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Friday, October 15, 2021

Institute of Transportation Studies student founds Women’s Transportation Seminar student chapter

UC DAVIS WTS / COURTESY

Chapter dedicated to helping young women network, advance professional careers in transportation

UC Davis launched its first Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS) student chapter to help women advance their careers in transportation in February. WTS is an international organization founded in 1977 with the initiative of building the future of transportation through the global advancement of women. WTS has more than 6,500 members in chapters across the United States and around the world.

Sarah Strand, a master’s student in the transportation, technology and policy program housed in the Institute of Transportation Studies (ITS), initiated the WTS student chapter at UC Davis. Strand was working and living in San Diego following her undergraduate career at UC San Diego when she met a colleague who started the first student chapter in California at San Diego State University. She was then inspired to start a chapter when she went to graduate school.

“There’s still a lot of disparities for women particularly in the field for transportation,” Strand said. “Transportation professionals who are women continue to get paid less on the dollar compared to their male counterparts who are doing the same type of work. As a woman who works in the transportation industry I was driven to bring together a group of other women and create a support system to help advance each other’s careers. It’s really about fostering a culture of supporting women in an industry that’s historically been male-dominated.”

Strand explained that, although it is an organization founded for women, men are also welcome. WTS Sacramento is the closest chapter to UC Davis, but Strand wanted something on campus that would be more consistent, accessible, could fit student schedules and geared toward their interests.

“WTS Sacramento chapter provides a lot of excellent resources, [but] it’s really difficult for Davis students to access them,” Strand said. “[The Sacramento chapter] is more geared towards for working professionals. Just geographically and proximity wise it’s more difficult for students to access.”

Once Strand found other women and students in the program who were interested in participating in a group, she approached the WTS Sacramento board to see if the chapter would be interested in sponsoring the students. After they had gone through the necessary procedures with the Center for Student Involvement at UC Davis, they found professor Susan Handy, the director of the National Center of Sustainable Transportation at ITS-Davis, who offered to be their faculty advisor. Handy has been involved with WTS International on and off over the years and has participated in various activities in the Sacramento region and nationally.

“I wanted to support the students,” Handy said. “I think it’s a great idea that they’re setting up this chapter. WTS International has been a very important organization for promoting women in the transportation field and creating professional networks. I was delighted that students wanted to start up a chapter and wanted to support that.”

The student chapter plans to host events over the next couple months that will be oriented toward early career development and will be holding more educational programs for students to learn about different careers in the field of transportation.

“We’re an event based organization so we don’t have regular club meetings,” Strand said. “It’s a combination of social and professional networking, career development, education and mentorship.”

Tiffany Jackson, the director of membership and chapter development for WTS International, said that the process of adding a new student chapter is fairly simple once local resources are organized.

“New Chapters are added every year (approved by the WTS Board on [a] quarterly basis),” Jackson said via email. “The program was created in 2013, WTS currently has 14 ratified Student Chapter[s] (UC Davis will be the 15th).”

Jackson also explained how WTS International supports its student chapters.

“WTS International provides support including a web-landing page and WTS-branded logo, special opportunities to apply for annual conference travel grant programs, also student chapters may qualify for limited funding on an annual basis, if they continue to comply with annual student chapter requirements (maintain 10 or more members, submit biannual reports and an annual budget),” Jackson said. “Also, the local professional-level chapter (mentoring chapter) may provide additional support and funding for the student chapter.”
Written by: Jayashri Padmanabhan — campus@theaggie.org

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