Student Endowment Fund: September/October

20140910 Randy McCourt

The September-October Spotlight was written by Randy McCourt, LAC Co-Chair of the 2014 Joint Western/Midwestern District ITE Annual Meeting in Rapid City and our newest Benefactor level contributor to the Endowment Fund. The following is Randy’s article regarding his thoughts about the Student Endowment Fund:

In the summer of 2001 in Alburquerque, New Mexico a new President of the Western District was installed (Rory Grindley) and a message was delivered that the Year of the Student had begun. I had just been elected as an officer of Western District ITE and with a clear vision and a great officer team (including Julie Townsend) what transpired over the next four years set in motion changes that would affect our industry for many years to come.

At the time there were a lot of calls that the impending Baby Boom retirement was going to deplete the labor pool of our industry and more transportation engineers were needed. Reality has told us that the concern was never about the quantity of professionals – it is the quality that matters. That was a theme that I held to as we proceeded to create the most extensive action by ITE related to students in the history of the organization. By 2004 in place were approved initiatives to substantially discount student attendance at Annual Meetings, subsidies to Student Chapter Faculty Advisors to encourage the best mentors at our Universities, annual review of Faculty Advisors, funds to purchase ITE reference books for student chapters, creation of the Kell competition, increases to awards for student and chapter recognition, a program to engage students in a real life task that also benefited the profession (the data collection fund) and a resolution to waive first year student dues to ITE. Each action was developed to target increased engagement of students in our profession at a point in their career where their passion for transportation engineering could be discovered and unleashed. Attracting top students to our industry is the gateway to opportunity for us all and provides our industry a sustainable future.

By 2004 in Sacramento I was turning the reigns of leadership over to Zaki Mustafa and core student leadership team had one more brick to lay in the foundation for the future. Montana State had been building an endowment fund for several years successfully for the ITE Student Chapter. The Student Initiatives noted above do not come for free. An enduring funding source needed to be developed to assure the long term survival of the overarching goals of the student initiatives. This needed to be secured without impacting membership dues. Ten years ago the Student Endowment Fund was established with the intent to fund present and future student initiatives. While an initial target of $250,000 was discussed – we decided to be aggressive and set the goal at $500,000 to assure a solid funding source for creative ideas into the future.

Now ten years later we have crested $400,000 in contributions and are on the downhill side of accomplishing our objective. I will always be an ardent supporter of the future of transportation engineering. I have contributed because I believe the future does not happen by waiting for others – as was the case prior to 2001. I contributed this year to make sure we got over the top of $400,000 as a symbolic move to make clear to everyone how achievable the $500,000 goal is now.

We are better today because of the hundreds of young professionals were able to access our industry through our programs. They did it at a point where they could see the vision of how they could make a difference in the world through their work. They met professionals that shared this desire and were able to build relationships that allowed them to visualize their future.

You do not have to contribute much to make a difference. With $100,000 to go and 4,500 WesternITE members that is just $20 per member and we are there. Every contribution matters. Please make a point this year to consider donating to the Western District Student Endowment Fund and help us all advance the profession into the future. I assure you if we get close I will be there to tip us over the top again this time for the final push.