Opportunities for the Taking as ITE looks to the World

ITE means different things, to different members, at different times. As Laura Aston has just discovered, ITE also means something very different depending on whether you live in North America, or not. Laura dived into a week of ITE relationship-building and transport knowledge sharing, attending a Student Leadership Summit at the University of Minnesota, followed by the Annual Meeting in Minneapolis. Laura recounts her experiences and observations about the transferrable member benefits enjoyed by diverse transportation professionals in North America.

Member benefits

As a member of ITE’s only active “Section” outside North America, Laura was attracted to ITE for its local networks and promise of international relevance. Following in the footsteps of Vice President Same Linke, who attended the Annual Meeting in Toronto in 2017, Laura’s trip was enabled by the introduction, in 2017, of the Austraffic Worldwide Learning Opportunities grant for overseas professional development of young members. Along with ITE’s engagement of students with career seminars, recognition of outstanding work with its Awards, the WLO are one of the member benefits that have provided value to Laura in her years of ITE membership. The ITE Learning Hub, “ITE Talks Transportation” podcast and active online forums hinted at a hive of activity on the other end of her keyboard, but not until setting foot in Minneapolis for the 2018 ITE Annual Meeting, did Laura fully appreciate the enormity of ITE’s footprint in North America.

Student leadership

Laura uncovered a network of passionate students helping each other practice leadership and make intervarsity connections. Student Leadership Summits attract approximately 100 students at four locations each year. Students reside on campus and mingle with industry, often enjoying a barbecue prepared by Presidents Past. The varsity Traffic Bowl Tournament provides an opportunity for fun, glory and some serious textbook cramming. Students compete in teams of three to answer questions with questions (jeopardy style – youtube it). Cow bells and hand clappers are a feature at tournaments, which are well attended by faculty staff, senior ITE members and peers. An inspirational example of a student chapter carrying its members to unimaginable experiences is that of the University of Manitoba Chapter (UMITE). UMITE, winners of the 2018 Internationasl Student Chapter of the year award,  organises for its members to travel to Europe, across America and South America to visit noteworthy transportation networks each year. A visit to Australia for a future student leadership summit is definitely on the cards!

Technical resources

The Councils, journal and conferences staged by ITE, are a valuable opportunity for academics and professionals to show leadership in technical areas of transportation. Academics can join councils to discuss best practice, contribute to educational resources and standards, or assist with the review of submissions for the ITE Journal and Conferences. Technical Councils, such as the Complete Streets Council, Transport Education, STEM, transit and bicycle and pedestrian councils, are renowned in the United States for leading and coordinating standards and guides. While the reach of these councils is predominantly in the United States, Laura’s discussions throughout the conference revealed a distinct appetite to bring the rest of the world onto these technical councils and shift their focus to one of knowledge sharing and growth.


The most unanimously prized benefit of ITE membership were the friendships forged between members. The Annual Award Ceremony provided a n opportunity to recognise remarkable careers and lifetimes of commitment to ITE. Laura was inspired by reflections about the rich bonds formed through volunteering, be it at the student chapter, committee, section, district or international level. One award recipient remarked that despite a fantastic career journey, he would start again today just to be in the transportation industry at this exciting time. There was a candid acknowledgement of the diversity problem within ITE and the sector at large. The Women’s Committee staged its 25th annual Women’s Power event, which for the first time welcomed all genders. The respect and compassion among the women in the room, and the genuineness of their support for each other, was inspiring and warming to be a part of. Laura encourages any women seeking mentors, or who is wanting to engage with other women in the field, to join the Women’s committee and participate in discussions through its dedicated ITE Online Community Forum.

A crowd-pleasing conference

The buzz of connecting with peers in the industry, first rate hospitality and intriguing surrounds of the bike-friendly Minneapolis was enough to satisfy before accounting for the professional development at the heart of the conference. Neverthless, ITE compiled a rich program that balanced insights into innovation in local project delivery with technological disruption across the entire sector. The talent and leadership behind Minneapolis, Mining and Manufacturing, better known as 3M, became evident in an insightful and engaging plenary. The use of app and web-based question platform Sli.do did away with long-winded ‘commestions’.  Uber and Waze were challenged on their use of data and the trade-offs of shared economies in a series of extremely poignant questions, that were vocalised thanks to the ‘up-voting’ function and character limit enforced by Sli.do. Next year will see the conference head to Austin, Texas; followed by New Orleans in 2020. Both are cities that add to the appeal of a conference that Laura encourages all members to consider attending, whether for professional development, uncovering of ITE technical resources and pathways or relationship building.

Global District, it’s your moment!

The agglomeration of benefits and networks enjoyed by North American members was of a scale that Laura was not expecting. The ITE International Board, and importantly the many members Laura connected with, demonstrated a curiosity to learn from the rest of the world.  With an already active Section, Australia and New Zealand are positioned to benefit first and also lead the rest of the world (or “Global District”, in ITE vocabulary) in stewarding a new era of opportunities for international members.

Laura is the recipient of a Austraffic Worldwide Learning Opportunity grant which enabled her to attend the ITE annual meeting. Laura is a Ph.D Candidate conducting research through the Public Transport Research Group in the Department of Civil Engineering; while working part time as User Experience Planner at Transport for Victoria. She is also Chair of the 2019 Student Leadership Summit and Traffic Bowl, the first of many ITE International initiatives to make its way down under. To register for the inaugural ANZ Section summit, visit the website or purchase tickets online.