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Public Health Students, Faculty Honored in University’s Graduate School Annual Awards

Each spring semester, the University of Miami’s Graduate School hosts an Awards Ceremony to showcase important contributions and achievements made during the academic year. Graduate students and faculty are recognized in support of graduate education and the teaching, research, and service missions of the University.

The ceremony took place this year on April 27, 2021, where 80 attendees gathered virtually to celebrate the recipients and nominees of five prestigious awards.

“I have three favorite events of the year,” said Guillermo “Willy” Prado, vice provost for faculty affairs, dean of the Graduate School, and professor of nursing and health studies and public health sciences. “This is one of them. Each of the events has a common denominator in that we can recognize graduate students and faculty and/or highlight their talent. In this ceremony, we get to do both.”

There were over 50 students and faculty from the University who were nominated for the awards, which included Outstanding Graduate Research Assistant, Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant, Graduate Student Exemplar, Outstanding Program Director, and Faculty Mentor of the Year.

This year, Marissa Kobayashi, a Ph.D. in Prevention Science and Community Health student, was named the recipient of the 2021 Graduate Exemplar Award. The award recognizes a graduating student who excelled academically and has either overcome tremendous odds to be successful or has consistently made contributions that benefit others.

I am so honored to be nominated and chosen for this award especially after hearing my fellow nominees’ extraordinary stories and knowing that my mentor, Dr. Sara St. George, nominated me," said Kobayashi. "I feel as though very few people can overcome great challenges alone. I certainly have not. I have had the love, support, and help of so many people here within and outside of the UM community.”

Dr. St. George, who is an assistant professor in the Miller School of Medicine’s Department of Public Health Sciences and director of the M.S. in Prevention Science and Community Health Program, expressed that she is beyond proud of Kobayashi.

“I have learned so much from her as a woman, mother, leader, and scientist,” said Dr. St. George. “She never ceases to amaze me with her brilliance, strength, diligence, and integrity. It’s wonderful to acknowledge and celebrate someone who spends so much of her time supporting, uplifting, and inspiring others.”

The Department of Public Health Sciences also had several of its students and faculty nominated for the awards—each who have made exceptional contributions to public health locally, nationally, and internationally.

Pablo Montero-Zamora and Ruth St. Fleur, two Ph.D. in Prevention Science and Community Health students, were nominees of the Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant awards. Montero-Zamora was also nominated for the graduate student exemplar award, along with Aidan Wells, a Master of Public Health and Master of Arts in Latin American Studies student, and Nina Wojtowicz, a Master of Public Health student. 

Eric Brown, Ph.D., associate professor in the Miller School of Medicine’s Department of Public Health Sciences, was also nominated for Faculty Mentor of the Year.

“Congratulations to all of our winners, nominees, and a special thanks to all of our nominators and all of you who support our graduate students in one way or another,” said Dr. Prado. “In our eyes, you are all winners. What is special about this event is not winning the award, but that someone took the time to nominate you. Whether it was one of your students, professors, one of your advisees, a fellow colleague—someone took time to write a letter because they felt that you have done so much to support teaching, research, and service.” 

Winners: 

Nominees: 

Written by Amanda Torres 
Published on April 30, 2021