Three SF Bay Area Women in Transportation Receive National Accolades

San Francisco, CA – (May 2020) The Women’s Transportation Seminar’s (WTS) San Francisco Bay Area Chapter is proud to announce an illustrious award winner and two local scholarship recipients who have been nationally recognized for their major contributions to date and future potential in shaping the transportation industry.

Nuria Fernandez, General Manager and CEO of the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) in San Jose, California was announced as WTS International’s Woman of the Year during its Annual Business Meeting held virtually today in lieu of the in-person conference typically held around this same time each year.

Born and raised in Panama, Fernandez immigrated to the United States to pursue higher education in Engineering and Business Administration, overcoming significant obstacles presented to women in the male-dominated, engineering profession. Nuria has held some of the highest-profile jobs during her 35 years immersed in the public transportation industry. These positions have included Acting Federal Transit Administrator for President Bill Clinton, Chief Operating Officer of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and managing the operations of O’Hare International Airport in Chicago.

Fernandez was selected as 2020 Woman of the Year for the local chapter in recognition of her exemplary work, efforts and initiatives in facilitating professional opportunities for women and minorities. She was “bowled over” by the news when receiving the international award: “I am so honored to receive this recognition! WTS is a force for good and a platform that enables women to chart and shift the course of their professional careers in the transportation industry. I am so grateful to all the amazing women in this organization who blazed trails, shattered ceilings and doors so that more of us could reach for the stars.”

Fernandez epitomizes one of the basic tenets of WTS – advancing both the transportation industry and the professional women who are a growing part of it – and she has done so by advocating, inspiring, and serving as a role model and a leader.

Another WTS tenet is professionally developing, mentoring and financially supporting those who are aspiring to break into the industry with their unbound potential – just like these two young women who have earned scholarship awards from both the local WTS San Francisco chapter and WTS International.

Joselyne Gonzalez is graduating from Cabrillo Community College this May with an Associate’s Degree in Engineering. She averaged a 4.0 GPA in her engineering curriculum while managing both an internship at a geotechnical firm and a teaching assistant job, and served as President of WiSE (Women in Science and Engineering) for the last two years. She was awarded the Louise M. Molitoris Leadership Scholarship from the local chapter and is receiving the International Scholarship totaling $20,000. This will help with her tuition costs when she transfers to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo this coming fall.

“I feel immense gratitude towards the WTS Foundation for believing in me and my pursuit of an engineering profession. As a DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipient, you must be able to adapt to any circumstances and take advantage of every opportunity you get. These qualities have shaped the focused and determined engineering student I am today.” Gonzalez is eager to learn more about the industry, give back to her community, and complete her academic endeavors at Cal Poly. “My goals include getting my bachelor's and master's degree in Civil Engineering, specializing in transportation engineering, and eventually becoming a professional engineer."

Michelle Louie of Redwood City earned a Bachelor’s degree in Urban Studies and Planning from the University of California, San Diego in 2015. After graduation, she became an Operations Planning Intern for the San Mateo County Transit District (SamTrans), worked for a Transportation Demand Management (TDM) consultant, and then landed a permanent job back at SamTrans as a Planning Analyst II in 2019. Michelle is pursuing a Master’s degree in Transportation Management from San Jose State University’s Mineta Transportation Institute and will graduate this June. She was awarded the local chapter WTS Helene M. Overly Memorial Scholarship and is receiving the International Scholarship totaling an astounding $25,000.

Louie looks forward to her continued career to strengthen active transportation, transportation demand management, and public transit. “I am so thankful for WTS as an organization that has opened my network to women in transportation ever since my undergraduate student days in San Diego. I feel incredibly honored to receive this award,” said Louie. “No matter what my role, my greatest motivation throughout my career in transportation is knowing that I am providing people with access to a form of mobility that works best for them. I am proud to be a contributor towards better transportation, and I will never tire of improving transportation for all.