Dear T&DI Members and Friends:
Happy New year! It was a pleasure to see many of you earlier this month at the Transportation Research Board Meeting in Washington, D.C.
Before the holidays, in December 2023, I had the privilege of chairing the ASCE T&DI Board of Directors meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, where we had a walk-through of the site for the International Conference on Transportation Development (ICTD). We were pleased with the space and the accommodation arrangements that are being put in place for the conference. Along with an exciting and informative set of technical panels and sessions to be held there, the Atlanta ICTD (June 15th-June 18th, 2024) promises to be another engaging and stimulating T&DI professional event. I do hope you have marked your calendars to be at this conference, which will be held in partnership with the Georgia Department of Transportation. See you there!
During the Board meeting in Atlanta, a number of other important issues were also discussed, including an overview of the new standards office within ASCE to support and grow standards operations, as well as a discussion of the new grants office within ASCE to elevate STEM and workforce development activities. In this issue of T&DI Connections, I would like to spend some time on the topic of workforce development.
As we all know only too well, it is important to ensure a continual pipeline of transportation professionals who are able to navigate (and proactively influence) the fast-changing technological, climate, social, and environmental landscape we live in. ASCE T&DI has been at the forefront of many activities associated with this pipeline development, including mentoring programs, workshops, and professional events. A few years back, we added to these activities by organizing young/prospective faculty and young practitioner workshops held before the ICTD conferences. All of these activities will be continued and enhanced, including a plan well underway for a full one-day workshop for our younger members just before the 2024 ICTD conference. But our efforts need to go even earlier within the education system, beginning at the K-12 levels. In particular, middle and high-schoolers need to be made aware of the “cool” and exciting nature of transportation careers, spanning the spectrum of technological/AI opportunities and social science and environmental sustainability challenges. In the long run, from a scaling standpoint, this is perhaps best accomplished through a mix of in-person and virtual platform-driven efforts. However, the starting point for such efforts needs to be through in-person engagement with teachers at middle and high schools to develop transportation-related activities and visual information modules.
Doing so has the benefit of reaching out to the entire pool of prospective transportation leaders of tomorrow rather than the self-selection that inevitably happens when events are held outside schools. This is particularly important because evidence shows that, within our broad transportation profession, women and minorities are still not represented anywhere close to their population share. The "in-person-at-school" approach has the distinct advantage of reaching women and minorities at large as much as other societal groups. In this regard, in the coming months, the T&DI Board will be discussing plans to develop a streamlined “umbrella” program/curriculum that can be customized for use at any independent school district, including strategies to communicate and get involved with local schools. I look forward to all of us working together and committing to such renewed T&DI efforts toward workforce development through K-12 engagement.
Thank you for your continued support of T&DI activities. And, as always, feel free to write to me if you have ideas/thoughts on how T&DI can further its contributions to our profession and to our communities.
Chandra Bhat, Ph.D., P.E., M.ASCE
President, Transportation & Development Institute (T&DI)
American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)