WTS CH2M HILL Partnership Scholarship
Margaret-Avis Akofio-Sowah

Transportation engineering gripped Margaret-Avis Akofio-Sowah’s interest as a small child in Ghana. Like many cities in developing countries, her hometown Accra in Ghana is characterized by heavy traffic congestion, poor road and infrastructure conditions, and disorderly driver behavior. She remembers questioning the state of transportation in Ghana, even wondering why the roads lacked something as simple as signs to indicate street names. As Margaret began to understand the broader effects of poorly planned and mismanaged transportation systems and their seemingly obvious solutions during college years, she developed a passion for the field and made the decision to build a career in transportation engineering and planning. Her passion continues to fuel her enthusiasm for transportation and she is determined to positively influence communities with innovative, contextualized, and yet, sustainable solutions to transportation problems.

Margaret is currently pursuing a doctorate in transportation engineering at GeorgiaInstituteofTechnology where she is also a GraduateResearchAssistant working with the InfrastructureResearchGroup.Her research in transportation asset management tackles an important aspect of sustainable transportation, which emphasizes the consideration of infrastructure sustainability and preservation during the early stages of planning, design, and policymaking. Margaret’s career goal after graduation is to work in agencies that encourage sustainable development through effective transportation projects with an emphasis on infrastructure development and management. 

Margaret has been with WTS International for several years, serving as Vice President, then President, of the WTS Georgia Tech student chapter, and contributing to the development of the WTS process for student chapter ratification through the Student Chapter Task Force. She is currently serving as co-chair and co-coordinator of the WTS Atlanta Chapter Transportation YOU program at Grady High School after having been involved as a mentor for the program from its inception.  



Eleni Bardaka

Eleni Bardaka enrolled in a dual-degree program after the completion of a Master’s degree in 2012. Along with a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering, she pursued a Master of Science in Economics in the Krannert School of Management at Purdue University, which she completed in May 2014. After completing the Ph.D. degree in August 2016, Eleni plans to acquire a position at a well-established intergovernmental/non-governmental organization or global research institution. Eleni’s career goal is to work towards the empowerment of developing nations and to lead the effort for socially equitable sustainable growth through appropriate transportation interventions in urban as well as rural areas. The focus of her Ph.D. dissertation study is to analyze and explain the relationship between transportation infrastructure investments and inclusive growth. Eleni believes the results from such an analysis could lead to more appropriate transportation investments in the short-run, and to catalytic policy transformations in the area of transportation decision-making in the long-run.

Since Eleni’s first year of graduate studies at Purdue, she’s been a research assistant working on projects carried out for the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT). Although the results from the projects that Eleni has been involved in are mainly focused on INDOT, they have nationwide ramifications and can be transferred to other agencies in the U.S. to help transportation engineers and planners manage current infrastructure in a more efficient and effective way.      

Eleni has been leading the Purdue Micro-Hydropower Global Design Team since 2013. The team has established a locally sourced, locally fabricated micro-hydropower facility in the remote village of Bangang, Cameroon, in collaboration with Purdue’s Global Engineering Program and the African Centre for Renewable Energy and Sustainable Technology (ACREST). Since 2012, Eleni has been serving as the community service coordinator for the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) Purdue Student Chapter, and has been responsible for engaging the ITE members to community volunteering activities and projects. As a woman in the field of transportation engineering, Eleni is also actively involved in the Purdue Women in Engineering Graduate Mentoring Program.



Arianna Allahyar

Arianna Allahyar recently graduated in June 2013 with a Bachelor’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. In her time as an undergrad, she gained significant experience as a planning intern working with the City of Los Angeles Planning Department for two years, and as a multimodal transit intern with the Riverside County Transportation Commission. Between graduating from Cal Poly and starting at the University of Washington, she began working for Parsons Brinckerhoff as a transportation planner. Arianna is now going to be continuing her graduate studies in transportation engineering at the University of Washington and hopes to continue her contributions to the planning profession upon graduation. Combining an undergraduate degree in urban planning with a graduate degree in transportation engineering will provide her the skills necessary to fulfill her passion to work at finding ways to improve current transportation systems.

