Talking Transportation: HBCU-Georgia Tech Transport Researcher Forum

How can we work together to make transportation research better for everyone?

May 19, 2022, 9:05am EDT

ATLANTA — In May 2022, transportation researchers from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) across the country gathered at the Georgia Institute of Technology for an interactive forum discussing opportunities for collaborative research. Organized by faculty Michael Hunter and Kari Watkins from Tech’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, this event sought to bring together diverse faculty with similar research interests to share about their successes, and explore planning future multi-disciplinary and multi-university projects together.

“Transportation is how we organize our communities. We need everyone at the table when we’re thinking about cities, issues, and how to move forward.” – Gullah Akar, Chair of Georgia Tech’s School of City and Regional Planning

When researchers plan and execute community research projects, each team member can only bring one set of experiences to frame their objectives. To improve the quality of life for others, an underlying goal of research, there needs to be inclusion of a variety of voices and perspectives. This means building relationships with diverse colleagues improves the efficiency and outcomes of projects for key stakeholders. Although working with multiple universities to increase perspectives is critical in advancing research, large funding sponsors don’t traditionally match researchers with similar interests to strengthen proposals, making forums like this event unique and valuable.

The Partnership for Inclusive Innovation helped to sponsor this event, along with STRIDE, T-Score, and the Office of the Executive Vice President for Research at Georgia Tech.

With more than 30 attendees from 13 colleges and universities, this forum allowed researchers to understand the transportation challenges that are prevalent in other areas of the nation and discuss the underlying research and resulting solutions that are advancing the field. All attendees were given an opportunity to present their recent research findings and get feedback from their colleagues which spurred discussion about potential partnerships on upcoming projects. Research topics discussed included multimodal transportation, mobility and equity, living laboratories, smart cities, autonomous vehicles, system modeling, and mobility decision-making, among many others. Faculty represented were from a wide variety of disciplines, including hard and social sciences.

Attendees provided feedback about research within their institutions to the broader forum and looked for ways to leverage corresponding resources. Providing a pathway forward for new partnerships to develop into impactful transportation research projects was a key goal of this full-day event. Georgia Tech’s Hunter said, “Within our society, the benefits and burdens of transportation infrastructure investments are not equitability distributed. We are hoping through this forum, bringing together researchers from HBCUs and Georgia Tech, that we will begin to create the foundation for partnerships that strive for diversity, equity, and inclusion when considering the interplay of mobility with economic, health, and cultural resilience.”

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