During Jan. 31–Feb. 2, the Institute of Transportation Engineers Western and Mountain Districts gathered its members across 13 states for the 7th Annual Student Leadership Summit hosted by UCLA and USC.

ITE SLS History

The ITE Student Leadership Summit originated in 2014 at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. The event’s original goal was to create summits entirely planned by students for students. Through the promotion of leadership and professional development, these events aim to guide future transportation professionals. Each event has approximately 100-200 attendees, most of whom are students, both undergraduate and graduate, and a few alumni and faculty.

Since that first event, there have been 12 student leadership summits hosted by ITE student chapters around the U.S., Canada, and with the ITE Australian and New Zealand Chapter. In total, more than 1,000 students have participated in these events.

UCLA ITE chapter (photo: Eric Shen)

Joceline Suhaimi, president of UCLA’s ITE student chapter and lead organizer of this year’s summit, said she was eager to host an event at UCLA because of the transportation changes afoot in Los Angeles, including $120-billion taxpayer-approved investments into LA’s transportation system and the projects associated with the upcoming 2028 Olympics.

“I’ve always wanted to host an event here because our current situation provides an ideal lens through which students can examine the industry today,” said Suhaimi, a senior majoring in civil engineering, with a minor in urban planning.

“I attended my first ITE SLS two years ago and was struck by the opportunity to get outside of the UCLA bubble and meet people from schools like Montana State University and Oregon State University, many of whom I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet otherwise. I’ve witnessed how this conference can bring our diverse student perspectives and backgrounds together to come up with solutions to transportation problems. It’s had a huge impact on my educational and professional path and I was eager to bring the conference to my own university.”


The final day of the summit featured a panel discussion from UCLA and USC ITE alumni. The panel featured:

  • David Roachford (USC ‘17), transportation consultant at Gibson Transportation
  • Paul Lee (UCLA ‘15, UC Berkeley ‘16), civil engineering associate at LA Department of Water and Power
  • Tiffany Huang (UCLA ‘14), civil engineer at Kimley Horn
  • Griffin Kantz (USC ‘17), graduate research assistant at the MIT Civic Data Design Lab
  • Robert Campbell (UCLA ‘07, UC Berkeley PhD ‘12), transportation planning manager at LA Metro

The panelists discussed their experiences in the transportation world and the importance of emerging transportation professionals enacting change in the industry. They also touched on the topic of transportation equity and how each arm of transportation — from the workforce to research studies to car debt and express lane systems — can be made more equitable. The panel finished off with each speaker sharing their hardest career challenges like searching for a job and finding time for self-care.

The morning continued with technical sessions from UCLA faculty Walter Okitsu, lecturer at the department of civil and environmental engineering, Evelyn Blumenberg, professor in the department of urban and regional planning at the Luskin School of Public Affairs and director of the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies, and Donald Shoup, distinguished research professor at the Luskin School of Public Affairs along with USC professor Genevieve Giuliano, professor at the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy and director of METRANS Transportation Center.

Congratulations to the team of UCLA and USC students who organized such a successful event!

Featured image courtesy of Eric Shen