News | PSR Students Attend the 26th Annual CTF Transportation Education Symposium

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PSR students and professional participants reunited with other schools’ transportation enthusiasts at the 26th Annual CTF Transportation Education Symposium, on November 4 – 5, 2021 in Sacramento, California. The symposium featured a cohort of 39 students who represent 19 different academic institutions throughout California. Participating students were standouts in their academic programs and were nominated by faculty members at their institutions who serve as liaisons with CTF. Participants included 13 PSR students from the University of Southern California, California State University, Long Beach, UC Davis, UC Irvine, and UCLA.

The California Transportation Foundation (CTF), founded in 1988 by former Caltrans Chief Deputy Director Heinz Heckeroth, has been hosting the Transportation Education Symposium since 1994. This two-day mentoring symposium is known as one of the signature events and a key effort of CTF in encouraging innovation in the transportation field and educating the next generation of California transportation professionals. During the symposium, students are paired with mentors for one-on-one coaching. Student teams compete in a real-world Request for Qualifications (RFQ) scenario while professionals role-play stakeholders and decision-makers.

James Huang, a USC undergraduate majoring in Industrial Engineering, stated that his experience at the CTF Symposium was an opportunity to interact one-on-one with transportation professionals from throughout California. Huang shared that the “Ask Me Anything” session of the symposium was particularly useful. Students were able to ask professionals specific questions about transportation career pathways as well as general questions about the industry at large.

The interactive activities of the RFQ mock scenario offered students a chance to explore a different area of the transportation field, such as Civil Engineering and Industrial Design. Students recognized the importance of teamwork and collaboration in transportation planning and incorporating stakeholders’ demands. “I not only learned from my mentors the importance of connections in the transportation industry but also learned the value professionals and those higher up place on thinking outside of the box,” Huang said.

Reuniting after the global pandemic, the mentors, who hold senior positions in their organizations, found it exciting to gather in person and network with other transportation professionals. Mentors provided the students with an unparalleled experience which is not only a rewarding learning experience for students but an uplifting experience for the mentors. “Students emerge from the experience with a much sharper idea of the business development role they will be expected to play as professionals, in both the public and private arenas,” said Dr. James Moore, CTF Scholarship Committee Chair and the Director of Transportation Engineering Programs at USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering. Dr. Moore shared that the unique learning opportunities offered by the Symposium included students being put in teams in order to execute a task under time pressure. Students learned to incorporate the knowledge they acquired at school and leveraged that knowledge to collaborate with other students while receiving personalized guidance from experts.

Dr. Moore credited the organization and coordination effort of CTF in making the 26th Annual CTF Transportation Education Symposium a success while also complying with COVID-19 guidance to protect participants’ health and safety. Students were allowed individual rooms to promote distancing. The CTF board also facilitates travel support and this year the METRANS Transportation Consortium provided support for student attendees from USC and CSULB.