Five NDSU transportation and logistics graduate students attended the American Public Transportation Association’s Bus and Paratransit Conference May 6-9 in Long Beach, CA. The conference included more than 30 specialized educational sessions, covering topics such as policy and planning, operations and maintenance, public transportation in today’s operating environment, technology, safety and security, professional development, and special issues on accessible transportation. The variety of topics allowed the students to attend sessions related to their research interests.
The five students who attended the conference were part of Dr. Jill Hough’s course, TL786, Public Transportation. The conference provided a unique opportunity for the students to reinforce material learned in class and gain exposure to additional topics related to public transportation. “Students learned not only ‘textbook’ knowledge, but knowledge on how organizations function, how advisory boards shape decisions of an agency, the importance of networking and having mentors and others who can help you, and also to see how they can help others,” Hough said. She is director of the Small Urban and Rural Transit Center, a part of the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute at NDSU.
Student Brett Korporaal was invited to be part of a panel in a session focused on partnerships and collaboration. He spoke about NDSU’s mentorship program that paired students in Hough’s course with industry mentors for the semester. During the conference, the students in attendance had the opportunity to meet their mentors in person.
Nam Nguyen said he appreciated the chance to meet his mentor in person. “They shared their experiences and the difficulties that they encountered in their jobs. Through that, I could learn insightful knowledge that will be useful for me in my future career,” he said
In addition to attending sessions and meeting their mentors, networking was an important part of the conference. NDSU students were able to meet and interact with several people, gaining greater insight and new perspectives on the public transportation industry. “The experience and advice from those successful people are the most valuable things I got from this conference,” student Zijian Zheng said
Korporaal added, “The greatest benefit was the connections I made with transit industry professionals. One of my interests is to operate a public transportation agency, and the opportunity to get to meet and talk with general managers on a professional and personal level was a wonderful experience. The connections made and networking opportunities available was priceless and no doubt the most beneficial aspect of the conference.”