Campus News

Three UB faculty chosen for prestigious Meyerson Awards


Published March 17, 2021


UB faculty members Nicholas Rajkovich, Mitsuaki Shimojo and Jaroslaw “Jaric” Zola are this year’s winners of the President Emeritus and Mrs. Meyerson Award for Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching and Mentoring, the highest university award for undergraduate mentoring.

The Meyerson Awards recognize faculty members who provide students with exceptional support and guidance to help them develop the skills needed for research, creativity, critical thinking and innovation.

It was established through a generous gift by the late UB President Emeritus Martin Meyerson and his wife, Margy Ellen, to honor exceptional teaching and mentoring at the university.

Award recipients will be recognized at UB’s annual Celebration of Faculty and Staff Excellence, held during the fall semester.

“Providing undergraduate students with opportunities to work closely with faculty on mentored research and projects is a key benefit of attending a comprehensive research university,” says Ann M. Bisantz, dean of undergraduate education and professor of industrial and systems engineering. “Faculty members who work with undergraduates in this way are truly providing transformational experience for these students.”

The three winners:

headshot of Nicholas Rajkovich.

Nicholas Rajkovich

Assistant professor in the School of Architecture and Planning since 2014, Rajkovich has received the Award for Excellence in Sustainability from the American Planning Association Sustainable Communities Division to the City of Cleveland in 2019.  He received the Gary Day Teaching Award presented by the Architecture Graduate Student Association in 2016.

He also placed second in the 2015 U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon Competition 2015: second place overall, and first place in the Comfort Zone, Commuting and Energy Balance contests.

Rajkovich “has a deep affection for teaching and pays attention to the quality of the student experience,” according to faculty, student and alumni statements from the nominations.

“Together with his students, Professor Rajkovich bridges urban planning, environmental design, and architecture by exploring energy infrastructure, environmental justice, and architectural design,” according to one nomination.

“During the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, he was a leader in moving traditional architecture studios into online formats,” according to another nomination.

“He was dedicated to maintaining educational quality but with ‘radical empathy’ for the students and the stressors they were experiencing outside of the classroom,” another nomination stated.

Rajkovich’s research/projects have been featured in such national and international media as Yale Climate Connections, Popular Science and Energy News Network, and have been republished by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, and Architect Magazine.

headshot of Mitsuaki Shimojo.

Mitsuaki Shimojo

An associate professor in the Department of Linguistics since 2001 and tenured since 2004, Shimojo has served as director of UB’s Japanese Program since 1996.

He was an executive board member of the Canadian Association for Japanese Language Education (CAJLE) from 2006-18, and has been an adviser/liaison for the Buffalo Japanese Weekend School (for K-8 Japanese bilingual students) since 1998. He is the author of “Argument Encoding in Japanese Conversation,” along with many published journal articles and conference presentations.

Shimojo’s nomination endorsements include:

  • The amount of dedication, time, and energy he invests in his students is unparalleled.”
  • “Other faculty look up to his program as a role model for how to grow their own programs.”
  • “He fosters creativity and critical thinking skills among his students, as well as instilling an appreciation of Japanese and Asian culture.”
  • “Dr. Shimojo is an exemplary teacher and mentor, and I feel strongly that his work deserves to be recognized through this award.”
headshot of Jaroslaw Zola.

Jaroslaw “Jaric” Zola

An associate professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering and the Department of Biomedical Informatics, Zola was named Early Career Teacher of the Year in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences in 2019 and Early Career Teacher of the Year in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering in 2018.

The recipient of a National Science Foundation Early CAREER award in 2019. Zola leads SCoRe - Scalable Computing Research Group, which focuses on “algorithms and software systems to enable fast and accurate exploration of large-scale biomedical and engineering data collections using advanced cyberinfrastructure.”

Among the comments from his nominators:

  • “Extremely dedicated to his students and their well-being.”
  • “Willingness and enthusiasm to work with a wide variety of students.”
  • “He is patient with his students, and he works to provide them with research tasks that fit their interests and skill levels.”