Today I have the special honor and pleasure to present to you with special attention Professor Ustijana Rechkoska-Shikoska, Ph.D. She is a successful woman in her profession who has been working dedicatedly for many years. She is the Dean of the Faculty of Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) at the University of Information Science and Technology “St. Paul the Apostle” – Ohrid. She is a caring and dedicated mother of two children and a husband. She is a lover of culture, art, religion, but above all she is a lover of music.
A caring, positive woman with charisma and positive energy was my first impression of her on our first contact. I met her three and a half years ago when we first collaborated through the EU INSTITUTE. She warmly welcomed me and organized a book promotion and lecture for students on the topic of “Body Language” in English at the University of Information Science and Technology “St. Paul the Apostle” in Ohrid.
A few days ago, you honored us with your presence at the International Conference we organized and prepared your paper titled as “Big Data Analytics & Security in Smart City”, which you presented!?
Yes, I gladly accepted your invitation to this International Conference, referring the long-standing cooperation, it was an honor and a challenge. I spoke about Big Data Analytics & Security in Smart City concept as a global trend in finding Smart Solutions using Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) today, which will certainly help in people’s daily lives, especially in this pandemic era that we live unfortunately.
Cyber Security, how attractive is this to us?
Are you trying to network young people and collaborate with other related global Universities?
Of course, Cyber Security, Digital Forensics, Offensive Security are great sources of ICT challenges for research work, but also for working with my dear students, with whom, in addition to the numerous computer science and technology implement, we’re working on Algorithms and Data Structures, Internet programming, Cloud , Edge & Fog Computing. We also work with special interest in these areas of Network Security, both First and Second Cycle Studies, we work with several related Universities from US, Canada, England, Australia, Japan , European countries, as well as from the Region. For the past 9 years I’ve been recognized as the Cyber Security Coordinator in the region (the first and only of its kind at the time) by the University of Vermont, US, which gives me a special challenge to continue working dedicatedly and with great enthusiasm with my dear students and colleagues. in both countries and worldwide.
Referring the fact that we are still in a global pandemic, what challenges has Covid-19 brought to your life and work?
The Covid-19 pandemic unfortunately changed our daily lives and certainly has a great impact on everyone’s life and work. I try to get as much as possible positively from all this (of course the word “positive” takes other meaning now and we rarely use it J). I respect the precautionary measures, as well my family, in our private and professional lives, teaching at the University, completely online throughout this period – for some things of an administrative nature we are less often at the University, of course with protection measures. I am personally motivated by the whole situation to do something with my research in order to help in this world situation in which we find ourselves, and I am maximally committed to the teaching, research and the needs of the University and the students. The homely atmosphere (because we are all working at home online at the moment) also has its advantages – more time together, which makes me personally happy, but it certainly without this reason for pandemic.
You perform lectures online, what were the results in the overall work with students in these unusual conditions?
Yes, We completely do teach online, which is not so strange for us, given the fact that we have positive long-term experience – I performed Distance Learning with international students from the United States in 2010-2011, with really great results from both sides. Today’s students are dedicated, hardworking, intelligent and honest, engineering-oriented, young coders, with whom we successfully conduct online classes, lectures, exercises, defense of BSc theses, Master’s theses, colloquiums, exams, research projects, online quizzes, of course teaching staff and the administration as a UIST Team, we are a really successful story under these circumstances, as evidenced by our numerous students who very successful here, but also worldwide.
I know that you have students from different countries, so how do you think the different mentalities, cultures, customs fit in relation to the teaching that you lead and perform? What are your experiences with different students so far?
Really wonderful experiences – students from all over the world have gone through our lectures, exercises, projects work, theses defenses, and even publishing research papers – the challenge is great – we are one big family, where everyone accepts and respects the other, no matter where he/she is coming from. Many times I have been finding myself in the role of “mother” to help students even in difficult situations, in the absence of their parents, which I did with great responsibility and pleasure. The teaching is completely performed in English, by really solid teaching staff – we are modern J The whole team of the university, both teaching and administration, is extremely dedicated; we work with great enthusiasm and desire to move forward, for twelve years now, which is not a period to neglect. Relatively young University, not that big, as it is sometimes said about us – but certainly the University only one of a kind, not only in the country but also in the region, really makes it big enough. Of course, we develop further and strive for the best.
How frequent are conferences, public debates during the pandemic and how actively do you participate in them?
I participate whenever the opportunity arises, exclusively online in this period and by nature where I can make my modest contribution, usually by applying ICT research, solutions in healthcare, which is of great need in the situation.
I know you are a favorite Professor among students, but might it be a bigger challenge for you to be a Dean or a combination of both?
Yes, I am a Professor above all – My profession “teacher” is my favorite one! I enjoy my profession, I adore my students, with their overall knowledge, characters, needs and I have an understanding of their feelings and attitudes as young people, already intellectuals in their own way. We do need to have a pedagogical component in our profession, and then an educational one, which successfully faces the goal of producing wonderful young professionals praised here and everywhere – I work with all my past and present students, no matter where they are at the moment and it gives me a great motivation to move forward. As a Dean of the Faculty of Computer Science and Engineering CSE, and previously as a Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs & International Cooperation at the University, I’ve worked and still work with dedication and enthusiasm in order to move forward with my dear UIST colleagues, of course I feel satisfied with the administrative, managing positions, but again all that because of the need to help our great students!
