UCLA Luskin urban planning students Maddy Ruvolo (left) and Cassie Halls received the prestigious Myra L. Frank Memorial Graduate Scholarship from WTS-LA.

by Lena Rogow

Seven UCLA women were honored this year in recognition of their achievements in transportation-related studies.

The Los Angeles chapter of the Women’s Transportation Seminar, or WTS-LA, distributed $100,000 in scholarship funds to women in high school, community college, undergraduate and graduate programs in transportation-related fields. Seven of the 12 higher-education recipients were UCLA students.

WTS is an international organization with more than 6,000 members dedicated to building the future of global transportation through the advancement of women.

The prestigious Myra L. Frank Memorial Graduate Scholarship honors the legacy of a notable local leader in environmental planning and assessment. Through her firm, Myra L. Frank & Associates, Frank was involved in virtually every major transit project in Los Angeles, including the Downtown People Mover and the Pasadena Gold Line. She was also an active member of WTS-LA, and, following her death, the organization established a scholarship to honor her legacy.

Over the years, UCLA students have often been honored with this scholarship, including in 2018, with two UCLA urban planning students receiving the award: Miriam Pinski and Hannah King. This year, two second-year urban planning graduate students and UCLA ITS researchers received this scholarship: Maddy Ruvolo and Cassie Halls.

Fighting for Greater Mobility Access

Maddy Ruvolo joined the legacy of UCLA transportation students for her crowning achievement in securing the organization’s most renowned scholarship, the $10,000 Myra L. Frank Memorial Graduate Scholarship. Ruvolo, who has worked with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and the Oakland Department of Transportation, was honored for her work in creating better mobility access for people with disabilities.

“Though I did not always know I wanted to be a transportation planner, I have long been interested in the politics of mobility,” Ruvolo said in a WTS-LA article. “When I first learned about the disability rights movement and realized that my chronic illness meant that I, too, was part of the disability community, I was inspired by protesters in the 1970s who blocked buses with their wheelchairs to demand access to transit.”

Ruvolo has gained recognition for both her academic achievement and her ardent belief in equality. According to Tim Quayle, who worked with her at SFMTA (now with Brown and Caldwell), “Maddy’s strongest career motivation is supporting and expanding transportation accessibility for people with disabilities. It was rewarding to watch her leverage her passion for this subject in collaborating with colleagues and experts to develop meaningful metrics that track our agency’s accessibility programming.”

Transportation as a Catalyst for Change

Cassie Halls, also a second-year planning graduate student, was the second UCLA recipient of the Myra L. Frank Memorial Graduate Scholarship, with a $7,500 scholarship gift. WTS-LA recognized Halls for her aspirations to make Southern California a more economically vibrant and transit-oriented region. This passion stemmed from when she rode with active transportation and racial equity leaders, who inspired her to think about how transportation can be a catalyst for change. She is currently a research fellow in the LA Metro’s Office of Extraordinary Innovation and a researcher at UCLA ITS. She previously worked at the Shared-Use Mobility Center in Chicago.

“She has a focused interest in transportation planning—particularly as it affects low-income residents—and extensive professional planning experience,” said professor Evelyn Blumenberg. “Her experience and drive suggest that she will play a leadership role as a transportation planner in the years to come.”

Other Scholarship Recipients

Five other UCLA students received WTS-LA or corporate-sponsored scholarships. They are:

  • Annaleigh Yahata, Master in Urban and Regional Planning student, won the $5,000 WTS-LA Board of Directors Scholarship.
  • Ma’ayan Dembo, Master in Urban and Regional Planning student, won the $5,000 Fehr & Peers Leah Guerreiro-Ramos Memorial Graduate Scholarship.
  • Guadalupe Huerta, Master in Urban and Regional Planning student, won the $5,000 Fehr & Peers Leah Guerreiro-Ramos Memorial Graduate Scholarship.
  • Christi Fu, a second-year executive MBA student, won the $5,000 Arup/CM Solutions Scholarship.
  • Julene Paul, a doctoral student in urban planning, won the $5,000 BYD Scholarship.

These UCLA women and others will be presented with their awards during the annual WTS-LA scholarship and awards dinner Nov. 7 at the Sheraton Grand LA Downtown, located at 711 S. Hope St.