Darya (Dani) Podgoretskaya began the REECA master's program in 2023, aspiring to improve her understanding of the region and further explore her research interests, which include innovation policy, sustainable development, authoritarian systems, and diaspora politics. Dani completed her bachelor’s degree in politics, sociology, and East European studies at University College London. After graduating, she worked with the U.N. Economic Commission for Europe, focusing on innovation governance in Eastern Europe and the South Caucasus as well as innovation support in Central Asia. During a gap year from her studies at UCL, Dani also worked as a junior researcher at the Institute of Baltic Studies, an independent think tank based in Estonia. There she conducted research and provided policy advice to the Estonian government on topics including juvenile offender rehabilitation and microcredentials for national education systems. Having spent part of her childhood in Minsk, Belarus, Dani has a deep interest in pro-democracy movements, diaspora politics, and authoritarian systems. She speaks English, Spanish, and Russian and has conversational proficiency in Belarusian and Polish.