For the September/October spotlight, Jenny Grote, PE, PTOE, PTP shares her thoughts on the Student Endowment Fund. Jenny is a past International President and a recipient of the ITE Burton W. Marsh Award. Jenny is the Principal of GroTrans Engineering, LLC and a Visionary contributor of the Student Endowment Fund.
Happy Fall Y’all! I am amazed at all the changes that have taken place in 2020. Before the pandemic, I would not have considered participating in a virtual video conference, attending a virtual Annual Meeting, or virtual Student Traffic Bowl. ITE did an amazing job taking an in-person program, both at the District and International levels, and converting them to a virtual format. One giant, and positive, step for mankind!
During my 34 years in ITE leadership positions, visiting 30+ student chapters, I have seen many current leaders ‘grow up’ in ITE; from knowing them as student members/leaders, then as peers, and now risen to high-level leadership positions. One of these ‘rising stars’ (before there was an official ‘Rising Star’ award) was the current International Vice-President Alyssa Reynolds Rodriguez. I met Alyssa in the late 1990s when she was the Student Chapter President at Montana State University.
Upon graduation, Alyssa was hired by Rich Romer (2006 International President) for the Las Vegas office of Orth-Rodgers. When Alyssa was District President in 2012, Rich passed from this earth, but Alyssa saw to it that his legacy as a supporter of students lived on by naming the Endowment Fund after Rich. He would have been so proud to see the next generation of enthusiastic, energetic, motivated, dedicated students in transportation and to see them have successful careers in transportation. With the help of the Endowment Fund, and past and future leaders like Alyssa, we have an even more exciting future ahead!
A little Endowment Fund history
In 2005, fifteen years ago, the Endowment Fund was initiated by then-District President Zaki Mustafa (who became International President in 2013). He appointed Pat Gibson as the first Administrator of the fund. Pat built upon the endowment fund idea from Montana State University and brought it to the District level. This Fund was established as a source for student members to attend District annual meetings, TRB conferences, and the extremely successful Student Leadership Summit. Other objectives were to expand the student awards program and various student initiatives.
After Pat completed his term, Cathy Leong, current International Director representing the Western District, was appointed as Chair in 2007, and I served on her Committee along with Michael Sanderson (2012 International President), Julie Townsend, and Jennifer Rosales (both Past International Directors). We met twice a year at the District Board meetings, to brainstorm ideas on how to promote contributions to the Endowment Fund and how to promote student involvement.
Now, Cathy is serving as an International Director and Kimberly Leung chaired the Endowment Fund Committee (now the Student Funding and Initiatives Committee) until she was elected Secretary-Treasurer of the Western District in June. Taking on the task of Committee Chair, after Kimberly, is Ashley Kim, a young professional and true ‘rising star’ who graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo; another ‘difference maker’ in our profession!
Student Leadership Summit (SLS)
The Student Leadership Summits bring together students in transportation programs to develop their leadership abilities, improve their career skill sets, and create connections with fellow students, faculty, and professionals. Planned events include presentations, technical tours, speed interviews, and resume reviews. They are a fantastic opportunity to meet new people, get your name out, and learn about developments in the transportation industry. The location of the Summit varies each year and is passed from university to university in the Western District, and now at universities around the world. Summits offer the chance for leaders from the transportation industry to share their expertise on how to be a successful leader and develop a successful career.
The Endowment Fund has been instrumental in providing students the ability to attend SLS’s and help them transition from being a student member into a productive, motivated young professional in the transportation profession.
In the Western District, the 8th Annual SLS will be ‘coming back SLOme’ on January 15-17, 2021. The Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Student chapter will be hosting the SLS.
Student Traffic Bowl
The objectives of the Student Traffic Bowl are to:
- Encourage students to become more active members in the Institute;
- Enhance their knowledge of the transportation profession;
- Gain knowledge of the Institute itself;
- Strengthen the programs of the ITE student chapters, and most of all;
- Have fun and network with fellow students.
The winning team of the Western District Student Traffic Bowl goes on to compete in the Grand Championship ITE Collegiate Traffic Bowl at the International level. The Endowment Fund also provides funding for these events.
Reception for students during TRB week (pending)
Students are invited to ITE’s Open House Reception for Students at ITE Headquarters in Washington, DC. This event is a great opportunity to meet ITE’s awesome Executive Director, Jeffrey Paniati, along with other amazing ITE staff members. Learn more about ITE from those in leadership positions, meet other students, and find out how we can help you succeed in launching a dynamic career. ITE encourages student members and non-members to attend – an interest in transportation is all that is required. Feel free to wear your school colors (like I did back in 2002….Go Buffs!).
Jenny’s next chapters…
At the ITE Arizona Section Holiday gathering in December of 2015, the members surprised me with a plaque acknowledging my support of students, young professionals, and my many years in offices at all levels of ITE. Each year, the Section has since awarded a $1,000 scholarship in my name to an ungraduated or graduate student in transportation at an Arizona university.
2016 was the first year since 1987 that I was not on an ITE Board at some level; the same year I also retired from my 31-year career with the City of Phoenix, Street Transportation Department. Just like the inevitable process of replacing me at the City, I was replaced as a leader in the Western District.
Then in 2019, I was asked to continue my service to ITE as the District Administrator of the newly formed Mountain District; a position I held in the Western District for eight years. Of course, I said ‘yes’ once again, and I was appointed on January 1, 2020. I also serve as the Board liaison to the new Student and Young Member Committee, so I can continue helping to attract new members and leaders to our organization. The December issue of the ITE Journal will have more details of the Mountain District and my role as District Administrator.
In the October issue of the ITE Journal, check out page 42 where I wrote an article as the recipient of the 2020 BURTON W. MARSH DISTINGUISHED SERVICE AWARD for my contributions to ITE over many years. I wrote about the challenge of “Balance to Achieve Harmony.” It’s all about balancing ITE-Work-Life to achieve Harmony. I still wish I had the right formula, but I try, with the help of lots of other dedicated members and my family.
Looking back to my mid-career days, here is my advice to younger members:
- Do not worry about “balancing” ITE-WORK-LIFE, just put one foot in front of the other and “Enjoy the Journey” TODAY! Do not wait till you retire to make up for lost time, like me. Make memories together NOW at whatever level. These just might be the “good ‘ol days!”
- It is not about the amount of time but the special, quality times you create.
- Instead of going in a straight line to the end of your journey, zigzag through life and enjoy the diversions, surprises, and detours.
- Life is all about what we make of it. I cannot wait to see what is next!
I have seen lots of changes in ITE, but one thing never changes; the camaraderie and progress we are making at a rapid pace with our colleagues around the globe. My advice for future generations…keep up the good work that many of us old-timers dedicated our careers and volunteer time to. Someday, I will gladly step aside and let the next generation take the reins but be sure to balance your professional life with your personal life and… Enjoy the Journey!
Please consider a contribution to the Student Endowment Fund. Those funds help support our student members participate in the exciting opportunities that are planned in 2021 and beyond!