Dr. M. Katherine Banks, vice chancellor for engineering at The Texas A&M University System, director of the Texas Engineering Experiment Station (TEES), and dean of the Dwight Look College of Engineering, made her first official visit to TTI on March 22. She was accompanied by Dr. Dennis O’Neal, associate dean for research and deputy director of TEES. They were treated to a day filled with tours, briefings and a roundtable discussion with some of TTI’s key academic partners.
In her opening comments, Banks noted that she was already familiar with TTI through Purdue University’s transportation research program. She previously served as the Bowen engineering head for the School of Civil Engineering at Purdue University.
After hearing an overview of the Institute from TTI Agency Director Dennis Christiansen, Banks and O’Neal visited TTI’s Environmental and Emissions Research Facility and the Institute’s Roadside Safety and Physical Security crash-testing facility.
“These and other TTI facilities provide unique opportunities for students to temper classroom knowledge with practical know-how,” Banks says. “Employers tell me they hire our graduates because they know they’re getting more than technical knowledge; they’re getting the ability to think critically. I attribute that ability to the dual approach of classroom instruction and real-world training that our students receive in ‘living laboratories’ like these.”
During her visit, Banks joined in an academic roundtable discussion attended by Forster Ndubisi, head of the Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning; John Nichols, head of the Department of Agricultural Economics; and Arnold Vedlitz, director of the Institute for Science, Technology and Public Policy at the George Bush School of Government and Public Service, all at Texas A&M. (See related stories in this issue on how TTI works with these academic partners to educate future transportation professionals.)
“Today, 25 million Texans are counting on our universities to create new knowledge, discover new technologies and pass along our tradition of research excellence to the next generation,” says Banks. “TTI’s role in training tomorrow’s transportation professionals is vital to our nation’s future, particularly in light of growing economic competition around the globe.”
TTI researchers and staff also gave the vice chancellor a crash course in crash testing, policy research, legislative studies, sustainability research and projects under way in TTI’s urban offices around the state.
“We were honored that Dr. Banks took the time to spend almost an entire day at TTI learning more about our research initiatives, meeting our leadership and interacting with our academic partners,” Christiansen says. “She has been a great supporter of TTI during her short time at Texas A&M, and we look forward to inviting her back to TTI many more times in the future.”