After an extensive four-month search, the University of Minnesota’s Center for Transportation Studies has named its new director.
Laurie McGinnis was selected as the new director for CTS effective July 5 after serving as the acting director since October 2009. There were 18 other applicants for the position from around the country.
CTS, which was established in 1987 at the University, allows transportation researchers to connect with government officials and both public and private agencies to share their research, McGinnis said.
"It really comes down to being a resource," she said. "We act as a liaison between the students and faculty at the University and the practitioners and policymakers that can benefit from our research."
Recent CTS research has included projects such as the Teen Driver Support System, a GPS-like cell phone application that tracks new drivers and alerts parents of speeding or other traffic violations.
Researchers are also looking into transportation topics from the economic effects of light-rail tracks to the best methods for filling potholes.
The center employs 27 staff members and at least 20 students, McGinnis said, but it works with more than 150 faculty and researchers in at least 30 University departments.
"It’s a unique center because it’s University-wide," Fred Corrigan, chairman of the center’s executive committee, said. "It has the ability to bring together all different departments and to draw on many different academic disciplines."
Each year, CTS coordinates about $20 million in grants and contracts, said Andrew Furco, associate vice president for public engagement at the University. Most of the center’s funding comes from outside the University.
McGinnis came to CTS 18 years ago and has worked in many different positions at the center, she said.
Before coming to the University, McGinnis worked designing bridges, many of which are located throughout the Twin Cities.
McGinnis received her bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Wisconsin before coming to the University to complete two master’s degrees in public affairs and business administration.
McGinnis’ background is a "perfect blend" of practical knowledge and management skills, said Furco, who is also a member of the CTS executive committee.
In her position as director of CTS, McGinnis will set the tone and vision of the center, she said.
One of her main goals is to increase the international presence of CTS and its research, she said.
"There has always been a theme of collaboration," she said, "but especially with today’s economy, it has become a necessity."
McGinnis said she also plans to continue to "promote the presence" of CTS both in the University and in the field of transportation and to strengthen partnerships between the center and agencies such as the Minnesota Department of Transportation and Metro Transit.
"I think she has a great vision of where the center can go next," Corrigan said. "The University is looking for the center to take its next step forward, including looking overseas and in other markets to expand its research activities."
Although McGinnis had served as acting director for CTS, she said she didn’t necessarily expect to get the position.
"I knew I was interested and I wanted the position, but I also understood it would be competitive," she said of the national search. "It’s been a long process."
The search for a new director began in March with a national call for applicants, Greg Lindsey, head of the director search committee, said.
While Furco and Robert Jones, senior vice president for system academic administration, made the final decision, the search committee reviewed all applications and made recommendations about the candidates, Lindsey, who is also associate dean of the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, said.
In addition to searching for a candidate who could lead and manage employees and had knowledge of the transportation field, the committee also looked for someone who understood the unique role of universities in producing research, Lindsey said.
McGinnis said she is excited to move into her role as director and continuing to experience one of the best aspects of working at CTS: the variety.
"Every day at CTS is a new job," she said. "Every day I get to learn something new."
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