You are from Bitola, but you live and work in Ohrid. Bitola or Ohrid?
Yes, I’m from Bitola, with all my heart, born and raised in Bitola – my first and eternal love, among the most beloved ones…. but still in love with my Ohrid, where I live and work, I belong here, like nowhere in the world.
You are a Believer and a lover of religion, did you inherit it from your parents?
My Faith in GOD is the essence of my life. I am an Orthodox Christian. Yes, both my parents and my whole family are Believers, that is how I was raised from an early age, my esteemed mother, father and brother were an example of faith, love, kindness, honesty. I think that being a believer was mostly instilled in me by my esteemed grandmother from Bitola, who unobtrusively and modestly delighted me constantly with her faith in GOD, kindness, devotion, love and a big heart for all, that is in fact the essence of every Faith. We respect, having selfless love for all, to forgive, not to condemn, to be modest and patient, to always do good, to believe, to hope, to love!
I believe that you raise your children in the same spirit?
Absolutely yes, I love and respect my son and daughter immensely, they are my greatest joy, my life. We raise them together with my husband in that spirit, to build lasting values, which will remain nestled deep in their own personality.
As a successful person, I would like to ask you to briefly share your motivating story about how you decided for this profession?
The love for my profession and the desire for it I think deepest in me is instilled by my awesome mother, who is also a university professor, my great brother – seeing them as committed to science, research, students, teaching, colleagues deeply brought in me that desire to become university professor, and after a long period of time of working in IT industry, managing positions, here and around the world, I still decided to move to an academy and I do not regret it at all – I enjoy every moment of my work, and my biggest motivation and challenge – my wonderful students!
I know that you always beautify your home gatherings with music. How often do you play and sing on your piano?
Home, family gatherings are really the most important part of my life – I love my family, my husband and children, as well as my parents, brother & family and my husband’s family, we are all a Happy Family as I call it – I enjoy the moments together, of course full of music. Yes, a large part of my piano playing is performed with my brother, my son and my daughter, singing with my daughter-in-law, we all sing with great love, often duets with my mother and father. I play piano for my husband, who is a fan of a beautiful music. My grandfather from Bitola was playing a guitar, my uncle from Bitola was playing harmonica, his children (my beloved cousins) are playing piano – great people, my most beloved ones… Yes, music is a huge part of our lives. We hope that this period will pass soon and that our getting together in bigger number will become more frequent… whether we like it or not, we are rarely together due to the precautionary measures for a pandemic …
Classical, traditional music or maybe pop? What is your favorite music when you want to relax in the comfort of your own home?
Smooth Jazz is my eternal love, to play that music, but I also listen whenever I have the opportunity. I play with my daughter and I often listen to classical music and it relaxes me. Macedonian old traditional songs are played and sung at our home with love, and of course pop music, hits that sound good forever I think – your vocals and songs inspire me, Verica! Recently I am starting to fall in love with some hip hop music that my son and daughter listen to, mostly in the music of my esteemed son Bagzi, who already has composed his own songs, videos, being DJ as well in his spare time. I enjoy listening to his songs, playing and singing with him, moments of immense happiness. I often play and sing with my two nephew and niece – adorable children, immensely musical, I adore them!
Are you a wine lover, and if so which one?
Wine lover, yes, I love muscat wine, with a gentle tone, my favorite.
What is it like to live with another University professor at home as a partner? A word or two about your husband ….
Interesting, in any way, and logical. We complement each other with my husband – he is an University professor in Electric power engineering – close, engineering scientific field to mine. The engagements as university professors are great for both of us, so we have an understanding for each other, we complement each other and I really believe that it is important for partners to have at least similar if not the same profession, they will definitely understand each other better. My husband is my motivation, great support and everything I am, I’m with him!
Your message to all who want to direct their lives in the field of science?
Believe in yourself, in what you want – science is an inexhaustible source of new challenges, experiences, pursue your goal, with love, hard work and dedication, honesty, never give up – success is inevitable!
What guidance do you give your children regarding interpersonal, life, culture, religion?
We raise our children to love and respect all people equally, to always do their best, to be noble, honest, to love life, to be grateful for everything they have, often one smile is a reason for the greatest happiness! To be cultured, educated, to attend cultural events, to study hard, to read books, to play and sing, to play sports! To truly respect the principles of the faith because it always leads them to success. To do good for themselves, family, friends, colleagues and all the people, even strangers, to forgive, to respect, not to condemn, to know how to persevere in evil as much as possible in return for good – to be humanistic, peaceful, cordial and measured – happiness and success are inevitable! I think every parent wants these things and tries their best to raise their children. Finally the future is within youngsters!
Thank you for the exceptional cooperation, beautiful energy and motivation – always with pleasure with you! Until our next meeting, I wish you all the best!