UCF Undergraduate Research Mentor of the Year


Joanna Mishtal, Ph.D., associate professor in the department of anthropology, was recently awarded the UCF Undergraduate Research Mentor of the Year, sponsored by the Office of Undergraduate Research and the Student Undergraduate Research Council. This honor is awarded through student nomination letters. Students elect to write the letters and the letters are carefully read and scored by the Student Undergraduate Research Council. This year there were 16 nominations for this award.

Mishtal was nominated by one of the 16 students: Tiernan Middleton, who completed an honors thesis under her mentorship titled, “Homophobia and HIV Transmission: A Six-Country Comparative Analysis.” He was awarded first place scholarship in the social sciences category for his poster presentation of this research during the 2015 Annual UCF Showcase of Undergraduate Research Excellence.

Dr. Kimberly Schneider, the OUR Director explained that, “Submitting a nomination letter is an optional undertaking and students take time composing details with regard to the mentorship they have received. They answer numerous questions on how their mentor has affected their career at UCF. SURC members review the letters and make the final decision. This process is very thorough and the members spend hours reviewing the letters before a Mentor of the Year is determined.”

According to Schneider, Tiernan Middleton “wrote a very compelling letter” and quoted him saying that he “…would have never pursued the path that I have taken. She has shaped me into a passionate, eager candidate for M.D./Ph.D. programs and has provided me with the resources to make me a competitive candidate as well. She is a mentor and a friend and I hope that I can work with her as a colleague in the future.”

Mishtal was thrilled to receive this prestigious recognition and added, “I feel fortunate to have the chance to work with extraordinarily talented and motivated students like Tiernan. This award has been a great honor and it has given me a wonderful boost of energy for my continued work with students.”

Mishtal specializes in cultural medical anthropology focusing on gender, sexuality and health in Poland, Ireland and the European Union. She received her Ph.D. in cultural anthropology from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2006, and she was the recipient of the Charlotte Ellertson Postdoctoral Fellowship at Columbia University, Mailman School of Public Health, from 2006 to 2008.

Her work, which blends anthropology and public health approaches, has been supported by the Fulbright Scholarship, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Devaney Fellowship, the Ellertson Postdoctoral Fellowship, and the Wenner-Gren Foundation. Her long-term research is the subject of her ethnography titled, The Politics of Morality: The Church, the State and Reproductive Rights in Postsocialist Poland published by Ohio University Press and scheduled for release July 15, 2015.

She joined the UCF faculty in 2008 and teaches cultural, medical, and applied/public anthropology courses.  She advises students conducting research in the Masters Program, the School of Medicine, and the Honors in the Major program. In 2010, she co-developed the Medical Anthropology Minor for students from other social sciences to promote interdisciplinarity and interest in medical anthropology as well as global and community health. In 2014 she developed the Anthropology of Global Health Certificate, which begins in the summer 2015.

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