On to the Next Adventure…

Group photo of WTI staff and guests at Steve Albert retirement party in July 2019

Marking the end of era, WTI’s two most senior leaders retired this month.  We bid a fond farewell to our Executive Director Steve Albert and our Assistant Director for Administration and Finance, Jeralyn Brodowy.

On July 17, Montana State University College of Engineering Dean Brett Gunnink hosted a retirement reception for Steve Albert, which was well attended by WTI staff, past and present.  Special guests included retired MSU Civil Engineering professors Joe Armijo, a WTI founder, and Ralph Zimmer.   Former WTI staff who surprised Steve for the occasion included Kate (Heidkamp) Laughery, Eli Cuelho, and Carol Diffendaffer.

Joe Armijo speaks at Steve Albert retirement party in July 2019Steve retires after leading WTI for 23 years, transforming a tiny organization with only two staff people and two engineers into a large, nationally and internationally recognized transportation institute, with a multi-million dollar research portfolio.  He will always be highly regarded not only for his leadership at WTI, but also for his contributions to the fields of rural transportation and advanced transportation technologies.

Kate Laughery at Steve Albert retirement party 2019WTI gathered for Jeralyn’s retirement party on July 3, honoring her 20 years of service to our organization.  After starting as Business Manager in 1999, she quickly advanced to the  position of Assistant Director. She has not only been instrumental in the long-term growth of WTI, she has also served as a mentor to other research centers around the country through her leadership in the Council of University Transportation Centers.

Both Steve and Jeralyn will be greatly missed at WTI, but we wish them all the best as they embark on the next chapters of their lives!

 

WTI staff and guests at Jeralyn Brodowy retirement party in July 2019

WTI staff and guests at Steve Albert retirement party in July 2019

Newspaper Lauds Parenting Website

Logo for ParentingMontana.org shows outline of state with the website address and tagline "Tools for your child's success"ParentingMontana.org continues to receive great reviews. In a recent editorial, Karen Sullivan of the Montana Standard called the website “one of the best resources on parenting I’ve run across, and Montana parents are lucky to have it.”

ParentingMontana.org features practical tools for parents with kids ranging from age five to age nineteen, covering challenging topics such as anger, bullying, chores, homework, peer pressure, and underage drinking. The Center for Health and Safety Culture (CHSC) developed the project in cooperation with the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS).

The website also offers access to a repository of videos, radio and print materials, as well as contact information for assistance resources in Montana, such as prevention specialists, treatment services, and a crisis text line.  In her editorial, Sullivan concludes that ParentingMontana.org “is an incredible free resource that might just make the parenting journey a little easier.”

Research Partners Reunite at National Regional Transportation Conference

David Kack, Lonnie Hunt, and Bob Bashaw at the 2019 National Regional Transportation ConferenceSURTCOM Director David Kack traveled to Columbus, Ohio last week for the National Regional Transportation Conference, which is hosted by the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO). David caught up with Lonnie Hunt (center) and Bob Bashaw (right) from the Deep East Texas Council of Governments (DETCOG), which partnered with WTI and SURTCOM on a project to create a voucher program in five counties in southeast Texas.   Natalie Villwock-Witte was the PI for the DETCOG project, which won a 2019 Excellence in Regional Transportation Award from the NADO Research Foundation and Rural Planning Organizations of America (RPO America). In total, WTI worked with the NADO Research Foundation on three projects: the DETCOG project; a transit feasibility Study for Lebanon, Missouri (also led by Natalie); and a feasibility study for a commuter transit service between Cortez and Durango, Colorado (led by David). WTI staff Karalyn Clouser, Laura Fay and Rebecca Gleason also contributed to these projects.

ParentingMontana.org Videos Win National Award

Logo for ParentingMontana.org shows outline of state with the website address and tagline "Tools for your child's success"The commercials produced for the ParentingMontana.org project have been selected by the Academy of Interactive and Visual Arts for the Communicator Award of Excellence.  This honor recognizes the production work by Cactus Productions, which created the videos for the Parenting Montana promotional campaign. With over 6,000 entries received from across the US and around the world, the Communicator Awards is the largest and most competitive awards program honoring creative excellence for communications professionals.

ParentingMontana.org is a website that features practical tools for parents with kids ranging from age five to age nineteen, covering challenging topics such as anger, bullying, chores, homework, peer pressure, and underage drinking.  The Center for Health and Safety Culture (CHSC) developed the project in cooperation with the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS).

Congratulations to Cactus Productions, MT DPHHS, (CHSC), and all the partners for the dedication to produce outstanding content for this project!

 

MSU College of Engineering Honors WTI’s Finance Director

Congratulations to Jeralyn Brodowy, WTI’s Director of Administration and Finance, who was selected by the MSU Norm Asbjornson College of Engineering (NACOE) for the 2019 Professional Employee Award for Excellence. A 20-year veteran of WTI, Jeralyn has been instrumental in the long-term growth of WTI’s research portfolio, facilities, and staff.  The award honored her administrative leadership within WTI, her mentorship of staff, and her service to the university at large and to national organizations like the Council of University Transportation Centers. Many WTI staff members attended the Awards Luncheon on April 30 to cheer her on as she received the award from NACOE Dean, Brett Gunnink.

Photo of Jeralyn Brodowy at center receiving MSU College of Engineering Professional Staff Award, with WTI staff members and Dean Brett Gunnink at far right
Engineering awards ceremony Tuesday, April 20, 2019 in Inspiration Hall. MSU photo by Marshall Swearingen.

