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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Public Roads - Sept/Oct 1999

Eisenhower Transportation Fellowships: Proving Ground for The New Transportation Professionals

by Ilene D. Payne

At a time when concerns are being expressed about the next generation of transportation professionals, the Dwight David Eisenhower Transportation Fellowship Program (DDETFP) has been providing opportunities for new talent to enter the transportation workforce.

Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater (center) is surrounded by Eisenhower Fellowship recipients and by Universities and Grants Programs staff members in front of the Eisenhower Fellowships exhibit at the annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board in Washington, D.C., January 1999. Dr. Ilene Payne, director of Universities and Grants Programs, is at the far right.

DDETFP's goals have been to attract the nation's brightest minds to the field of transportation, enhance the careers of transportation professionals, and retain top talent in the U.S. transportation community. DDETFP began in 1991 with the passage of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA). The program was reauthorized by the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) in 1998 and funded at $2 million annually. Through the 1998 award period, grants and fellowships were awarded to 719 recipients. Most of the recipients have become successful transportation professionals, and many have achieved special recognition in the transportation industry.

DDETFP is administered by the Universities and Grant Programs office of the National Highway Institute, Office of Professional Development, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

Carol Tan Esse, who manages the Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Research Program for FHWA at the Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center, was a 1989 Grants for Research Fellowships (GRF) Program recipient investigating "Traffic Control Device Design Factors and the Performance of Drivers With Diminished Contrast Sensitivity" while pursuing her master's degree in civil engineering at Texas A&M University. She is the recipient of a 1997 Arthur S. Flemming Award honoring outstanding federal employees for excellence in government service and has participated as a national panelist on DDETFP selection panels.

Evolution of the Program

When DDETFP was established, the Grants for Research Fellowships (GRF) Program had been operational since 1983. These fellowships provided annual full-time opportunities in research, development, and technology transfer projects ranging in duration from three to 12 months at U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) facilities. The recipient's faculty advisor conferred with the FHWA technical advisor who provided onsite technical guidance and direction. In addition to paying tuition and fees and a monthly stipend, the fellowships provided funds for onsite reviews by faculty advisors to evaluate students' progress and develop ongoing relationships with the FHWA staff. Funding was provided by the program offices sponsoring the research.

Upon the implementation of DDETFP in 1992, the Grants for Research Program became an award category of the Eisenhower Fellowships. Program offices sponsoring research projects continued to assume fellowship recipients' expenses.

DDETFP has five other award categories: (1) Graduate (GRAD) Fellowships provide tuition and monthly stipend support to qualified master's degree and doctoral candidates as they engage in transportation-related research at the universities of their choice. (2) Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and (3) Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI) and (4) Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCU) provide students at these institutions with additional opportunities to enter careers in transportation and serve as feeder categories to the GRAD fellowships and GRF. (5) Faculty Fellowships (FF) allow faculty in transportation fields to enhance and update their expertise by enabling the recipients to participate in professional meetings, conferences, seminars, and workshops.

Laura Cove was selected as a 1990 GRF recipient to work on the project "Analysis of Pedestrian Accident Data" while pursuing her bachelor's degree in civil engineering at Clemson University. She is currently the assistant director of the Office of Strategic Planning at the Tennessee Department of Transportation.

Awards to Date

From 1992-1998, the Eisenhower Fellowship Program has awarded $16,565,582 to 719 recipients.

Figure 1 identifies the percentage of award allocations by category from 1992-1998. The multiyear GRAD fellowships, which are of either two (master's degree) or three (doctorate) years duration, are the costliest to fund.

Figure 2 displays the distribution of fellowship recipients by award category for 1992 to 1998. When numbers of recipients per category are compared to funding allocations per category in figure 1, one observes the cost-effectiveness of the HBCU, HSI, and TCU categories in terms of numbers of students receiving awards. Traditionally, HBCUs, HSIs, and TCUs have lower overall tuition rates than most other institutions of higher education. A comparative analysis of the average fellowship amounts in 1998 among the GRAD, HBCU, and HSI categories reveals that the cost of one GRAD fellowship was more than four times the cost of a HBCU or HSI student fellowship.

During her studies at Georgia Tech in pursuit of her master's degree in civil engineering, Greer Johnson investigated the "Variability of Travel Time Data and its Application to IVHS" in 1992 as a recipient of a GRF award. She is now employed by Odetics ITS in Sterling, Va., as a senior traffic engineer.

The TRB Experience

A highlight of the Eisenhower Fellowship experience is the opportunity to participate in the annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board (TRB) every January in Washington, D.C. The TRB meeting expenses for each fellowship recipient are funded by the program. Recipients have the opportunity to meet each other, present research findings at the TRB DDETFP Research Showcase, and attend many of the hundreds of sessions scheduled over the course of the five-day meeting. Recipients ranked the opportunities to "network" with some of the 8,000 transportation professionals in attendance as their most valuable experience at the TRB meeting.

While working on his doctorate at University of California at Berkeley, Dr. Sylvan Jolibois was selected as a 1992 GRF recipient for the research project "Investigations into IVHS Systems Designs." Dr. Jolibois is currently deputy director of the Lehman Center for Transportation Research and an associate professor at Florida International University (FIU) in Miami. He also serves as the campus representative for FIU's Eisenhower Hispanic Serving Institutions Program.

Other FHWA Initiatives in the Transportation Education Pipeline

In addition to managing the Eisenhower Fellowship Program, the Universities and Grants Programs office also provides technical assistance and data collection for the Summer Transportation Internship Program for Diverse Groups (STIPDG) and the National Summer Transportation Institutes (NSTI). STIPDG offers college and university students 10-week work experiences with Department of Transportation mentors at DOT headquarters and in field offices. NSTI affords 9th through 11th graders opportunities to enhance their math and science skills in a college-campus environment and to learn about prerequisites for career opportunities in the field of transportation. This summer, 30 college and university campuses hosted NSTIs.

Dr. Virginia Sisiopiku provided valuable research assistance on the project "Variability of Travel Times on Links and Superlinks/Route Guidance" as a 1992 GRF recipient while pursuing a master's degree at University of Illinois at Chicago. Today, she is a faculty member at Michigan State University in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and is also the advisor to 1998 GRF recipient Qingyan Yang, who was selected to work on "Assessment of Wireless Communications Systems With Respect to Advanced Rural Transportation Systems."

The Universities and Grants Programs office recently adopted a logo depicting the various aspects of its activities: partnership (represented by the handshake), scholarship (represented by the textbooks), academic programs (represented by the mortarboard), and intermodalism (represented by ONEDOT, the department's management strategy that builds on the strength of mutual collaboration between the agencies within DOT).

The Universities and Grants Programs office continues to track the achievements of DDETFP alumni and to collect and examine data to evaluate the influence of the summer programs on students in the transportation education pipeline.

Of the 22 University Transportation Centers' (UTC) Students of the Year for 1999, five were Eisenhower Fellowship recipients. To qualify for UTC nomination, students must provide evidence of accomplishments in the areas of technical merit and research, academic performance, professionalism, and leadership.

Since 1993, the Eno Transportation Foundation has selected 126 graduate students to take part in its Leadership Development Conference in Washington, D.C. The conference focuses on transportation policy and implementation, and 24 of these graduate student participants have been Eisenhower Fellowship recipients.

Dr. Ilene D. Payne is the director of Universities and Grants Programs for the Federal Highway Administration.