Arianna truly believes that transportation influences patterns of growth and economic activity while shaping an area’s economic health and quality of life. She aspires to be a leader in the field that focuses on incorporating a multi-disciplinary approach to problem solving. Transportation requires the integration of multiple disciplines to reach consensus and move forward with improvement programs and projects. Strong leadership is needed to help these disciplines work together to share and build on each other’s expertise. For Arianna, true leadership goes beyond just managing people and projects.

Recently, Arianna served as the Vice President of the American Planning Student Association as well as the faculty liaison, serving as a student voice for the department. Reaching beyond her major, she was selected to attend her school’s Cross-Cultural Retreat, an opportunity that put her in a position of leadership to achieve social justice on campus and in the community.

In her time as an intern, Arianna led the development of a scope of work for a multi-million dollar zoning code rewrite effort for the City of Los Angeles. One of her recent tasks was to lead a total cost of ownership analysis for Sound Transit, evaluating sustainable design elements for future Link light rail. The task required developing a methodology, collaborating with others, executing the analysis, and presenting the results in a report. Arianna also serves as a leader in community organizations. She is strongly involved with the Greater Seattle Business Association, serving as a committee member for the Alumni Outreach Committee, and frequently volunteering at events. This past spring, Arianna attended WTS International’s Leadership Development workshop and hopes to become more involved with the WTS Board.



Alyssa Manning

Alyssa Manning has an intense passion for aviation and is committed to her career as a professional pilot. Business aviation in particular has had a special ability to capture Alyssa’s imagination not only because of the amazing machines and people directly involved, but also for the value and capability it can afford others. Her values are parallel to those represented by business aviation, and since the Cessna 750 Citation X epitomizes the substantial functions of business aviation, her end goal is to achieve employment as a Citation X captain with a corporate flight department. Currently, Alyssa is pursuing her Flight Instructor’s certification and upon graduation in May 2015, she will be flying as a flight instructor, skydiving pilot, and working as a Technical Assistant for Cardinal Health Aviation.

Alyssa believes that networking is critical in aviation and recognizes the influence that preceding pilots and aviation professionals have on future leaders in the industry. She is determined to carry herself similarly to the prominent aviation professionals with whom she has become acquainted with and hopes to become a mentor to the next generation in the aviation industry. Alyssa believes that future leading individuals of the industry look to relatable role models that have become successful for inspiration and guidance, especially given the financial, mental, and physical hardships often faced by entry-level transportation professionals.

Alyssa’s prior aviation leadership at Ohio State includes membership and office in Alpha Eta Rho (AHP) professional aviation fraternity, as a competitor on the Ohio State University Flight Team, and as an Ohio State representative to the Women in Aviation, International 2014 National Conference. She also represented Ohio State Aviation at EAA Airventure 2013 and 2014 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. 


Kim Kinnison

Kim Kinnison’s determination to improve transportation systems has led her to obtaining an undergraduate degree in Geography with an emphasis in Urban Studies/Planning from University of Colorado. Following one particularly brutal driving commute, Kim took the time to assess what options were actually available for getting around and found that there weren’t any other viable options. Kim was determined to solve her commute problem and was ultimately inspired to pursue a career in transportation. After obtaining her BA in Geography in May of 2015, emphasizing Urban Studies, Kim plans to continue her transportation education through graduate school.

Kim has taken the role of Vice President with the Institute of Transportation Engineers Student Chapter (ITES) and has been the voice of the planner in a predominantly engineering focused group. In this position, she has been able to help shape the discussion and tone for the year by incorporating the views of both planners and engineers. The importance of effective communication between planners and engineers has led her to learn elements of both disciplines.

Involvement in the transportation community is important to Kim, she understands the importance of keeping up with current issues and processes. She is actively involved with two transportation communities: The University of Colorado Active Communities and Transportation (ACT) group and the Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS).  Kim plans on staying active with these groups following graduation.



Amanda “Mandi” Grace Spradling

Mandi is a student at Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC) where she is studying high-level math, chemistry, and physics with a plan to transfer to the University of Minnesota for engineering next year. At MCTC, Mandi enjoys being an active member of the Engineering club and participating in many transit related events such as the Railvolution conference. Mandi is also currently an intern at Metro Transit where she is a project manager in the Engineering and Facilities department. Mandi always knew she wanted to study engineering, but it wasn’t until her internship at Metro Transit that she truly realized that all of her aspirations lead to transportation. Now Mandi is on an unstoppable path equipped with the passion and the drive to make a difference in the world of Transportation.