Transportation Voucher Program wins National Award

Image of the front cover of a report called Deep East Texas Council of Governments Transportation Voucher Program Final ReportThe Deep East Texas Council of Governments (DETCOG) Transportation Voucher Program has been selected for a 2019 Excellence in Regional Transportation Award from the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO).  DETCOG and the Area Agency on Aging launched the pilot program in 2018 to provide monthly vouchers to seniors in five counties to pay for rides to medical appointments, shopping trips, and social events.

WTI, in partnership with the National Association of Development Organizations Research Foundation and the USDA, provided technical assistance to help create and launch the program.  The project was a team effort by Principal Investigator David Kack, who spearheaded the partnership with NADO; Project Manager Natalie Villwock-Witte, who worked closely with Laura Fay to develop the program framework, conducted outreach to potential program participants, and analyzed the use of the program; and Neil Hetherington, who created numerous original training and promotion materials. “It’s rewarding to develop an effective public transportation program for a rural area where there are so few travel options,” Natalie noted; “it’s even more gratifying when you find out that it’s making a real difference in the lives of residents who may use the program to go buy fresh, healthy food or to connect with friends and family.”

NADO is a Washington, DC-based association that promotes programs and policies to strengthen local governments, communities, and economies through regional cooperation, program delivery, and comprehensive strategies.  The Excellence in Regional Transportation Awards showcase organizations for noteworthy projects and practices in rural and small metropolitan transportation planning, program delivery, and special initiatives.  Winners will receive their awards at the 2019 National Regional Transportation Conference in June.

The DETCOG project page on the WTI website includes more information on the project and a link to the final report.

Student Milestones – It’s Thesis Defense Season

Congratulations to two of our hardworking graduate students who have taken important steps over the last few weeks to earn their advanced degrees.

Close-up photo of Graduate Student Jubaer Ahmed

The Center for Health and Safety Culture’s (CHSC) doctorate student, Jubaer Ahmed, presented his Ph.D. comprehensive exam presentation on March 26, entitled, “Emotional Intelligence and Risky Driving Behavior.” His research addresses risky driving behavior among different populations from the perspective of emotional intelligence. Jubaer passed his presentation and will continue with the project in collaboration with his advisor, Nic Ward.

Matt Bell presented and passed his thesis defense for his Masters in Civil Engineering on April 3. His thesis focuses on “An Investigation Modeling the Risk of Wildlife-Vehicle Collisions in the State of Montana.”  Matt’s research advisor is WTI’s Yiyi Wang and he also works closely with WTI Road Ecology researchers on projects including an international workshop on new designs for wildlife crossing structures.

 

Matt Bell Competes in Finals of Three Minute Thesis Competition

Collage of photos showing Matt Bell making presentation on wildlife collision models before an audienceFinal 7! On Friday, March 1, the MSU College of Engineering hosted the finals of its Three Minute Thesis (3MT) Competition. Road Ecology Graduate Student Matt Bell was one of seven finalists vying for best presentation of their thesis research in only 180 seconds, using only one slide.  Matt’s presentation, “Modeling Risk of Wildlife-Vehicle Collisions,” focuses on his research with mentor Dr. Yiyi Wang to develop a real-time risk model that alerts drivers of areas with higher risk of collisions with large animals.

Three Minute Thesis is a research communication competition developed by the University of Queensland in Australia (www.threeminutethesis.org). It encourages graduate students to develop their presentation skills and learn how to explain complex concepts to general audiences.  More than 200 universities in the U.S. now participate.

TRB – The Show Must Go On

Natalie Villwock-Witte (far left) presenting from a lecturn at a panel discussion.
Natalie Villwock-Witte presents at TRB Annual Meeting

WTI researchers braved heavy snow, transit closures, and the partial government shutdown to attend the 2019 Transportation Research Board (TRB) Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. in January.  Nonetheless, they had a busy week with many productive opportunities to share their research and collaborate with peers.

A few highlights include:

  • WTI Director Steve Albert received a certificate of appreciation from the TRB Committee on Transportation Needs of National Parks and Public Lands in recognition of his 12 years of leadership on committee activities.
  • Three Fellows from the Public Lands Transportation Fellows program had the opportunity to present posters highlighting their current projects:
    • Corinne Jachelski presented on trail, bicycle, and other alternative transportation upgrades underway at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge Complex in Colorado.
    • Dylan Corbin’s poster highlighted his efforts to create a transportation plan that will expand public transportation and alternative transportation access to four sites within the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Complex.
    • Vince Ziols presented on the bicycle network, shuttle services, and water taxis that are enhancing regional access to the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge.
Fellows Corinne Jachelski, Vince Ziols and Dylan Corbin stand in front of their research posters at TRB poster session.
Fellows Corinne Jachelski, Vince Ziols and Dylan Corbin
  • Workshop Participants seated at tables view a presentation slide called "Categories for Rural Critical Needs"
    Workshop on Rural Research Roadmap project

    Jaime Sullivan’s workshop on the NCHRP Rural Research Roadmap project attracted an audience of more than 70 attendees interested in her progress report on the identification of the most critical research needs related to improving rural transportation. More than 500 research needs displayed on 20 posters inspired a lively discussion.

 

  • Karalyn Clouser and Zach Becker, our UTC Students of the Year (read their profiles here), were honored at a banquet during the opening weekend of the TRB meeting. The weather and transportation delays prevented Zach from attending, but Steve Albert and David Kack were on hand to cheer on Karalyn when she received her award.

 

David Kack, Karalyn Clouser, and Steve Albert