The first string heavy hitters are not the only key ingredient to a strong baseball team. For a team to be just as good next year, you have to groom the up-and-coming green players on the bench or in the bull pen for greatness. The Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) has made a tradition out of seeking promising young professionals to join the research ranks, ensuring a strong future for the Institute.
“In my tenure at TTI, we’ve always been able to attract the best and the brightest of graduate students, and the recent group is at the top of the class. They are all excellent researchers,” says TTI Executive Associate Agency Director Katie Turnbull.
Many of these new faces came to TTI as graduate students and stayed as full-time employees. Veteran researchers cite fresh perspectives — especially on emerging technology — as the biggest benefit to having young professionals on a research team.
“Fresh ideas are always welcome. Graduate students often bring new methods or familiarity with another approach to an issue that adds to the quality of our research products,” says Curtis Morgan, manager of TTI’s Multimodal Freight Transportation Programs.
While bringing the latest state-of-the-practice to a team, graduate students benefit by gaining real-world experience, which makes their transition into the professional world easier.
“The key thing that TTI does is integrate students into all facets of research to give them a broad experience of the research process: meetings with sponsors, literature reviews, data collection. These students gain a comprehensive picture of research instead of just a slice,” says Turnbull. “The academic programs can market to prospective students to come to Texas A&M for an excellent education and get valuable research experience with TTI at the same time.”
Another major draw to Texas A&M University is the Graduate Certificate in Transportation Planning (CTP), a multi-disciplinary program developed between Texas A&M’s Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning, the Department of Civil Engineering, and the Bush School of Government and Public Service. The CTP aims at providing students the knowledge to be broadly successful in the transportation profession, and offers specialized instruction tailored to building their skills and capabilities in three critical areas: multimodal systems planning, transportation and urban design, and transportation policy. Soon, the CTP will add a transit management track as well. (See more about the CTP.)
“Once we produce remarkable young graduates, it is especially nice to integrate them into our programs,” says Cinde Weatherby, director of the Center for Strategic Transportation Solutions at TTI. “Our graduate students and young professionals bring to projects their energy and real thirst for learning; they want to be challenged and empowered to make a difference. I believe that they really are making a difference in our programs.