Research Projects


Comedian Steven Wright said, “A lot of people ask me if I were shipwrecked and could only have one book, what would it be? I always say, ‘How to Build a Boat.’” Wright’s advice is hilarious because it’s surprisingly obvious yet most people never think of it. But it’s also funny because it is ultimately practical. WTS-LA’s Transportation Resume Book (TRB) shares Wright’s ultimate practicality. An invaluable resource for Southern California job-seeking college graduates in transportation, WTS-LA’s TRB has helped hundreds of students in its decade of publication. But TRB chair and WSP Assistant Transportation/Environmental manager Todd Nguyen wants to make it even better.

“I remember all too well when I was searching for internships and a full-time career and how difficult and unclear the process was for me,” explains Nguyen. “The TRB helps students focus, while affording them the opportunity to get the attention of prospective employers. But with the 2017 TRB, we tried to do even more. In addition to including resumes from transportation graduates, we also included information sessions about transportation trends and technical tools that students could use and apply in their burgeoning careers. And the students thought that was extremely valuable.

Photo by John Lizvey

“Moving forward, I want the TRB to provide more professional development, mentorship, and career advancement for young professionals. In that way, it can complement and support multiple WTS-LA initiatives. The annual TRB is a great tool/resource to engage students initially, but we want to keep that connection strong and help students beyond graduation and during their first job. Everyone on the TRB Committee develops a kinship with each of the students through the process of reviewing resumes and outreach events. We invest in these students. So, we want to expand the TRB into a young professionals group where aspiring transportation students and new professionals can engage with each other and exchange ideas.”

Mr. Nguyen’s plans are ambitious. But if the 2017 TRB and the work of the TRB Committee are any indication, those plans will be fully realized. This was a very successful year for the TRB, marking its 10th¬†anniversary of bringing gifted candidates to WTS-LA Corporate Partners! In 2017, the TRB Committee hosted five in-person outreach events at CSUN, Cal Poly Pomona, UC Irvine, UCLA, and USC. They received a record-breaking 225 resume submissions from 16 schools, ranging from community colleges to universities. And the resumes spanned five transportation focuses: environmental, engineering, logistics, planning, and public policy. Why does this kind of outreach and diversity matter?

“Transportation as a profession is rarely a first choice,” adds TRB Committee member and ACCESS Grants & Compliance analyst¬†Alvina Narayan. “Through the TRB we look to inspire students to view transportation as an exciting career choice. And when you look at what we’ve been able to accomplish this year, it’s pretty evident we’re committed to investing in the students’ success. Personally, I’ve found working with the committee to be an empowering experience that really connects students and professionals.”

Evidently, TRB-participating students agree with Ms. Narayan’s assessment.

Photo by John Livzey

“Ever since getting involved with WTS-LA, they’ve been unbelievably generous and supportive. The TRB mixer and raffle really encapsulated WTS-LA’s spirit of encouraging young professionals,” explains Scripps College graduate Emily Audet. “Through the raffle, I won an informational interview with LA Metro, which was really helpful to me as a recent graduate.”

“As someone new to the Los Angeles region, the TRB event introduced me to a diverse array of transportation planners and engineers, all working hard to make LA a better place,” adds USC student Garrett Rapsilber. “I now attend urban planning events with confidence knowing that I’ll encounter familiar faces. These connections have already proven invaluable, offering career advice and internship leads that will undoubtedly help me succeed as an urban planner once I graduate.”

Both Ms. Audet and Mr. Rapsilber praised the TRB Mixer, an all-encompassing event designed to bring together students and WTS-LA corporate partners. Held this year on April 27 in downtown Los Angeles, the TRB Mixer featured more than 50 students, 30 professionals, and 16 companies including ACCESS, AECOM, Berg and Associates, CH2M, Fehr & Peers, HDR, HNTB, Iteris, Jacobs, LKG-CMC, LAWA, METRO, Mott MacDonald, Stantec, STV, and WSP. Open to students participating in the TRB, the mixer is an exclusive opportunity for WTS-LA corporate partners to meet these aspiring transportation professionals. The evening also included testimonials from WTS-LA president and LKG-CMC founder Kathy Simons, WTS-LA Programs co-chair and Berg & Associates client relations manager Jenelle Saunders, and WTS-LA Programs co-chair and Mott MacDonald rail transit engineer Kaoru McCullough. And the TRB Committee held a raffle with unusual and invaluable prizes like one-on-one mentoring with an executive, project site tours, a headshot photography session, and WTS-LA student memberships.

While the TRB Mixer certainly benefits the students, they were clearly not the only people who see its value.

“The mixer provides a wonderful opportunity for the transportation industry to meet our rising colleagues,” explains WTS-LA Programs co-chair and CH2M transportation engineer Heather Anderson. “These students and recent grads are eager to implement their skills and knowledge in various transportation-related disciplines. They’re confident and optimistic about the future of transportation in Los Angeles County. And I look forward to seeing and working with them in the future. And the TRB Mixer is a great way to meet them.”

And that speaks directly to the ultimate benefit for WTS-LA corporate partners, a first look at tomorrow’s transportation stars.

Mott MacDonald lead recruiter Kevin Ramsey sees the TRB and its related events as an important and meaningful investment. “Mott MacDonald was happy to attend the [TRB Mixer] this spring to meet with and collect resumes from several dozen students from Southern California colleges and universities. And our firm will remain committed to working with WTS-LA as a leader in matching our global opportunities with talented local students.”

Steven Wright said that the book he would most want if he were shipwrecked was, “How to build a boat?” His mislead of an answer points to the ultimate practicality and value of his vision. TRB chair and WSP Assistant Transportation/Environmental manager Todd Nguyen and the TRB Committee share that vision and are implementing it to make the highly successful TRB even better.¬†