Winning coaches seem to have at least one thing in common: an emphasis on teamwork while utilizing the talents of each individual. In the case of the Southwest Region University Transportation Center (SWUTC) — a consortium of five schools with transportation research and education programs — that philosophy has paid dividends for 25 years. The consortium is headquartered at Texas A&M, and Louisiana State University has become one of its new members.
“Louisiana State University and the University of New Orleans became a part of SWUTC this year, bringing to the consortium their national leadership in hurricane traffic analysis, evacuation strategies and modeling,” says Dock Burke, SWUTC director and Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) research economist. “LSU and UNO offer some high-quality resources in terms of its faculty, students and some of their ongoing programs. We believe the entire Gulf Coast will benefit from this new alliance.”
Burke, who has been the “head coach” of SWUTC for 20 years, has been affiliated with the unique program since its inception in 1988. SWUTC is a part of a national effort to foster university-based, long-term research and education initiatives. Its major goal of attracting and developing students to become first-rate transportation professionals and industry leaders sets it apart from other transportation research programs.
“When you consider our consortium members, we have a critical mass of expertise that can address almost any topic you could conceivably think of in transportation,” Burke adds. “The consortium has long included TTI at Texas A&M, the University of Texas and Texas Southern University; and now the University of New Orleans and LSU have joined us.”
“In his wisdom, Dock told us from the beginning that he wanted to keep us autonomous, that SWUTC would not simply absorb us,” LSU’s Brian Wolshon says. Dr. Wolshon is a national expert on all matters related to emergency evacuation research, and he serves as the director of the Gulf Coast Research Center for Evacuation and Transportation Resiliency. “TTI is the 800-pound gorilla of university-based transportation research. Dock is heading-up the UTC program with the philosophy that LSU is a vital part of the team that should keep its expertise whole.”
As part of this year’s grant funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation, SWUTC will focus its efforts on projects that improve lives through research. The LSU addition will last through the rest of the year with project work expected to continue through 2013.
“It’s possible that the LSU involvement with SWUTC could continue past this grant period,” Wolshon says. “I hope it does, because I believe our affiliation is a win-win situation.”
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