Shaping the Future of Transportation Leaders through the 2024 GatorITE Student Leadership Summit

By Ines Aviles-Spadoni, M.S., Research Coordinator/Marketing & Communications, UFTI

Group picture of SLS 2024 attendees.

The UF Gator Institute of Transportation Engineers (GatorITE) Student Chapter organized and led a Student Leadership Summit (SLS), bringing together 69 students and 50 transportation professionals from across Florida. Florida Secretary of Transportation Jared W. Purdue, PE, gave the keynote address. The event was held February 9 – 11 at the recently opened Malachowsky Hall and the Reitz Union on the UF campus.

The GatorITE student chapter is part of the more prominent ITE – A Community of Transportation Professionals. ITE offers many opportunities for students to learn about leadership; one is organizing a summit in their districts to develop, polish, and promote leadership skills and personal growth. The summit is completely organized and run by students. The GatorITE student chapter falls under the Florida-Puerto Rico (FL-PR) ITE District.

“Being the chair of the SLS was a huge deal for me,” said Gustavo Zschaber, a doctoral student in the transportation engineering program. “It was definitely the toughest thing I’ve ever done in my career, but with the amazing help from our coordination team, I think we did a really great job.” 

Sessions on the opening day of the SLS included how to manage workplace challenges and strategies to overcome them. Another session was devoted to how to achieve career success and personal growth. Weekend events included an interactive workshop for students to learn about practical leadership development, a career fair, and sessions on career paths in transportation and professional certifications. The SLS also featured mock interviews, resume critiques, panel discussions, and a social at UF’s Lake Wauburg.  

The SLS received generous sponsorships from distinguished and well-known transportation companies such as HNTB, WGI, Kittelson and Associates, Inc., AtkinRealis, Fehr and Peers, HDR, Kimley Horn, Iteris, via planning, Alliant, exp., and Gannett Fleming. The FL-PR ITE District, the University of Florida Leadership Institute, the McTrans Center, and ETM also sponsored this event.

In addition to the sessions and workshops, the opportunities to network with companies and big players in the transportation industry were in abundance. GatorITE Student Chapter President Renan Favero, a doctoral student in the transportation engineering program, believes that the lessons learned from attending the SLS will positively influence the careers of the students who attended.

Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Jared Perdue, PE giving the keynote address at the 2024 SLS.

“I had the honor of moderating a panel on industry leadership and ITE’s role in our careers with big names from ITE such as ITE International President John Davis, elected ITE International Vice President Karen Aspelin, and the Immediate ITE Past President Rosana Correa,” Favero said. “I’m confident that the lessons learned at this event will have a significant impact on our careers.”

A highlight of the event was the yearly Traffic Bowl District Competition, where teams of up to three students test their knowledge of transportation planning, engineering topics, and lighter, fun-filled categories too. The GatorITE once again scored a win during the competition, making this the sixth consecutive time the chapter has won the Traffic Bowl. The traffic bowl team included transportation engineering doctoral student Bryce Grame; Jonathan Crosby, a master’s student in transportation engineering; Jacob York, a master’s student in urban and regional planning; and Garrett Walker, an undergraduate student in civil engineering. The teams winning an ITE district competition advance to compete in the Collegiate Traffic Bowl Grand Championship in July 2024 in Philadelphia, Pa. For more on the Traffic Bowl win, read the article here.