By Ruby Bolaria
UCLA Luskin Student Writer
When Urban Planning students Chelsea Richer, Benton Heimsath and Carole Turley applied for an Eisenhower fellowships they were far from sure they would actually get one.
The national Dwight David Eisenhower Transportation Fellowship Program awards fellowships to students pursuing degrees in transportation-related disciplines. The federal program awards approximately 150 to 200 Fellowships each year based on funding availability. Awards can range from a few thousand dollars to covering full tuition and research costs. Fellows submit — and often present — their research at the annual Transportation Research Board (TRB) meeting in Washington D.C.
Richer, a first year Urban Planning student at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, said she knew the fellowship was extremely competitive and was unsure about the likelihood of securing a fellowship. “But, [I thought] you don’t get the fellowships you don’t apply for,” she said.
Heimsath, also in his first year at UCLA Luskin, had similar sentiments and felt any attempt to secure funding relating to his interests was a worthwhile effort.
Turley is a a first year Urban Planning Ph.D. student, and like Richer and Heimsath, has prior work experience in the transportation sector and aims to build a career in the transportation field.
Richer worked for the Department of Transportation in Chicago before coming to UCLA’s Luskin School. Before Chicago, Richer’s interest in transportation was sparked by her upbringing in New York and an internship in Holland which exposed her to all different kinds of transportation systems.
“Growing up in the suburbs of New York I had very limited options of how to get anywhere," she said. "When visiting friends in New York City the different transportation systems were clear and there were more options."
Before coming to UCLA, Heimsath was a legislative analyst at the DC City Council working on transportation policy in Washington D.C. His work with performance management programs shaped his interests in transportation finance.
“I want to learn how to make what we have work better," he said. "There’s a lot of good work in the field and academia and UCLA has been eye-opening."
Turley, who has an engineering degree from Brigham Young University and an MBA from Notre Dame, also worked in the transportation field in Seattle and her hometown in Provo, Utah.
“As an undergrad engineer student, I gravitated towards transportation issues and connecting engineering analysis to transportation systems and how that influenced people’s day to day lives," she said. "I saw how [transportation] problems were not just engineering problems but social and political problems. This intersection with engineering and political questions made transportation planning more interesting.”
All three are thrilled at the prospect of presenting their work at the TRB meeting and using the opportunity to network with colleagues and mentors.
Heimsath and Turley went to the conference this year and are eager to return with more direction and focus. “I am excited to play a bigger role at the conference and meet with other fellows, scholars and practitioners,” said Heimsath.
“It’s really a who’s who of transportation people. Not only is it great for networking but really it’s a great learning opportunity” said Richer.