The human body is an intricate system of nerves, ligaments, bones, tendons and muscles. Because Dr. Richard Niezgoda understands that complexity and believes his students can, too, he was named the 2023 Adjunct Professor of the Year.

Since January 2014, Niezgoda has taught Anatomy and Physiology. He holds a doctor of chiropractic degree and is a licensed physician but tutored physiology in school because it was a common course students fail. He also was a private tutor for cell physiology. When he graduated, he knew he wanted to teach because of how much he enjoyed tutoring.

“I didn’t go to school for or plan to teach, but I’m really glad I ended up where I am,” Niezgoda said. “When I graduated, I almost instantly had jobs to teach. I got really lucky.”

Anatomy is the study of the structure of the human body while physiology looks at the functions of the body. It is a rigorous course, but Niezgoda reiterates the challenges students will face so they are ready to put in the time and energy, especially when new ligaments and muscles are still being discovered.

“I stress to the students that I know few people who haven’t struggled with this subject, and it’s more important in how you pick yourself up and dust yourself off,” he explained.

“I’m always willing to listen. I believe most of the students coming through my door have the potential to get where they want. I don’t give up on them.”

Some ways Niezgoda helps his students succeed are repeatedly going over the bones and histology or studying microscopic structure of tissues. He makes a PowerPoint practice for students to take home since they can’t take microscopes home to examine and identify tissues. That very element was mentioned in his nomination.

“He provides great feedback and not just on our PowerPoints. He makes it so clear and organized that we [don’t need to] Google to understand a specific part. He also gives us sample questions for each PowerPoint, which I really like because we get to test our knowledge,” wrote his student nominator. “I have met a lot of professors, but he really puts all his effort and even extra effort for his students to succeed. He really cares about his students. He is just awesome.”

In class, when they discuss the body’s reflexes, Niezgoda has students [consensually] try a knee or Achilles reflex on each other to see what they learn in action. He also has written a number of recommendations for students working toward a career in the medical field. All that student attention led to this honor.

“I am humbled by this award. I know there are a lot of adjuncts who are just as worthy or more so than me. I was fortunate to have great interactions with a student who thought I was a good candidate,” Niezgoda noted. “It’s nice to have the recognition, and I’m really humbled someone would nominate me let alone select me. It makes me think of all the things that led up to this stage in my career. I’m very grateful this is my job.”