safety is on the agenda
Aaron Zimmerman is a graduate student at George Mason University, studying transportation policy, operations, and logistics, with a focus on public policy. Through public policy, Zimmerman will help to shape local, county, state, or even federal government decisions that affect the safety and efficiency of the transportation system for the general public. He said he hopes to do this work on an international scale by helping other nations, especially developing nations, grow and improve their transportation systems, which he believes are the backbone of a growing economy.
“I want to work on large international projects if at all possible," Zimmerman said. "I know a lot of big rail, big highway projects are going on in the Middle East, and in Africa, and in other parts of the world.”
Transportation public policy professionals can work on an incredibly broad range of projects, from analyzing ways to improve the public transit system in a medium-sized city, to lobbying for more fuel efficient vehicles, to creating national awareness campaigns to combat driving under the influence. Someone like Zimmerman, who wants to work on international projects, might help governments decide how to prioritize their construction investments, or how to create safe and effective transportation laws and regulations, for example.
Zimmerman has already gained international experience in his field. In graduate school, he studied abroad in South Africa, where he met government officials and discussed topics like transportation and economics.
“Every day was packed full of sessions between the government officials and the professors at the university. We explored all kinds of policy areas, such as crime, health care, education, transportation, all the major pillars to a functioning country,” he said.
Zimmerman was able to make his studies in South Africa possible by applying for and receiving student loans from the U.S. Department of Education. In fact, there are many sources of funding available for students pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees in transportation and public policy.
Reflecting on his excitement to continue to work abroad, Zimmerman said he was particularly interested in learning about how public policy works in different places around the globe, and in understanding the different challenges that other countries face in terms of growing or improving their transportation systems.
“I’m really interested in particularly the governance and how you implement policy in other countries," he said. "I’m used to dealing with our style of government here and the way that you go about accomplishing things at the state and federal levels in the United States, but I would be really interested to be able to do that abroad in other countries, particularly developing countries.”
Zimmerman said that for students, there is no better time than the present to start getting interested and involved in transportation public policy. A great resource to start out with is Young Professionals in Transportation, a national organization that Zimmerman himself helped to organize. The mission of YPT is to provide professional development and networking opportunities for youth interested in transportation careers. Zimmerman recommends that any young students interested in transportation contact their local YPT chapter, where they can find a mentor to help them discover opportunities and scholarships in the industry. To learn more about YPT, or to see if there is a YPT chapter in your community, you can visit the YPT website. Or, consider conducting your own internet search to see how public policy affects transportation safety in your state.