February '24 Newsletter

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February 2024
Featured Spotlight
Nuria Fernandez at MTI events
Let’s take a moment to acknowledge and appreciate the outstanding accomplishments of former MTI Trustee Nuria Fernandez, who retired February 24th from her tenure as the Administrator for the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). In 1997, she became the first woman of color to lead FTA as Acting Administrator, and she was later confirmed as the 15th Administrator of FTA in 2021 under President Joe Biden. In this role, she has been a driving force for significant positive change, including establishing the Transit Workforce Center, the FTA’s national technical assistance center for transit workforce development, and assisting in the implementation of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).

Before her time at the FTA, she served as MTI Trustee from 2006-2021 and previously as general manager and CEO of the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA). She has been an integral part of the industry for more than three decades. After first emigrating from Panama to pursue higher education, she began making big impacts at some of the busiest transit agencies in the nation, including New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Chicago Transit Authority, and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. She also previously oversaw O’Hare and Midway Airports. In her 35-year career in the industry, she has spearheaded policies to make the industry more diverse and inclusive and to make transportation safer and more effective for everyone.

“Nuria is a remarkable leader who has broken barriers as a woman, as a person of color—someone who has pushed for and successfully furthered inclusivity and equity in our industry. Her accomplishments serve as a testament to the transformative power of diverse leaders, and her dedication to advancing transportation drives us all to strive for excellence in whatever we do,” stated MTI Executive Director Dr. Karen Philbrick.

MTI is grateful to have had her as a part of our team and are proud to acknowledge the significant impacts she has had and continues to have in transportation and beyond.

Researcher Spotlight
Kezban Yagci Sokat
This month, MTI is featuring the work of Dr. Kezban Yagci Sokat and her recent contributions to the United Against Slavery (UAS) National Outreach Survey for Transportation (NOST) to combat human trafficking. At SJSU, Dr. Yagci Sokat is Assistant Professor in the Department of Marketing and Business Analytics, but she also serves on the USDOT Advisory Committee on Human Trafficking Research and Data Subcommittee and is MTI’s liaison to NOST. She served a critical role in the development of this survey as Chair of the Forced Labor Working Group and a member of the Analytics Working Group. UAS created the National Outreach Survey to meet the need for frontline data that can be used to support counter-trafficking efforts; and NOST was given the first-ever U.S. Department of Transportation Combating Human Trafficking Transportation Impact Award for its impact. Dr. Yagci Sokat described NOST as aiming to “identify the best practices on the frontlines of counter-human trafficking efforts and document unresolved challenges and recommendations through input from 1) transportation personnel, 2) victim service providers, and 3) trafficking survivors.”

Among her other accomplishments, Dr. Yagci Sokat has also completed an MTI Seed Grant project titled Understanding the Role of Transportation in Combating Human Trafficking in California, which was cited by the U.S. Senate in 2023. MTI is committed to eliminating human trafficking with the help of outstanding researchers like Dr. Yagci Sokat.

Read the NOST Report

New Research
Beneath I-280: Excavating a Neighborhood Lost to San José Freeways
Beneath I-280: Excavating a Neighborhood Lost to San José Freeways

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, thousands of people in San José, California were displaced from their homes as the state used eminent domain to purchase land and uproot neighborhoods for the construction of Interstate freeways. This report presents a multifaceted research and public knowledge effort that uncovers some of the communities buried beneath these freeways, in the area where I-280 and CA-87 meet today near downtown San José. The project builds primarily from previously unprocessed California Department of Transportation archival documents. The records are rich in detail about valuation and sale data and contain some of the only photographs of these homes in one of the oldest neighborhoods in San José, created when assessing properties that the state intended to purchase for demolition. Yet the absence of human context, life, and value in the records speaks volumes as well. In addition to investigating and analyzing the files, it soon became clear that perhaps the most valuable contribution would be to daylight their contents in an accessible, public-facing manner. By indexing the records, analyzing the photographs, and georeferencing the content into interactive maps, this project worked to combine the archival materials with historic and contemporary maps, news accounts, and city and community records into public resources. 

Read the Report

Upcoming Events
In honor of Women’s History Month, the Mineta Transportation Institute is hosting a series of virtual fireside chats with a diverse panel of women transportation leaders at the apex of success in academia, public and private industries, and the nonprofit sector. Explore compelling personal narratives and leadership journeys and gain valuable insights into how these leaders balance assertiveness with emotional intelligence, overcoming stereotypes and dispelling misconceptions about perceived weakness. Discover invaluable insights as we dive into the profound impact of reshaping perspectives and championing women in the transportation industry and beyond.
Trailblazer Tuesday with Veronica Vanterpool
Veronica Vanterpool

March 5, 2024
12:00-12:30p.m. (PT)

To Register




Trailblazer Tuesday with Tilly Chang
Tilly Chang

March 12, 2024
1:00-1:30p.m. (PT)

To Register

Trailblazer Tuesday with Jannet Walker-Ford
Jannet Walker-Ford

March 19, 2024
12:00-12:30p.m. (PT)

To Register

Trailblazer Tuesday with Jennifer Homendy
Jennifer Homendy

March 26, 2024
12:00-12:30p.m. (PT)

To Register

Past Events
Engineers Week 2024
Engineers Week 2024

MTI is proud to support ASCE San Jose in its launch of the 1st Annual Engineers Week! February 12-16th, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) celebrated and engaged future engineers by conducting outreach to K-12 students. Engineers Week 2024 consisted of multiple events, including Elementary School Day, Girl Day, and Middle School Day. Students heard from experts and participated in exciting hands-on activities like building towers and testing the structures’ resilience. On Girl Day, around 150 girls from two Title I high schools and one charter school gathered at the San Jose Women’s Club. These students heard from MTI’s Executive Director Dr. Karen Philbrick and Kathlyn Terrazas, Manager and Strategic Launcher Engineer at Northrop Grumman about being a leader and a woman in the industry. Participating high school students also had the opportunity to tour the SJSU Engineering Building, which included exploring the Spartan Racing Shop. Altogether, the Engineers Week directly benefited more than 250 students, inspiring them to hone their critical thinking skills, develop a deeper understanding of STEM, and plan for their futures—maybe as engineers!

Watch the Event Video

Putting the Brakes on Rider Harassment
Harassment is keeping riders from using transit and feeling safe. Taking on harassment on transit doesn't need to be a daunting task—it starts with data collection and setting up community partnerships to guide the process. Speakers, two transit operators and their community partners, discussed both qualitative data gathering approaches and a new passenger survey tool. How can these be used to make a difference in making public transit safer for everyone? This webinar was created for transit riders, operators, community-based organizations, advocacy groups, government workers, researchers, and anyone who wants to be a part of sharing insights and strategies to address rider harassment and fostering a safer and more inclusive public transit experience for everyone.

Watch the Recording



Contact Us

SJSU Research Foundation   210 N. 4th Street, 4th Floor, San Jose, CA 95112    Phone: 408-924-7560   Email: mineta-institute@sjsu.edu