News | METRANS Mentor Program Launches with Mentoring for Success in a Virtual World Panel

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by Jessica Brown, USC, B.S. Civil Engineering 2022

On Friday November 13th, the METRANS Transportation Center held a panel event entitled Mentoring for Success in a Virtual World. The panel served as the annual launch event for the METRANS Mentor Program, which strives to connect students and young professionals interested in transportation with experienced leaders in the field.  


The discussion was moderated by USC Annenberg Professor and leadership professional Rebecca Weintraub. The panelists included three current Mentor Program mentors as well as a Mentor Program and METRANS alumna: Meredith Canterbury, Senior GIS Specialist at LSA Associates; Mengzhao Hu, Senior Project Manager at Mott MacDonald; Steven Mateer, Transportation Manager for the City of Glendora; and Nicole Guo, Traffic Designer at HDR and the aforementioned METRANS and Mentor Program alum. 


 Rebecca Weintraub, USC Annenberg


The conversation began with Weintraub asking about the panelists’ most impactful mentoring relationship. Steven Mateer spoke about a manager at LA Metro whom he and his coworkers deemed the “Office Dad”. Steven reflected on his mentor’s advice regarding patience, especially as a young transportation professional just beginning his career. This mentor reminded Steven to view each position as an opportunity for learning and growth. Nicole Guo gained similar guidance from mentors at various companies she has worked with in her professional career. She recalls a mentor explaining that she should not limit herself to just one aspect of the transportation field, instead advising her to learn as much as possible about topics from planning to engineering to design. Guo reflected that she wanted to “go out and conquer the world” at first, but her mentor reminded her to “be patient and learn deeper.”


 Steven Mateer, City of Glendora


Meredith Canterbury encouraged attendees to embrace mentors from diverse disciplines — even those that may not directly align with the mentees. She wisely noted, “you don’t have to be in the same field to gain knowledge [from someone].” Hu reflected on a mentor’s advice as it relates to embracing company culture. She has come to prioritize working for companies that cherish and invest in each employee’s success. 


 Meredith Canterbury, LSA Associates


Once the session opened for discussion amongst the panelists and attendees, the conversation transitioned to address networking and maintaining connections when operating in a virtual environment. Many panelists and mentors in attendance stressed the importance of being brave when reaching out to a contact and preparing thoroughly before an event or interaction. Guo emphasized the importance of setting goals for oneself prior to any networking event or conference, such as identifying how many business cards or new contacts one hopes to obtain, and many attendees agreed that this virtual environment provides new ways of connecting with colleagues and other professionals that weren’t possible before.


Nicole Guo, HDR


Panelists specifically encouraged attendees to have a plan for following up with contacts, and many referenced LinkedIn as a great tool for staying in touch. Shuqi Hao, a Mentor Program mentee and student in the Viterbi Master of Transportation Engineering program who attended the event, shared that she plans to utilize Guo’s goal-setting tips in the future. Impressed by the panelists and mentors, Shuqi said she will “definitely apply these tips for the next networking event or webinar.”


 Mengzhao Hu, Mott MacDonald


The METRANS Mentor Program Staff is deeply grateful to our moderator and panelists for conducting such a great event. We wish our mentees and mentors success as they develop their virtual mentoring relationships throughout the academic year! 

The METRANS Mentor Program accepts applications on a rolling basis throughout the school year. If you’re interested in applying to be a mentee, please visit


About the Author: Jessica Brown is a staff member with the METRANS Mentorship Program. She is a Junior at USC studying Civil Engineering and is originally from Clinton, Maryland.