Michael Knodler Jr., a professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) Department and director of the University of Massachusetts Transportation Center, is the winner of a UMass 2021 ADVANCE Faculty Peer Mentor Award. This annual award recognizes the critically important work faculty members perform in mentoring and supporting the professional development and success of their colleagues.
One of the two nomination letters for Knodler was written by six College of Engineering faculty members: Song Gao, Eric Gonzales, Chengbo Ai, and Jimi Oke from the CEE department; and Shannon Roberts and Anuj Pradhan from the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department.
“Most of us first experienced Dr. Knodler’s mentorship during the nerve-wracking interviews before even joining UMass,” as the letter explained, “when he genuinely helped us with a critical professional and life choice rather than evaluating us only as candidates with or without specific qualifications.”
The letter went on to say that “Such a glimpse of kindness grew into countless meetings, conversations, and email exchanges covering almost every angle of our careers (intellectual development, networking, teaching, student mentoring, and public engagement) and life (parenthood and work-life balance).”
The six faculty members noted that Knodler’s mentorship goes beyond individual meetings or mentoring sessions.
“He has dedicated enormous effort to create a platform where soliciting help and support becomes effortless,” the letter observed. “As the UMass Transportation Center director, he has created valuable opportunities for us to directly connect with potential funding agencies, such as USDOT and MassDOT.”
In addition, the letter said, “As the co-director of the Arbella Insurance Human Performance Laboratory and the co-director of Safety Research Using Simulation University Transportation Consortium, Dr. Knodler has made every effort to provide us with the necessary resources and support to launch our research programs. His successes are not only represented in his own research accomplishments but also by those of the broader group of faculty working on transportation at UMass.”
Beyond all that, the six faculty members said, Knodler has always focused on building an inclusive environment for faculty, staff, and students: “Among his long list of mentees includes numerous female and underrepresented faculty members and students. He gives everyone the same amount of dignity, respect, and encouragement.”
CEE Associate Professor Eleni Christofa wrote the second of the two nomination letters that resulted in Knodler being selected for a peer mentor award.
As Christofa said in her nomination letter, “Mike has been my mentor since the beginning of my career at UMass almost 8.5 years ago…Mike’s door has been open since day one, and he has helped me navigate the university and the challenges of applying for external funding, developing engaging course materials, and advising students.”
Christofa said that Knodler has also been an effective mentor in helping her choose service that is meaningful and valuable to the profession and the department. As she wrote, “I certainly attribute much of my success in receiving tenure and being promoted to associate professor to his clear guidance and honest feedback on my research and teaching throughout the years.”
According to Christofa, “My research has flourished due to Mike’s mentorship and willingness to collaborate with me from my very first years in the faculty. He has very generously allocated time to discuss funding opportunities, explain new concepts to me (e.g., cost-share), connect me to the appropriate staff or researchers, and review my proposals and publications.”
Christofa added that “Mike has also been my biggest champion. He never fails to give me credit, even for small contributions, and ensures that people across his extended professional network know about my scholarly research and its impact.” (June 2021)