News | Student Workers Gear Up for Another Semester at METRANS

Stop the Video



by Jacob Wong, USC Master of Public Policy, 2023

As the calendar turns to a new year and the lecture halls of USC once again open for classes, it’s back to regular business for the different student teams at METRANS. Over the past few weeks, METRANS’ student workers took advantage of time off during their winter break to relax, recover from school, and travel.


Some vacation plans did not go as smoothly as others. Student Newsletter editor Namjoo Park’s trip was derailed due to a canceled flight, becoming one of thousands of travelers who had a scheduled flight with Southwest Airlines canceled over the holidays due to extensive staff shortages and technical errors. The systemwide disruptions cost the airline an estimated $700 to $800 million and has left travelers with lost luggage and refunds that have yet to be processed.


Despite her unfortunate travel circumstances over the break, Park is optimistic about the upcoming semester and ready to build off her first few months at METRANS. “I will do my best to provide more useful news, events, and information related to transportation, [particularly for students], this year,” she wrote in a statement to the newsletter.


As other student workers embarked on their winter break travels, they got to see other sides of California’s transportation system beyond the Los Angeles region. Agil Wibowo, a lead for the METRANS Student Website and Social Media teams, went on a road trip with friends to the San Francisco Bay Area, stopping in the seaside village of Carmel near Monterey on the way. 


“In Carmel, we didn’t find street lights, stop signs, or public transportation like in any other city,” said Wibowo. “The city became more relaxing and peaceful without these features [making me think]: Does commuting make our life heavier due to the trips, overcrowding, and air pollution?”


William Graswich, a METRANS student worker, also found himself considering the effects of travel behavior in California after returning from a snow trip in Big Bear over the holidays. “Driving from the beach to the mountains in a few hours was a reminder of how remarkable it is to live in California,” said Graswich, “but also how dependent we are on cars for vacations and day trips.”


Refreshed and well-rested after the break, the student workers are looking to apply their interest in transportation-related issues toward the upcoming spring semester’s programming. This semester, student worker Namitha Nixon will resume a role she held last year as a lead for METRANS’ Good Neighbors Grant (GNG) program. As part of the program, a team of student workers will lead students from a high school near USC in a series of workshops, speaker panels, and field trips related to careers in the transportation field.


“Hosting the GNG program last year was one of my favorite experiences at METRANS,” said Nixon. “We got to lead exciting educational activities for a group of incredibly bright and talented students in the local Los Angeles community. It is always a joy to meet the students each year and get to know them throughout the program.”


In addition to the GNG program, METRANS is also planning to host a number of speaker events and workshops this semester. For Agil Wibowo, these events are not only beneficial to student audiences, but his own career development as well. “When interacting with [transportation researchers and professionals] at the seminars, I learn about potential research projects and job openings that may be available to me,” he said.


I'm looking forward to the upcoming METRANS seminars and speaker events,” said Graswich. “2023 should have a great lineup."


About the Author:

Jacob is a second-year MPP student at the Price School of Public Policy. He is interested in urban policy and transportation planning issues. As a recent LA transplant, he enjoys exploring the area and the local food scene in his free time.