The January-February spotlight was written by Randy McCourt, a Benefactor level contributor to the Endowment Fund. Randy has been a longstanding supporter of the Endowment Fund and was a Western District Board Member at the time of the fund’s formation. The following are Randy’s thoughts on ITE and the Student Endowment Fund:
Over 15 years ago, the Western District Board gathered to consider how to seek greater involvement in ITE by students and transportation faculty. The “20 Point Manifesto” still resides on the WesternITE website today. The actions and subsequent endowment fund strategy have succeeded in opening the professional gateway for many of our members today. However, just because Zaki Mustafa or I arbitrarily established a $500,000 target for the fund does not mean the we as a profession have or are doing everything we can to attract and secure the future of ITE in our student members’ participation. We are experiencing changes in our profession as an amazing pace. At the time of the original student chapter initiatives we had fewer than 30 student chapters; everything was focused on civil engineering programs; choices for events really focused on the District Annual Meeting and hardly anyone uttered the words smart phone, autonomous vehicle, complete streets, vision zero, cloud, video chat/webinar or transportation together with health or equity.
WesternITE has nearly 50 student chapters today. The University of California, Berkeley (when I graduated) used to be one of very few transportation programs in the west. We can now hire talented graduates in every one of our states who have excellent backgrounds and core fundamentals essential to transportation engineering of the future.
We now have the responsibility to prepare our next generation leaders with access to our profession in more ways. The Student Leadership Summit, an International Traffic Bowl, LeadershipITE, student visits to work places, topic networking events, mentorship, reaching out beyond civil engineering to attract complementary degrees to transportation and buddying up students at local section events. All of these play a role in fusing our student members to a future in transportation in new and enduring ways. We know that when we place professionals and students together in intimate, face-to-face networking sessions, mentorship blooms and leaders are born. We are passionate about making a difference in our communities and so are they.
Our ability to bring this to life requires resources. We have a great team of WesternITE volunteers who oversee and manage the endowment fund and they are eager to expand it for the next generation of student outreach and engagement opportunities. Some ideas are simply expanding the great programs we already have (such as the Data Collection Fund) and others are growing new channels of student/professional engagement (such as those listed above). Every ITE event I have attended, the students are excited to hear from all of us about what a career in transportation – the real world – looks like. If you think attracting and retaining the best and brightest to transportation might be a good idea with the transformative changes on the horizon – that energized, young professionals might help us collaborate, create and innovate in new and exciting ways – I would encourage you to join me and giving routinely to the WesternITE Student Endowment Fund allowing it to reach more students who will find a home in our profession and ITE.