini duly juggled work terms and a rigorous course schedule, and maintained a top grade-point average throughout. This drew the notice of English, a research chair and distinguished professor emerita, who nominated her for the competitive and prestigious NSERC Centennial Scholarship for Doctoral Studies.

Carlini was one of 55 students across Canada to earn the lucrative federal grant in 1993. She went on to get her PhD in chemistry from the University of Waterloo — her many awards included the university’s Gold Medal for Outstanding Achievement, Doctoral Level — and has since forged a career as an innovation executive and venture builder in health technology, bioscience and cleantech.

None of this would have been possible, she stresses, without the confidence that her first alma mater gave her.

“Concordia was completely transformative for me,” says Carlini, who has run her own consultancy, the Optimal Innovation Group, as president and CEO since 2012. “Without the university’s encouragement — and the love and support of my husband, Tony, who was there every step of the way — I’m not sure where I’d be now.”

Carlini is not just a proud alumna and donor. She also volunteers her time to serve on the advisory boards of the Gina Cody School and Concordia’s new School of Health.

“The university has a special place in my heart,” she says. “My hope is that the RISE Award will allow science and engineering students to maximize their talents and that, with additional support, we can endow it in perpetuity to strengthen the next generation.That’s the ultimate goal.”

To learn more about how you can support the RISE Award, visit

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