By Neil Nachbar
A walking tour of the construction site for the $125 million engineering complex highlighted a campus visit on Sept. 14 by a handful of representatives of the Rhode Island Chapter of Women Transportation Seminar (WTS).
WTS-RI is comprised of approximately 70 transportation professionals from more than 25 firms and agencies throughout Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Several of the members are engineers and a high percentage graduated from URI.
“It was nice to see so many of our graduates come back to see the transformation of URI’s College of Engineering,” said Chuck Watson, COE’s assistant director.
Watson coordinated the campus visit with Nicole Richard, Marlyn Mendoza and Allison Luff of WTS-RI. Richard and Mendoza both work for Steere Engineering and both are URI alumnae.
“WTS-RI generally goes on a couple of construction site tours a year,” said Deanna Peabody, chapter president. “Given that such a large-scale and interesting project was in construction on campus, coupled with the recent establishment of a WTS student chapter at URI, it was a great opportunity.”
The tour was especially meaningful for Mendoza, who met Watson when he visited her high school her sophomore year.
“Chuck introduced me to the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP), which opened a big door into the STEM fields for me,” recalled Mendoza. “I then participated in a summer program, working on a hands-on, problem-solving activity that was related to design.”
Later in high school, Mendoza participated in URI’s Talent Development (TD) program. She took an engineering class that summer at URI and became interested in civil engineering.
“Visiting URI’s College of Engineering felt like I was back home,” said Mendoza. “Seeing the construction of the new engineering complex was a dream come true. While I was an undergraduate at URI, Dean (Raymond) Wright talked about creating a better facility for the engineering department and its students. Actually seeing it come together is an incredible feeling.”
Several members of URI’s WTS student chapter accompanied the state chapter on the tour.
“The visit gave the WTS-RI chapter members an opportunity to meet and interact with the board members of the student chapter,” stated Peabody. “We can support the URI chapter by providing educational and professional development events; networking opportunities; information on internships, career opportunities and scholarships; and access to transportation professionals who can serve as mentors. We are available to answer any questions and support the student chapter in any way we can.”
The WTS-Rhode Island Chapter was formed in 2006. The organization is dedicated to the professional advancement of women in transportation.
Prior to the tour, the group met with Wright and Assistant Dean Jared Abdirkin. Wright provided an overview of the College of Engineering and a timeline of the construction project. He also described the unique features and design of the new engineering complex and how the facility will help advance the College to new heights.