Since its inception, the Urban Transportation Center has provided hands-on research opportunities for graduate and Ph.D. level students within the College of Urban Planning & Public Affairs and others at the University of Illinois at Students 1 compressChicago.  In fact, one primary aspect of the UTC’s Mission is to “offer an immersive, transformative education based on real-world problems and practical student experience.”

The UTC encourages graduate student researchers to share updates and insight on their careers, their experiences at the UTC and other career or education news.  Please contact the UTC  and provide relevant information and images regarding:

1. New job positions in transportation or urban planning.
2. Receipt of transportation industry awards.
3. Presentations or published papers.
4. Academic achievements.

Alumni Profile: Shazal Afraaz, MS,Civil Associate, Michael Baker International, San Antonio, Texas

Responsibilities: My work is mostly the design of various aspects of roadway, including alignment, pavement design, driveways and sidewalk and traffic control plans. I am continuously learning and improving myself.

How UTC Prepared Me for a Career in Transportation: Working for UTC made me realize what my prospective career path should be within the transportation sector. The entire hierarchy of coordinating with supervisor and discussing with peers during weekly meetings is even continued here. UTC introduces its employees with the professional work environment before joining one.  Lastly, the design work includes constant research and looking up of manuals, following standards and revisions, which are honed by my past research at UTC.

Alumni Profile: Peter Kersten, MUPP, Strategic Planner, Regional Transportation Authority

Responsibilities: I am currently serving as a Strategic Planner within the Planning and Market Development group.  My work covers a number of areas including: mobility issues, performance metrics and reporting, policy analysis, and as project manager on the recently commenced RTA/Pace ADA Paratransit Innovation study.

How UTC Prepared Me for a Career in Transportation: Working as an RA at UTC provided me with foundational regional knowledge covering service history, service structure and design, shortcomings of our network, and funding and other operational constraints as it relates specifically to the RTA region and the state as a whole.  The project I worked on at UTC was specifically related to the “last mile” problem which has informed much of my work on mobility pilots with the RTA and also was a good introduction to working with large data sets and origin-destination data.

Alumni Profile: Kevin Peralta, Project Manager DuPage Mayors and Managers Conference

Responsibilities: I have the responsibility of administering the transportation programs of the Conference and serve as liaison between DuPage municipalities and the transportation agencies in the Chicago metropolitan area. I mainly work in managing and coordinating transportation project funding and programming through close work with CMAP staff. I also represent the Conference in meetings and committees with regional stakeholders and provide technical support where needed.

How UTC Prepared Me for a Career in Transportation: The Urban Transportation Center prepared me for my current position by giving me the opportunity to gain an understanding of transportation policy and practices through research. My time at the UTC prepared me to develop the hard skills in policy and planning research along with helping me develop a comprehensive and practical understanding of regional transportation needs. The importance of project financing was stressed through my own research at the UTC through the guidance of its faculty researchers and staff. My time at the UTC also served to position me at CMAP in its transportation division, where I was then able to be take on my current role at DuPage. I can say with much certainty that having access to the many resources and guidance from staff at the UTC has played an important role in my professional development and career outcomes.

Alumni Feature Profile: Jane Wilberding, AICP, MUPP, Focus on Parking

Finding solutions to parking challenges in markets across the nation has been the focus of work completed recently by Jane Wilberding, AICP, MUPP, a former UTC graduate research assistant now working as a Transportation Planner in the Chicago office of Sam Schwartz Consulting, a national engineering and transportation consulting firm. And, Jane was included in the prestigious 40 Under 40 Awards administered by the Association for Commuter Transportation (ACT).

This short profile offers more on Jane and her career.

Alumni Feature Profile: Moyin Lin, PhD, Travel Behavior Scholar

Research on ways to enhance mobility in urban areas — especially for the elderly and disadvantaged –have been a scholarly focus of Moyin Li, a graduate research assistant at the UTC who completed her PhD requirements in June of 2017.  “Working as a transportation researcher at the UTC has helped me learn more about Chicago through my contributions to projects managed by the Center and in my own research,” Moyin said.

Read this short profile article to learn more.

Alumni Feature Profile: Takanori Sakai, PhD, Research Associate, Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) Centre

In May of 2017, the UTC faculty and staff bid farewell to Takanori Sakai, a long-standing UTC research assistant who earned his PhD in Urban Planning and Policy. Shortly after graduation ceremonies, Taka and his family departed for Singapore, where he took a research position and will continue his scholarship into urban freight modelling and logistics management.

Learn more from a short profile article.

Alumni Profile: Brian Tomkins, MUPP, Project Assistant, Metropolitan Mayors Caucus

Responsibilities: I am the Project Assistant for the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus, a membership-based organization of the Chicago region’s 275 cities, towns and villages. We provide the platform for Chicago’s chief elected officials to engage and build consensus on public policy issues. In addition to serving on various committees, such as the Environment Committee and Housing and Community Development Committee, I am responsible for managing two programs: Public Sector Energy Efficiency and Powering Safe Communities Municipal. Day-to-day tasks include: data collection and analysis, financial management, community outreach, policy analysis, event planning and civic engagement.

