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2017 Award Recipients

2017 Award Recipients

Member of the Year Award: Fay Simer, City of St. Paul


WTS-International Award Winner

The record growth of the WTS Minnesota chapter can be traced back to Fay Simer and her efforts, hard work, and leadership while serving on the board. She began putting her mark on the chapter while serving as the Vice President by overseeing our record attended 30th anniversary Gala and serving on the first TYOU committee in 2012. The following year (2013), as president, Fay instilled the importance of strategic local outreach by utilizing the honorary membership program, and developed a strategic plan that highlighted and defined the chapter’s vision and future initiatives. This has been a key tool for the chapter presidents each year when deciding what new programs and initiatives to implement.

The profound impact that Fay’s leadership had on our chapter will last years to come and has led to the chapter’s increase in membership, which leads to our increase in corporate partnership dollars, which then leads to the addition of two more scholarships awarded in 2017. Not to mention the increased networking opportunities that the organization can now provide which will help connect and advance women in the industry and improve women’s careers for years to come. 

Woman of the Year Award: Professor Catherine French, University of Minnesota


Cathy has been teaching structures, concrete and steel courses in the Civil Engineering Department at the University of Minnesota since 1984. She has served as Director of Undergraduate Studies for several years, where she’s been able to advise an additional large population of both men and women at the University.  Cathy has also taught the introductory course CSE 1001, where she’s had an impact on the hundreds of freshmen engineering students who are required to take that course as they consider engineering as a career. Her technical expertise is beyond compare (she’s a highly respected expert in structural design and performance, as well as steel and concrete materials and construction methods), but she stands out as a professor who really cares. She is smart, supportive, brilliant, kind, passionate, and has been a wonderful mentor and supporter of young women pursuing their degree in civil engineering.

Employer of the Year Award: Isthmus Engineering


Isthmus, a singularly woman-owned small business, maintains nearly a 50:50 split of women to men employees and leadership staff. Five of their eight Professional Engineers and three of their six leadership team members are women. While Isthmus does not hire based on gender guidelines, the workplace it has always promoted has been one of flexible work-schedules and family-oriented opportunities. Staff are highly encouraged to participate in professional organizations and extra activities to participate in the industry and their own professional development outside of project parameters, but there is no requirement. Isthmus also embraces opportunities for all staff to grow their professional network in the industry whether through project opportunities or at regional conferences where all staff are encouraged to attend and to connect with industry leaders and peers. 

Rosa Parks Diversity Leadership Award: Minnesota Department of Transportation


MnDOT has taken a data-driven approach to addressing equity and inclusion in state-wide transportation planning. Their public engagement work on the Bicycle System Plan (2016), Minnesota Walks (2016), Statewide Multimodal Transportation Plan (SMTP), Transit Plan and Minnesota State Highway Investment Plan (MnSHIP) not only changed how the department collects public input, but turned to focus inward to address inequality in the transportation industry workforce. A number of other initiatives at the Department, including their department-wide strategic focus, called the “Wildly Important Goal” (WIG) have furthered the cause of improving trust and transparency between the department and the customers they serve. The Department’s focus on diversity has already had an impact on the industry state-wide.

Innovative Transportation Solutions Award: A Line BRT Project, Metro Transit


The A Line has set the precedent for a new type of rapid bus service in the Twin Cities—it’s the first of 11 arterial bus rapid transit (BRT) corridors planned for implementation in the next decade. This planned investment of nearly $500 million will improve the rider experience for a third of Metro Transit’s daily bus riders and grow ridership on these corridors to 160,000 daily rides by 2030. Through the end of 2016, the A Line has seen ridership increase by 33.5 percent. The A Line is approximately 20 percent faster than the local bus it replaced, and has consistently and reliably achieved an on-time performance track record of over 92 percent—a great start for the first arterial BRT corridor in the Twin Cities!

The A Line was planned, designed, constructed, and implemented by women. This project would not be the success it is without the strong leadership of three women in particular—Katie Roth and Michelle Nelson of Metro Transit and Lisa Rasmussen of Kimley-Horn—and the leaders who supported and encouraged them. 

Ray LaHood Award: Philip Schaffner, Minnesota Department of Transportation


WTS-International Award Winner

In both large and small ways, Philip creates opportunities for and contributes to the reputation and credibility of women and minorities within transportation. Philip is a consistent and persistent supporter of women and minorities in all aspects of his work – hiring and supporting his own staff, amplifying the voices of women in decision-making, modeling behavior and attitudes for other managers and ensuring diverse representation in programs and products. He not only supports the advancement of women and minorities, he normalizes it. A few examples of his leadership include:

·         Co-founding MnDOT’s planning internship program to develop a diverse pool of professionals with experience in state-level transportation planning.

·         Leading a team to look at increasing diversity within MnDOT’s workforce.

·         Prioritizing diversity in his own hiring practices.

·         Advocating for the participation and inclusion of women and minorities on professional panels.

·         Amplifying the voices of women in meetings.

·         Increasing the visibility of female staff and colleagues at conferences and professional events

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