A Journey of Opportunities

Person with suitcase walking.

UB continues to grow experiential learning opportunities for students, thanks to donor support. High-impact practices such as study abroad, internships, undergraduate research or community service have a tremendous influence on college success.

Eileen Marutiak Yildirim (far right) with classmates during her month abroad in Spain.

Eileen Marutiak Yildirim (far right) with classmates during her month abroad in Spain.

What motivates a young, federal civil servant—an operations analyst in the headquarters of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau—to consistently support UB’s annual fund? In simplest terms, it’s the knowledge that she’s helping to give a UB student the kind of real-world experience—both in and outside of the classroom—that shaped her life during her time at UB.

Eileen Marutiak Yildirim, BA ’06, moved around a lot during high school. She studied abroad for a year before starting college. She’d planned to go to Michigan State but at the last minute decided to stay in Western New York, so she scrambled to get a place at UB.

“I was assigned to an over-capacity dorm room,” she says, “a fourth in a triple, with the promise that this was temporary. But from day one, it was home.” The friendships that kindled around Marutiak Yildirim during her time at UB and in the residence halls are still her closest friendships today. One roommate from her freshman year lives around the corner from her in Washington, D.C.

Her years at UB were the longest amount of time Marutiak Yildirim had ever spent in one place. She wove herself into UB life through intramural sports, as a resident advisor in the dorms and then as a community advisor in the on-campus apartments. Along the way, she met her future husband, Eser Marutiak Yildirim, BA ’05.

When she was a student, Marutiak Yildirim took advantage of travel opportunities provided by UB, including an alternative spring break spent volunteering in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, and a month abroad in Spain. She now designates her annual gifts to support experiential learning programs in the College of Arts and Sciences so that other students can have similar opportunities.

“My experience in Spain was absolutely incredible,” says Marutiak Yildirim, shown below with classmates on that trip. “To be able to take what I learned in the classroom and put it into practice, to be immersed in a culture outside of anything that I’ve ever known before, was eye-opening.”

Photo of Eileen Marutiak Yildirim with husband Eser Marutiak Yildirim.

Grateful to Give Back

“These trips taught me that we are all one big community worldwide, and that UB’s reach extends across the globe,” says Eileen Marutiak Yildirim (shown with husband Eser). “Participating in these opportunities helped plant the seed of philanthropy and volunteerism into my adult life and taught me that giving back is not just about donating money. It’s about taking whatever resource that you have available and using it to make a difference.”