Karen Philbrick, PhD

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Executive Director

Executive Director

Mineta Transportation Institute

Karen Philbrick serves as the executive director of the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) at San José State University, a position she has held since 2014. MTI leads two competitively selected multi-university consortiums: the California State University Transportation Consortium (CSUTC) which unifies the surface transportation research and workforce development efforts of the 23-campus California State University system and the Mineta Consortium for Transportation Mobility (MCTM). MCTM unifies and focuses the efforts of four outstanding institutions that represent and support the geographical, cultural, racial, and socioeconomic diversity that makes our nation strong: Howard University; Navajo Technical University; San José State University; and the University of North Carolina Charlotte.

Prior to joining MTI, Dr. Philbrick shaped the field of transportation in a variety of roles, including as assistant director of the National Center for Intermodal Transportation at the University of Denver. She has been appointed three times by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation (Secretaries LaHood, Foxx, and Chao, respectively) to sit on the USDOT Transit Advisory Committee for Safety (TRACS) where she chaired the FTA Administrator’s Tasking 14-02 which identified key elements of a safety management system approach to fatigue management. 

Since 2013, she has been elected to serve the Council of University Transportation Centers (CUTC) in several roles, including President in 2018-19. Dr. Philbrick also has the privilege of serving as the President of the Research and Education Division (RED) of the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), where she also sits on the ARTBA Board of Directors and Executive Committee. Dr. Phillbrick is part of the Transportation Research Board (TRB) Committee on AP080 “Transit Safety and Security” and AR010 “Intercity Passenger Rail”, where she also serves as the research subcommittee lead.

With an eye toward seamless and equitable transportation for all, Karen also serves the industry through the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). She is a Director for the APTA High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail Committee and recently served as an appointed research advisor to the APTA Mobility Recovery and Restoration Task Force. She also served on the 2019 APTA nominating committee and has partnered with the American Public Transportation Foundation on a joint APTF/MTI scholarship the past four years. 

Committed to recruiting, retaining, and advancing women in the transportation industry, Dr. Philbrick also serves on the Women in Transportation Seminar (WTS) Foundation Board as Secretary after having served two terms as a Director. Since 2016 she has been a member of the advisory board for the Los Angeles Metro Office of Extraordinary Innovation (OEI), and in 2018 she joined the Executive Committee for the City and County Pavement Improvement Center, UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies. She contributes to her community as a part of the Board of Directors for the Rotary Club of San José, and as a member of the Rotoplast committee, which offers volunteer-based free medical services. 

A frequently invited keynote speaker, Dr. Philbrick has also delivered federal congressional briefings and invited testimony to the California Senate Transportation Committee and the Assembly Transportation Committee. Her other intellectual contributions include a bimonthly column on transportation in the San Jose Spotlight, the recipient of the national Publisher of the Year award for independent online news, invited articles for the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, and peer-reviewed journal articles focused on models of accident risk and fatigue in railroad operations, psychological trauma and transportation accidents —including grade crossing and trespasser incidents —and cross cultural differences in helping behavior.

Dr. Philbrick has received many prestigious awards for her leadership excellence and outstanding contributions to her field. In 2015, she received the CUTC Administrative Leadership award and received a commendation on behalf of the City of San José for excellence in transportation policy leadership. In 2016, the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO) named Dr. Philbrick a “Woman Who Moves the Nation,” and the SJSU Urban and Regional Planning Department presented her an award for significant contributions to faculty and students. In 2017, the Silicon Valley Business Journal named Dr. Philbrick 1 of the 100 Women of Influence in Silicon Valley, and most recently, she was recognized by the YWCA Silicon Valley with a 2018 Tribute to Women Award for her contributions to the field of transportation.

On an international level, Dr. Philbrick has led the development of educational and training materials for intermodal specialists. Her work has formed a key portion of an international training effort and seminar, Innovations and Challenges in Intermodal Transportation, in the Philippines and Indonesia. She was a member of the US delegation to the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Transportation Working Group from 2000 to 2009. 

Dr. Philbrick holds a PhD from the University of Denver and an MA and EdM from Columbia University. She earned her undergraduate degree from California State University, Fresno.

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Contact Us

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