Citadel Cadet Taylor Coleman, Kasim Reed, Mayor of Atlanta, and Citadel Cadet Marclay Dantzler

Working side by side to improve transportation: Citadel engineering cadets and students join the national conversation

Working side by side with top industry leaders is something most engineers-in-training don’t get to do until their careers are well off the ground. Not true, however, for a group of cadets and students from The Citadel Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. In late October, 20 of us set out to spend the day brainstorming and learning from high-ranking transportation leaders who are engaged in policy work, including the highest-ranking one of all, United States Secretary of Transportation, Anthony Foxx.

We were invited to participate in the U.S. Department of Transportation Beyond Traffic Workshop 2045 that was held at the new Gaillard Center here in Charleston. In addition to Secretary Foxx, some of the dignitaries present included the North Carolina Secretary of Transportation, Nick Tennyson, the Mayor of Atlanta, Kasim Reed, and the mayor of Charleston, Joseph P. Riley, Jr,. who is a 1964 graduate of The Citadel.  

The event was organized by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) which is holding similar collaborative planning sessions in 11 regions in order to gather knowledge about future traffic and transportation needs across North America. This particular workshop focused on the Atlantic Piedmont mega region including North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. What we didn’t know until the close of the session was that this was the first time college students had been involved in the process.

“The forum engaged officials in a discussion of national transportation policies and planning directives needed to meet evolving and future American urban mobility needs for maritime ports, airports, public transportation, rail commerce, roadway networks, highway safety, traffic engineering, urban livability, and public health,” said Dr. Jeff Davis, professor, The Citadel Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.  “Citadel cadets and students played a unique role as facilitators of forum discussions and published official documentation of the proceedings.”

Throughout the day, Citadel civil engineering students documented the group’s discussions. We were also each assigned a member of the panel of dignitaries that was led by Secretary Foxx, in order to record that person’s statements.

“This national transportation forum provided a fantastic learning experience and showcased the leadership skills and professional service capabilities of Citadel cadets and students,” Davis said.

The ideas generated from the workshop will be eventually be incorporated into U.S. DOT policy documents related to the department’s Beyond Traffic 2045 program.  It was a successful and motivating experience; they even thanked us numerous times for participating. Mayor Riley acknowledged us, and U.S. DOT Senior Policy Advisor Vinn White said our participation added immensely to the workshop.  

James L. Mixson is a member of The South Carolina Corps of Cadets Class of 2016. He is a civil engineering major who plans to enter the Navy Nuclear Propulsion Program upon commissioning in May. Mixson is originally Statesville, North Carolina.