UM-CEE hosted 50 students in the MDOT Transportation Diversity Recruitment Program for a Visit Day on June 23.
The MDOT Transportation Diversity Recruitment Program is a partnership among MDOT and colleges and universities throughout Michigan that offers on-the-job training and job shadowing to undergraduate students from around the country pursuing degrees in engineering or other transportation-related careers.
Participants are recruited from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and work with other MDOT-sponsored on-the-job training program participants, internal staff and external professionals who provide engineering, technical, inspection and project management services for state road and bridge projects, according to the MDOT website.
Visit Day attendees toured UM facilities and learned about College of Engineering graduate programs. The middle portion of the day focused on an overview of research initiatives at Mcity and UMTRI, where cutting-edge civil engineering trends are developed and tested. Students learned about some of the Mcity data-gathering projects that seek to predict driver behavior to make intersections safer, and saw how UMTRI researchers are using biometrics to bring diversity to testing so that vehicles will offer more crash protection to a variety of body sizes and strengths.
The networking session at the end of the day brought faculty, staff and students together to informally discuss UM-CEE and engineering programs the department offers. Students had a chance to ask questions about U-M and learn about graduate options.
“It was insightful to see the level of interaction and how each discipline relies on others to bring a project together,” said Courtlynn Thomas, a student at Southern University and A&M College. “These facilities demonstrate how teams interact in the real world. Seeing everything here was like a glimpse into the future.”
“The networking part of the program was the highlight for me,” said Eyod Kebede, a senior at Tennessee State University, who will be graduating soon. “The format allowed me to have all of my questions answered. I love the institution. The whole experience was amazing.”
CEE DEI Coordinator Katie Crawford noted the significance of the department hosting this visit day each year. “It was a great day interacting with the MDOT TDRP interns. I loved hearing their questions and ideas and seeing their reactions to certain research and technologies and how they see themselves playing a role in the future of the profession. I’m excited to see where they end up and how they contribute to the field.”
Crawford added: “Multiple students came up to me and said, ‘I had never thought about Michigan for grad school’… or ‘I wasn’t sure about pursuing grad school, but now I am!’ This visit day could help participants define the next steps in their engineering careers.”
James Jackson, the MDOT statewide coordinator for the Transportation Diversity Recruitment Program, spoke at the event’s opening session. “When I talk to students, I hear goals of entrepreneurship and ‘leaders and best,’ “ he said. “Remember, you are the asset. When you add your education, you place yourself in a position to stand out. Education gets you to the door, and experience gets you through the door.”
Paul Ajegba, the President of the U-M Civil & Environmental Engineering Friends Association (CEEFA) board, is the Director of MDOT and holds a Master’s degree in Civil Engineering from U-M. He has been an avid supporter of the Transportation Diversity Recruitment Program and has worked for MDOT for 31 years. Ajegba has noted that equity and inclusion are fundamental components in the engineering process, along with diversity.