News | Institute of Transportation Engineers Student Leadership Summit Calls Five USC Undergraduates to Berkeley

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by By: Lauren Mullarkey-Williams, USC 2019

The UC Berkeley (Cal) Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) Student Chapter held the 6th Annual Student Leadership Summit (SLS) January 25-27, 2019. Over 150 student leaders from nearly 20 universities traveled to the Bay Area to take part in a weekend full of technical, professional, and leadership development, all focused around emerging topics in the transportation industry.

Students from nearly 20 universities gathered outside Cal's University Library.

USC ITE leaders, Rachel Krusenoski, Lei Lily Tam, Lilly Nie, Danielle Dirksen, and I were joined by our Chapter Advisor, Professor Eric Shen, as we visited Cal to participate in the activities and connect with both students and professionals in the field. All five of us share a passion for the transportation industry; however, we come from different academic backgrounds, and each one of us took something different away from our experiences at SLS 2019.

USC ITE Chapter President, Rachel Krusenoski, is a veteran to SLS, having attended the 2018 conference held in Corvallis, Oregon. She knew going into this year that SLS would provide her with numerous opportunities to improve her elevator pitch and network with some the largest transportation agencies and consulting firms in the region. Rachel enjoyed the mock speed interviews, resume workshops, and small group Q&A sessions with industry professionals. As a soon to be graduate (May 2019) with a B.S. in Urban and Regional Studies and Minor in Environmental Sciences, Rachel found SLS 2019 to be a great way to connect with recruiters and jump start her search for career opportunities in the transportation industry.

Lei Lily Tam made a point at SLS 2019 to reconnect with many of the friends and connections she had made at previous professional events, including the California Transportation Foundation (CTF) Symposium held in San Jose in November 2018. Over the past three years, her involvement with ITE has taught her that despite the large number of opportunities for transportation professionals, the community feels quite small, and it is important to develop strong relationships with those you may one day be working with. As an Industrial Systems Engineering Student, Lei Lily was also grateful that the conference offered various technical presentations, including featured speakers from organizations all across the field. Representatives from Uber, Fehr &Peers, and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency each offered different insight and perspectives on the field that ensured all participants’ interests were met.

Urban and Regional Studies Sophomore, Lilly Nie, was most intrigued by a panel moderated by Cal ITE leaders on Sustainability and Autonomous Vehicles (AVs). The panel consisted of four diverse women who have been paving the way in their respective fields and who each had their own vision for how we as transportation professionals can ensure a safe and successful transition into the AV era. Lily’s interest in how policies shape the industry aligned closely with the discussion Susan Shaheen of Cal’s Transportation Sustainability Research Center sparked regarding the future of how we will get around cities. She was inspired by panel’s emphasis on the equity of AVs and hopes to bring these ideas back to her own research at USC.

Danielle Dirksen recently discovered her interest in transportation after joining Lei Lily Tam at the 2018 CTF Symposium. She was thrilled to be visiting the Cal campus for the first time, and enjoyed meeting new friends, as well as reconnecting with familiar faces. Danielle also enjoyed the Team Challenge event at SLS 2019. The entire group was split into teams and asked the question, “How would you improve public transit?” Breaking out of her shell, Danielle took a leading role in developing her team’s vision that won First Place for the best overall idea and poster. When the awards were announced, Danielle also proudly took the microphone on stage and shared her team’s vision with the entire room. As someone who now refers to her “fear of public speaking” in the past tense, SLS 2019 was a tremendous opportunity for Danielle’s professional and personal growth.

Danielle (third from left) and teammates accepting First Place for their Vision of Better Public Transit.

For me, SLS 2019 was the first ITE event I’ve attended, and I loved learning how many opportunities there are to get involved with professional organizations following graduation. One of the most valuable aspects of getting involved at this level, the Western Regional ITE Leaders explained, is that the same network will be here to support you throughout school, during the often-difficult transition into the workforce, and beyond. I feel very lucky that USC’ s very own transportation community encourages students to get involved in multiple professional organizations and offers pathways to secure funding for all sorts of opportunities.

The five of us would not have been able to participate in SLS 2019 had it not been for the support of both the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy and USC Viterbi School of Engineering. We’d like to extend a special thank you to the faculty members who devote so much time and energy into connecting students to professional resources, especially Victoria Deguzman (USC METRANS Transportation Center), Professor James Moore (USC Price, USC Viterbi), and Professor Eric Shen (USC Viteribi). Without your guidance, support, and enthusiasm for the industry, none of us would have found the same passions we now share for transportation.

Professor Eric Shen (top) "Fighting On" with USC Students, (left to right) Lilly Nie, Danielle Dirksen, Lei Lily Tam, Lauren Mullarkey-Williams, and Rachel Krusenoski.

The end of SLS 2019 marked a new chapter for both USC students and our neighbors at UCLA, as the two schools will be teaming up to plan and host SLS 2020. The 7th annual conference will be a joint effort of the two schools and will give visiting students the opportunity to explore both areas of Los Angeles while participating in leadership development activities and networking with industry professionals. We look forward to organizing another successful SLS and sharing the fun with our fellow ITE Student Chapters at schools all across the Western US.

Photo credits: Eric Shen Photography

About the Author:

A 2019 graduate of the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy, Lauren Mullarkey-Williams holds 4 years of experience in several interrelated fields, including public policy, transportation and land use planning, georgaphic information systems, urban development, and sustainability. As Editor-in-Chief of METRANS on the Move, Lauren is excited to share her passions for accessibility, design, environmentalism, mobility, and social justice with fellow transportation scholars.