Summit discusses importance of jobs in transportation


Eastern Michigan University hosted a transportation summit Saturday Aug. 30, with a panel of Michigan transportation officials explaining why it is important for higher educational institutions to direct students to careers in the transportation industry.

“This is the business that helps businesses do business,” said Former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater. According to Slater the transportation industry may not be a “sexy” career choice, but it offers students jobs in an industry that needs college graduates.

“We will be arguing for the broadest opportunity of inclusion,” Slater said. “Knowing that it is very difficult to have all of those voices invited to speak.”

Slater, a graduate of EMU, was speaking for the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials. COMTO co-sponsored the forum along with EMU. COMTO says its mission is to ensure a level playing field and maximum participation in the transportation industry for minority individuals, businesses and communities of color through advocacy, information sharing, training, education and professional development.

“We are very pleased to host this forum a second time,” EMU president Susan Martin said in a press release. “Transportation is such a critical question for our country, and Rodney Slater is among the nation’s foremost experts in the field. We so appreciate his attention to these issues, along with his continued and active engagement with Eastern as a devoted alumnus and friend.”

The forum was split into two panels, a morning and afternoon session. Both sessions were moderated by Greg Johnson, Deputy Director of the Michigan Department of Transportation.

The a.m. panel included:

  • Dr. Moges Ayele of the Federal Highway Administration
  • Mike Ford, CEO of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority
  • Sommer Woods, Director of External Relations of the M1 Rail
  • Wayne Sieloff, Vice President of Planning and Strategic
    Management of the Wayne County Airport Authority
  • Glenn Bukoski, of the Michigan Transportation Association
  • Dr. Ronda Longworth, Professor of Political Science at EMU

The afternoon panel was comprised of:

  • Dr. Oliver McGee, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the Howard University School of Engineering
  • Sandra Morgan, Director of External Affairs of Kent State University
  • Dr. Hyeonshic Shin, Acting Director of the National Tranportation Center and assistant professor of graduate built environmental studies at Morgan State University.
  • Gale LaRoche, Vice President of Human Resources at Wayne County Airport Authority
  • Charles Gulash, of the Toyota Motor Company

The panel was asked by moderator Johnson, ‘how you get students interested in transportation careers.’

“We do receive questions about gaming,” said Longworth. “But more often we hear questions about jobs.”

Longworth said it is important to discuss the societal value building the country’s infrastructure brings. She said these values should be instilled in everyone, not just students.

The panel discussed how important guaranteed long-term government funding is to the security of regional industries and research at the academia levels must concentrate on long-term solutions.

According to Ayele, the transportation industry is facing many changes and no single answer will fix all of the challenges ahead of it. He stressed the need for a multi-disciplinary approach to the problems the industry faces.

“There is a need for a very strong relationship between the academic community and the governmental community at a regional and national level,” Ayele said.

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