TRC Role: Master of Public Administration (2007). I was in the initial group of TRC graduate students in 2006-2007.
Current Role: Senior Manager of Aviation Research & Economics at Crawford, Murphy & Tilly, Inc.
What have you been doing since leaving the TRC?
After graduating from UVM with my MPA, I did what students often do when they don’t quite know what career pathway speaks to them – I pursued a Ph.D.! I attended the Ph.D. program in Political Science at Kent State University in Ohio from 2007-2011. My training in the MPA program and TRC prepared me exceptionally well for the independent research skills necessary to succeed as a Ph.D. student. While at Kent, I built upon my research on aviation policy that was the foundation of my Master’s thesis completed as a graduate student at the TRC. For my dissertation, I explored the use of voluntary safety reporting programs by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to ensure compliance with safety regulations by air carriers. This research fit squarely with my unique bridging of the fields of aviation and public administration and resulted in a successful grant application to the IBM Center for the Business of Government to support my research.
During my dissertation research, I was spending quite a bit of time with FAA and airline officials as I conduced interviews and participant observations. While I was on the job market interviewing for several tenure-track academic positions, I noticed a job opening as a policy analyst with a focus on legislative affairs with the FAA. I was lucky enough to receive an offer from the FAA in December of 2010. I vividly remember the 2010 holiday season as a somewhat stressful one choosing between the position at the FAA, two tenure track academic positions, and a director of safety reporting programs with US Airways. As a transportation (and political science) geek, there was no way I could turn down working for the FAA in Washington, DC. During my time at the FAA, I developed and evaluated agency-wide legislative proposals for political and policy implications and coordinated with internal and external stakeholders to ensure communication of proposals to the Department of Transportation (DOT), Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and Congress. This was a very interesting and active position as it often forced me to quickly learn about complex aviation policy problems and develop a course of action to propose to senior executives in the agency. I routinely interacted with legislative staff, trade association representatives, and senior executives from FAA, DOT, and other federal agencies. While I absolutely loved my position at the FAA, I remained very attracted to academia and conducting independent research on several aviation and political science issues which I was able to observe from my position at FAA.
In 2012, I accepted a position as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Bowling Green State University (BGSU). I was attracted to BGSU because of the ability to teach in their MPA program as well as the University's aviation program. While I was at FAA, I kept a notebook of all of the potential research topics and interesting things I observed. When I arrived at BGSU, I hit the ground running on several of these topics, which resulted in several publications in a variety of journals including Legislative Studies Quarterly, The Journal of Public Policy, Public Administration Review, Administration & Society, Regulation and Governance, The Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis, and the Journal of Air Transport Management. I also developed a significant interest and expertise in air service and economic development and was awarded a grant by the Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) to examine the impact of airline industry changes on air service in small communities. After being promoted to Associate Professor in 2016, I began becoming more involved in our Center for Regional Development (CRD) at BGSU, which is an interdisciplinary applied research and technical assistance center. In 2016, we were awarded a 5-year grant from the Economic Development Administration (EDA) to conduct applied research and assist local communities on economic development projects and planning in 29 counties in northwest Ohio. In May 2018, I became Director of CRD and lead a team of 7 professional staff and graduate students dedicated to improving the economic and social well-being of people in our community. I have also remained very active in the air service development world. I served on a DOT Working Group on Small Community Air Service and was awarded another ACRP grant to examine the use of airport and community incentives to attract new air service. Additionally, CRD has partnered with a consulting firm, Crawford, Murphy, and Tilly (CMT) to provide air service development consulting services to airports across the country. In mid-June 2019, I will be joining the aviation team at Crawford, Murphy & Tilly, Inc. as the Senior Manager of Aviation Research and & Economics. Lastly, I am the current Vice-President and Advocacy Chair of the Ohio Aviation Association, an association of over 350 members from over 55 airports in the state of Ohio.
How did the TRC prepare you for these positions, and life in general?
My time at the TRC was instrumental in preparing me for my career not only as a transportation official, but also as an academic. The transportation seminar I took at the TRC prepared me well for conversations I had while at FAA about the multi-modal nature of many transportation problems. I also had the opportunity to spend time with excellent researchers, teachers, and mentors such as Lisa Aultman-Hall, Glenn McRae, Richard Watts, and Chris Koliba who shaped my professional development and taught me how to conduct academic research. Finally, the seminars, guest speakers, and networking were invaluable resources that assisted me greatly in my career.
What would you recommend to current researchers at the TRC?
While at UVM, I truly did not appreciate how lucky I was to have such engaged faculty members who were willing to spend considerable time mentoring and teaching me how to be an academic researcher. I would encourage current students to take advantage of the small program and cohort feel of the UVM program. Additionally, I would strongly recommend trying to become a “liberal arts” transportation researcher by taking classes in other disciplines and honing your writing and communication skills. I am amazed how many people I meet in aviation and other transportation areas who started in a different field (even something as crazy as political science!). Finally, be an engaged volunteer and member of professional organizations such as TRB.