The 2023 Mid-America Transportation Center (MATC) Scholars Program hosted 23 students from 11 Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Hispanic-Serving Institutions for a four day itinerary of informational sessions and networking opportunities. The program provides specific, targeted seminars to undergraduates in underrepresented groups to encourage them to further their education in the STEM fields into a graduate degree program. The participating universities were North Carolina A&T, Lincoln University, Benedict College, Florida A&M University, New Mexico State University, South Carolina State University, University of Maryland-Eastern Shore, Tennessee State University, Southern University, University of Missouri S&T, and University of Iowa. In conjunction with MATC Director Dr. Aemal Khattak and staff, the program was organized by Dr. Judy Perkins, Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering at Prairie View A&M University and Director of the National Center for Infrastructure Transformation.
The program included sessions prepared by faculty representatives from the 11 schools, on topics such as “Why Graduate School”, “Choosing a Graduate Program: Making a Short List”, and “Choosing Faculty Mentors & Finding ‘Mentoring Communities’ for Academic Success”. Ms. Latoya Jones from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) spoke to the students on “Transportation Scholarships and Employment Opportunities”. She was also able to elaborate on her experience as a student of Dr. Judy Perkins and how she came into her job at the FHWA.
Dr. Erick Jones was the Keynote Speaker at the closing dinner on Friday of the program. He is the College of Engineering Dean at the University of Nevada and his career has spanned industry, government, and academia from serving as the senior science advisor in the Office of the Chief Economist at the U.S. State Department, professor and Associate Dean for Graduate Studies at the University of Texas at Arlington where he was also the George and Elizabeth Pickett Endowed Professor in Industrial, Manufacturing and Systems Engineering, and spending time as a faculty member of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL).
In 2021, this program was held via Zoom, which prevented students from experiencing everything UNL had to offer. UNL was represented in the program through speakers Dr. Mojdeh Asadollahi Pajouh and Mr. Brandon Perry from the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility, who gave a crash testing presentation on the center’s capabilities. On the first day of sessions Assistant Vice Chancellor for Inclusive Leadership and Learning Dr. Jennifer PeeksMease welcomed the students to campus and gave an overview of the opportunities they could expect as graduate students.