How UTC Prepared Me for a Career in Transportation: The Urban Transportation Center provided me the forum to exchange ideas with students, researchers, transportation professionals and professors. These engagements allowed me to learn and develop skills from various types of professionals. Through my research, under the guidance of Dr. P.S. Sriraj, I was able to learn how take complex sets of data, analyze them, and present results succinctly. Without a doubt, the resources available at UTC prepared me for my career.

Alumni Feature Profile: Jenny Kane, MUPP, Consults With Transit Agencies

Jenny Kane Profile compressedJenny Kane stays busy in her position as Project Analyst for a transportation consulting firm, where she offers solutions to operational and planning challenges faced by transit agencies. Ms. Kane said experience gained as a graduate research assistant at the UTC helped prepare her for a career in the private sector.

Recently, Ms. Kane responded to questions on her career and transportation.

Alumni Feature Profile: Anthony Grande, MUPP, AICP, Leads Planning for Alaska Community

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Anthony Grande

Upon graduation from UIC in 2013, former UTC graduate student researcher headed west to Alaska, where he landed a position in the Planning Department for the City of Unalaska. In December of 2015, Mr. Grande was appointed Director of Planning for the island community, where the economy is based on maritime freight and commercial fishing.

In a detailed conversation, he shared thoughts on his work and the challenges ahead for Unalaska.

Alumni Profile: Jason Duba, MUPP, Assistant Transportation Planner, West Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission

Jason Duba

Jason Duba

Responsibilities: I work with senior level staff in highway, transit, bicycle, pedestrian, and freight planning for the Chippewa-Eau Claire Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). Primarily, I have been working to update the 30-year Long Range Transportation Plan for the MPO. I worked with local bike advocates to make a metropolitan bike map. I also do some projects in the rural areas of the region, such as Safe Routes to School planning for small communities.

How UTC Prepared Me for a Career in Transportation: Working with staff researchers and fellow students at UTC, I developed and honed skills that I use every day in my job. I learned where to find urban planning data, how to effectively analyze it, and how to present it in clear, compelling ways. I improved my ability to track down research literature and read it with an eye for obtaining the necessary information. I also did a lot of GIS mapping at UTC, learning how to convey information and analysis with a map.

Alumni Profile: CJ Bright, MUPP, Chief Transit Planner, Transdev North America

C J Bright

CJ Bright

Responsibilities: I am the Chief Transit Planner for Transdev North America, Inc. I am responsible for work with our local contracts and clients in providing transit service planning and scheduling services throughout the country. The work varies from leading the development of a Comprehensive Service Analysis to working on fixing schedules to improve on time performance for our customers (passengers).

How UTC Prepared Me for a Career in Transportation: I was fortunate enough to become a Research Assistant at the UTC. I was able to work on the CTA-MIT-UIC Research Collaboration Project after my CTA internship ended. I partnered with a lot of planners and schedulers on both the bus and rail side for my master’s project learning the inner workings of a transit agency. The valuable knowledge gained from this opportunity had a direct impact in me being hired at Transdev, and provided me with the right information and experiences to jumpstart my career in transit planning.

Alumni Profile: Jane Wilberding, MUPP, Planner and Analyst at DESMAN Associates

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Jane Wilberding

Responsibilities. “I am a Planner and Analyst at DESMAN Associates. I am involved in all aspects of the planning and management of parking and traffic studies for clients across the country. Day to day tasks include: conducting data collection and data collection supervision; developing demand and financial projection models; creating maps, infographics and other visual aids; and composing financial, organizational and policy recommendations. These recommendations are presented in reports, presentations and memorandums.”

How UTC Prepared Me for a Career in Transportation. “The UTC provided me with a platform to voice, collaborate, and develop my ideas with students, researchers, and professors. This unique environment allowed me to absorb a great deal of knowledge and experience in a variety of fields and topics I was not exposed to from other classes or internships. Not only did the resources at UTC guide me in finding my current position, they prepared me in working on a wide range of skills and ideas while doing so.”

Alumni Profile: Marcella Bondie, MUPP, Policy Fellow, Elevate Energy

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Marcella Bondie

Responsibilities: “I am the Policy Fellow at Elevate Energy. I support Elevate’s community-based energy programs by performing policy research and analysis, tracking legislation, and representing us in stakeholder forums. I write policy briefs and reports, and give presentations. I’ve also been part of the team for two energy plans – one for the City of Madison, and one for the State of Missouri.”

