Student Endowment Fund: January/February

For the January-February spotlight, we will hear from the University of California, Irvine student chapter officers about their passion for the transportation industry and ITE. They share with us some of the rewards and challenges of being student chapter officers:

University of California, Irvine Officers (from left to right) Mareeya Tongkul, Enrique Ortiz, and Yu (Bill) Zhu

Mareeya Tongkul – ITE President
5th Year / Civil Engineering, Transportation Specialization

How did you join ITE?
I joined ITE through an upperclassman of mine in ASCE. He was assigned to be my personal mentor through our student chapter mentorship program. So far as an undergrad, my only exposure to transportation at this point was a class on “Highway Analysis and Design”. Through my mentor, my horizons were broaden on the concept of what transportation possibly could offer aside from that study. He enthusiastically share with me his ambition on why he loved transportation. As we had lunch, we sat and recognized how efficient it was for us to get to one place to another in just a matter of minutes or hours depending on the distance. Through that introduction, it peaked my interest to get more involved in what I can possibly do to explore more of what transportation was, is, and will be. Which led me to ITE because my mentor was a board member two years ago.

What do you like about your ITE position?
As president this year, I personally enjoy my position because I have the ability to develop and cultivate a new environment for my board members and the overall club. The way I reassure my board members and the rest of the general members is that we are only as strongest as our weakest link, thus we must support and build each other up. As engineers and contributing civilians to our society we will continually be working ethically as a member of a team. Which ultimately means we are always working together, not against one another. As a member of an executive board it is expected that we are uphold to a higher standard to carry out the organization and leadership of our club, however that does not entitle us to the power of having others do the work for us. We ensure an honor system in which we are all held accountable for our actions and thus if we as individuals want to succeed we must also help one another succeed. I am very satisfied and grateful that these positions allow the opportunity to provoke communication and management within our organization.

Dream job?
I am so heavily influenced by the abundance of knowledge I have acquired. My experiences stem from my transportation operations and control class, my professors’ enthusiasm for topics and their guidance in educating us properly, my internship at a traffic management center, the research in connected vehicles, and lastly being heavily involved in ITE, building on a consecutive two years as a part of the student chapter. These are the factors that have driven me to aspire to become a traffic control operations manager and engineer. Because I understand personally as a driver and pedestrian I am able to invest my knowledge in proposing a solution. I love how inconsistent traffic can and cannot be. The beauty of having unpredictable traffic is being able to assess a problem for what it is rather than base it off of a established problem with a solution already at hand. That is what engineering is to me, the unique judgement we develop ourselves to solve problems. It isn’t a matter of reinventing the wheel, because if it works why bother. However, it is the evaluation of whether something can be done better or more efficient.

Ways in which your student chapter has benefited from the Student Endowment Fund?
From last year, our ITE chapter was unable to submit a fund application thus we did not receive any. However, our purpose of doing so now is so our members can fully reap the benefits of what it means to connect on an intellectual and physical level. To further elaborate, we want to provide our members the ability to fully immerse themselves in the experience of the club whether that is for members to attend conferences, ITS meetings, and socials through proper means of transportation resources and funds to do so. Not only does it help reinforce membership retention as our members transition from students to full time employees, but also engages the community of the overall ITE student chapters together. Our goal this year is to further enhance our networking opportunities and share our knowledge and passion with one another because together we are one.

Anything else you would like to share?
With all that being said, I am so grateful for ITE to have found another factor that enhances my passion of learning for what I enjoy doing. Beyond the financial support of funds such as this, something more recognizable is the ability for this organization to build a strong and abundant source of community. Something in which I will forever be grateful for.


Enrique Ortiz – ITE Vice President of External Affairs
5th Year / Civil Engineering, Transportation Specialization

How did you join ITE?
During my 3rd year, I was exposed through variety of engineering classes that dealt with hydrology, structures, environmental, and transportation specializations. Out of all the classes I took I enjoyed my highway design class and was also interested in transportation from my internship in the transportation department at UCI. When I was looking through the classes for my 4th year, I saw that ITE was offered as a year-long course and it would satisfy as one of my requirements for my transportation specialization. I had no idea what it was really about and all I knew was that it was being taught by the same professor that taught my highway design class. I’d figured I give it a shot and for that I am forever grateful for joining this program.

What do you like about your ITE position?
What I like about my position is interacting with my fellow members and exposing them to the transportation field. Taking all these classes just taught me the theories behind what I had to know but they never really prepared me for how the world is beyond university and I really wish school would have taught me that. When I was in ITE my 4th year, we had to really scramble to figure things out for ourselves when it came to our annual project and make sure to meet deadlines. Even though it was really difficult and stressful, I learned so much and it got me excited about my future in the transportation field on what I will be able to do. When I realized that I had to stay an extra year, I took it as an opportunity to run for executive board and help the student chapter get exposed to the different fields of transportation and make it easier for the members to understand the annual project. It makes me happy when the board and I present in front of them and they ask a lot of questions regarding the topics we have discussed or have them personally talk to us after the meetings on concerns that they have.

Dream job?
I don’t think I have a specific title on my “dream job”. All I know for certain is that I want to be in the field of design or operations and management in the future. Right now the transportation field is booming with connected vehicles, autonomous vehicles, and everything that Elon Musk is doing with traffic and Tesla and it makes me excited to be a part of it. With whatever I do in the future, I just want to be able to look upon it and be proud with it whether it be a big project or a small one.

Ways in which your student chapter has benefited from the Student Endowment Fund?
So far we haven’t benefited from it. It’s difficult to keep members and board consistent because majority of our club are seniors that are graduating in the following summer so every time in the fall when ITE meets, it’s almost a fresh start. So it’s challenging when a new board has to be made in the fall and to be able to figure things out without any guidance from previous members. Fortunate for the current board, we were in the club in the previous year and were able to get ahead of what we wanted to discuss for the current year. One of our goals this year is to expand our club to 3rd and 2nd years so that they can be able to run the club and be able to participate in more ITE events and benefit from the student endowment fund.


Yu (Bill) Zhou – ITE Vice President of Communications
4th Year / Civil Engineering, Transportation Specialization

How did you join ITE?
I joined ITE through our professor for Highway Design class. It was my first upper division class in transportation, this professor inspired me to learn more about transportation engineering. After talking to him, he recommended me to join ITE, and our school actually offers a class designated for ITE project, which provides a great opportunity for me to explore the ITE community.

What do you like about your ITE position?
I like my ITE position as a vice president for communications because it gives me leadership experience. Through weekly meetings, I record meeting recaps, and I post job opportunities and events through emails and our Facebook page. I have learned dealing with time conflicts and coordinating with other board members to create a welcoming atmosphere in our club. It’s happy to witness our members applied for the jobs we shared in our club and got the offer. I appreciate this position for bonding us together and going further.

Dream job?
My dream job is to become a transportation planner because I was deeply interested in bus routes since I was young. I tried to take every bus route in my hometown Shanghai, which has around 1,600 bus routes. I am zealous in terms of observing the transportation network, especially transit network. It will be interesting to become a transportation planner and design bus routes by my own, and I will be very happy to see the increase in ridership because of my transit planning. I always encourage my friends and my family to use public transit as it reduces carbon emission and is cheaper than driving a car, but the current transit system has some flaws. I want to fix those problems so more commuters can use public transit and relieve traffic congestion.

Anything else you would like to share?
I always hold strong belief that a person would only be happy if he/she does what he/she likes. I have witnessed some of classmates suffering in some of our civil engineering upper division classes because their family force them to become civil engineers. Although they were not quite interested in this major, it was too late for them to switch majors. Do what you want, pursue a career in which you are interested, not a career your parents tell you to pursue. You live only once. If you are interested in transportation from your heart (like me), then don’t hesitate and join ITE! It will open a door for your future academics and career!


Contributions to the Endowment Fund can be made at westernite.org/endowment-fund/endowment-fund-contribute/