STORRS, Conn. (WTNH) — University of Connecticut’s president urges students to not let the zip codes they were raised in define what they can and cannot do in life.

“I was born in the country that doesn’t exist, and I never let anything stop me,” said Dr. Radenka Maric, who was born in Yugoslavia. She left during its civil war and studied in Japan before moving to Connecticut.

As UConn’s 17th president, she has a passion for clean energy. Maric’s pre-academia life included creating multiple patients, working on optimizing manufacturing for lithium-ion batteries and finding ways to lower the cost of green fuel.

She’d held on to that passion, and still leads a lab of eight graduate students.

“The most important part is to stay in touch with students, and be on top of the science,” Maric said. “It’s not easy as a president, but that’s why I don’t sleep enough.”

Only a few months into her term, she’s now facing a potential budget shortfall of $160 million.

Maric said that she and Gov. Ned Lamont both want what is best for the state — but they have different visions for how to get there.

“He has different priorities, you know, then I do,” she said. “For me, priority number one is students’ excellence in education. I truly believe in high-value jobs and high-value jobs will not happen without strong education. The companies will come when you have an educated workforce.”

Watch the full interview for more.