How UTC Prepared Me for a Career in Transportation.  “At the UTC, I was challenged to move out of my comfort zone – environmental planning – and find deep connections with other planning specialties. The research I performed, as directed by my excellent adviser, Dr. Ning Ai, exposed me to strategies for increasing the environmental, economic and social sustainability of transportation corridors. Specifically, I helped build a tool to identify sensitive community areas early in the planning process. I’m proud to have contributed to a something that protects communities and supports smart transportation planning. I was also fortunate to develop valuable lasting relationships with faculty, students, and industry professionals during my time at the UTC.”

Alumni Profile: Alexandra McNally, MUPP,Transportation Planner, CivCon Services Inc.

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Alexandra McNally

Responsibilities: “I am a Transportation Planner at CivCon Services Inc. Currently, I work as a sub-consultant for different transportation/engineering firms, which has allowed me to learn different aspects of the implementation of transportation projects and experience different project teams. As a part of the Highway Safety Program project, I process and analyze highway crash data for public reports, and I create maps for the visualization of this crash data. As a part of a bus rapid transit project, I research and write for NEPA requirements related to environmental and demographic project impacts.”

How UTC Prepared Me for a Career in Transportation: “The UTC has prepared me immensely for my current position at CivCon Services through my interactions with faculty, staff and peers. The faculty and staff at the UTC were boundless sources of knowledge and experience, who would help whenever possible. They helped me develop my thesis research, weighed in on the validity of its methodology, and offered explanations to my research. My experience at the UTC included intense and long hours of interaction with my academic peers. During these times, we shared data, ideas, resources, and moral support (haha). I created better products because I used my peers to brainstorm and develop my research. Several times they encouraged me to look at problems from a different viewpoint and often they pointed me in new directions for data sources and relevant research papers. In the workplace, using your colleagues as idea-development resources is encouraged and necessary to create the best product that will often be used by the public.  Additionally, faculty, staff and peers are connections to a greater network of people, which is important in the field of transportation planning, where there is strong sense of community and altruism.”

Alumni Profile: Kyle Bardo, MUPP, Fleet Manager, GATX Corporation

Kyle Bardo Headshot

Kyle Bardo

Responsibilities: “I manage all new assignment projects for GATX’s Canadian freight railcar fleet. I develop shipping plans and direct our owned and contract railcar shops on all repair and improvement work to ensure rolling stock meet customer, company and Association of American Railroads/Department of Transportation specifications. I also work closely with freight railroads on railcar management and delivery.”

How UTC Prepared Me for a Career in Transportation: “UTC helped me to become a greater thinker and planner by providing me the resources to analyze, evaluate and synthesize topics in transportation that were tailored to my career and interests. The faculty and staff were immensely supportive in my work and encouraged me to take on new challenges to expand my transportation worldview.”

Alumni Profile: Jenny Kane, MUPP, Project Analyst, Transportation Resource Associates

Jenny Kane

Jenny Kane

Responsibilities: “I conduct safety and security audits of rail transit systems through State Safety Oversight programs. The audits involve field work, interviews, and records review, and culminate with written reports of findings. I help states monitor transit agencies’ implementation of corrective actions to mitigate hazards and improve their operations.”

How UTC Prepared Me for a Career in Transportation: “UTC was a valuable experience not just through the work I conducted as a researcher, but also through the connections forged with industry professionals. There were frequent opportunities to attend presentations and conferences, enabling me to broaden my understanding of jobs and skill sets in the transportation realm.”

Alumni Profile: Jake Rueter, MUPP, Planner, Minnesota Department of Transportation

Jake Rueter, MUPP

Jake Rueter

Responsibilities: “I contribute to document design and graphics creation for MnDOT plans, maintain our websites, assist in ensuring that MnDOT’s Family of Plans adhere to the Minnesota Go Transportation Vision, and coordinate the All Planners Group and Planning Management Group.”

How UTC Prepared Me for a Career in Transportation: “The UTC provided me with an environment in which I could discuss relevant topics in transportation with creative, intellectual colleagues. This experience was incredibly valuable and challenged me to think creatively and constructively about the issues facing transportation systems across the country. More specifically, my research at UTC focused on modal integration, a key component of the Minnesota Go Transportation Vision, and  put me in a position to contribute meaningfully to the development of plans and policy at MnDOT.”

 Keeping Track of UTC Student Researchers

Each semester, up to 30 UIC students studying Urban Planning and Policy, Engineering, Economics and other academic disciplines are hired as graduate assistants to provide valuable support to faculty and staff researchers. These transportation scholars work closely with faculty researchers and play a vital role in advancing UTC transportation research from the preliminary stages through completion.

Upon graduation, many UTC student researchers land prestigious positions in the public and private sectors as transportation planners, analysts, staff researchers and modelers.  Graduates from the Spring 2014 semester share insight on career plans and the value of working at the UTC.

Please click on a link below to learn more about UTC graduates from these years: