News | USC PhD Candidate Sue Dexter Shines at Eno Future Leaders Development Conference

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USC PhD Candidate Sue Dexter Shines at Eno Future Leaders Development Conference

Sunday, July 22, 2018

by By Priyanka Ramasamy, USC MSCE 2018 USC Viterbi School of Engineering

Each year, the Eno Center for Transportation (Eno) invites selected students to attend the "Eno Future Leaders Development Conference (LDC)” which “gives 20 of the nation’s top graduate students in transportation a first-hand look at how national transportation policies are developed. Students apply to the program early in the year and those selected as “Eno Fellows” come to Washington, DC for a week of meetings with federal officials and leaders of businesses and non-profit organizations." 

USC Price doctoral student in Urban Planning and Development, Sue Dexter, was selected from applicants nationwide to be a summer 2018 fellow. Dexter has a background in operations research with work experience in logistics and distribution. Her research interests include transportation planning and infrastructure, land use policy, environmental policy, climate change mitigation, and international development.

Admission to the program “is by application,” shared Dexter.   “To become an Eno Fellow and attend the conference free of charge in Washington DC (except for some meals which are not covered), one must be nominated from your university.  Only one nomination per college/program can be submitted. A recommendation from your faculty advisor is required. The program is designed for graduate students (both masters and doctorate levels) in ‘transportation-related programs, including engineering, planning, public policy, public administration, economics, management, and law.’ Students interested in any mode of transportation are encouraged to apply." 

To be considered, students must demonstrate leadership ability and be able to attend the entire conference. US citizenship is NOT a prerequisite. After getting a nomination, one must submit a 2-page resume and a short personal statement that explains why you want to participate and how it could contribute to your personal and professional development. “I believe they are looking for a mix of transportation interests/modes since we had people with research interests across the board,” Dexter said.

At the conference, Dexter shared her work experience, that prior to starting her PhD she had a career at Toyota for over 25 years. There was responsible for numerous projects to improve operations and was able to make significant changes to Toyota’s global supply chain. These efforts resulted in reduced pollution and waste.  

Despite these improvements, she became increasingly concerned about pollution generated from the movement of goods and the sheer volume of trade which has offset gains in fuel economy and cleaner engines. A massive number of diesel trucks pollute our cities, especially near the ports. It is because of these issues that she decided to pursue a doctorate in Urban and Planning Development. 

“I believe that all aspects of a project/product’s life-cycle must be considered in decision making to account for the environmental aspects of transportation. Using ‘clean’ vehicles as an example, cars (or trucks) must be analyzed on a more complete picture of their ‘cradle-to-grave’ impact not just their tailpipe emissions,” Dexter noted.

“A complete carbon footprint of any vehicle must include: 1) pollution measurements from the extraction of rare minerals needed to manufacture batteries or other components; 2) particulates from the manufacturing and distribution of the components, sub-assemblies, and the vehicles themselves; 3) any emissions to make and distribute the fuel including the power grid fuel source used to charge or make fuel for battery or hydrogen vehicles; and 4) recycling and/or retirement of the vehicle,” she continued. According to Dexter, by utilizing this approach, “decision makers can not only compare costs, but also emissions for various options.”

As a future leader, and a player in the efforts to achieve a sustainable transportation environment, Dexter hopes to bring the “cradle-to-grave” life cycle pollution discussion to the forefront so decision making includes all “slices” and locations of the pollution pie.

Dexter shared her interest in applying to the Eno program because she wanted to learn about how transportation projects were handled at the federal level. “Specifically, what was the process, who were the leaders/backers, how did funding get approved, and how were the projects managed. I also wanted to understand the role of lobbies,” she explained. “The program did not disappoint; we spoke with leaders of many of the top think tanks in DC, various planning experts in all sectors (automotive, rail, aviation, bicycle, freight), and US DOT executives.” 

“One of the highlights was going to ‘The Hill’ and hearing from several people who had developed transportation legislation and been chief of staff for several members of Congress. I was honored to hear straight talk about the struggles that people have in moving important initiatives forward. In fact, I think everyone we spoke with gave us honest and unbiased information,” she said.

Eno Future Leaders Conference Attendees; Top Row Sue Dexter with former Sec of Transportation Anthony Foxx (Obama), Mary Peters (George W Bush) and James Burnley (Reagan)

After speaking with Dexter, I truly comprehend her ambitions and efforts to make a difference in the transportation industry. It is easy to understand her selection as an Eno Fellow due to her combination of wisdom, motivation, and a strong work ethic. I, along with all of us at METRANS and PSR, wish her all the best.

The Eno Foundation:

The Eno Foundation is a non-profit agency based in Washington, DC with a mission of cultivating creative and visionary leadership throughout all transportation fields. Named after Phelps Eno, the first person to develop systematic traffic management systems in the United States, Eno “focuses on all modes of transportation”.  More information can be found at

About the Author:

Priyanka Ramasamy is a second-year graduate student in Transportation Engineering at the Viterbi School of Engineering and Editor in Chief of METRANS on the Move.  She holds a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering and is particularly interested in Traffic Design and Operations, Simulation and Network modelling to solve transportation issues. She is currently interning at DKS Associates and can be reached at [email protected] and (323)-505-5441