A first-ever Women in Transportation Initiative (WITI) Internship Program was established at the University of Florida this spring 2020 with the assistance of the Southeastern Transportation Research, Innovation, Development & Education Center (STRIDE), which is the 2016 U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) Regional (Southeastern) University Transportation Center (UTC) housed at the UFTI. The WITI is a flagship program of the USDOT Office of Small Business (OSDBU) focused on encouraging young women to pursue careers in the transportation industry. This year’s experiential learning program was conducted in collaboration with the Women of Asphalt (WofA), the University of Florida Transportation Institute, and the UF Engineering School of Sustainable Infrastructure & Environment (ESSIE).
The STRIDE Center’s Ondine Wells, K-12/Technology Transfer Coordinator, reached out to ESSIE faculty to identify a champion for the program. Dr. Mang Tia and Dr. Jian Zou of the Department of Civil & Coastal Engineering within ESSIE agreed to create and lead a new 3-credit course that would incorporate the 8-week internship along with academic lectures.
Seven students participated in the internship program which centered around an asphalt sector curriculum developed by WofA members Amy Miller and Michelle Kirk. At UF, lectures were provided by professionals from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), industry, and professional organizations. Students also participated in field trips to the FDOT State Materials Research Lab in Gainesville, FL and Asphalt Testing Solutions & Engineering in Jacksonville, FL. The format provided theoretical, skill-based knowledge, professional skill development, and networking and mentoring opportunities.
The WITI Program efforts are expected to reduce opportunity gaps faced among women and girls by encouraging similar endeavors that expose them to potential careers in the industry.