WTS Region Councils Organize Initiatives to Attract, Sustain, Connect & Advance Across North America
WTS International provides a powerful network throughout the transportation community where industry professionals from diverse modes and backgrounds can work together to attract, sustain, connect, and advance the mission of WTS.
Among WTS International’s six regions across North America, leaders representing all WTS chapters work to provide opportunities for collaboration and support to WTS members through regional initiatives and events.
Throughout the month of September, we asked Region Council Chairs + Vice Chairs about the work happening in their Regions, their approach to organizing region initiatives, and how they have been personally and professionally impacted by the connections they have solidified through WTS.
Nensi Lakrori, Chair, WTS Pacific West Region Council, Member, WTS San Diego Chapter, and Engineering Professor, San Diego State University, shared the success of the region’s initiatives and the personal impact of WTS on her career journey:
“The four pillars: attract, sustain, connect, and advance, were the Pacific West Region’s guiding posts as we brainstormed the different events and campaigns in our region. In February, we kicked off what was supposed to be a one-time happy hour for the presidents/VPs of our chapters. The discussion and turnout were so great that we now have a reoccurring bimonthly event where the presidents/VPs can connect and share. When I moved to San Diego, the first thing I did was to reach out to WTS. I still have the first e-mail I sent to the president at the time, because from that moment on, my life was never the same. Sisterhoods do EXIST, and in this day and age when many of us don’t have our family and extended family around to help out, it’s essential to have this type of support, shared wisdom and friendship at hand.”
Connection among members has always been a value at the forefront of WTS International’s values. While navigating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on networking and making connections, WTS Chapters have worked to provide support virtually and practically. As Angela McMurray, Vice Chair, WTS Southwest Region Council, WTS Houston Chapter Member, and Senior Project Manager at Jacobs, Inc. explains,
“It’s been a tough year for the Southwest region… I think this year we can bring the biggest benefit by continuing to reach out to our chapters and support them with where they are now and help them refocus on what is important to them during this time. My best friend Karen Coopersmith dragged me to a luncheon a million years ago. I was young in my career and professional events made me nervous. But I fell in love with the organization and its mission and never looked back. I would say the greatest impact professionally is my development as a leader. I've learned how to lead a diverse group of people towards a common goal.”
In addition, Loretta Girard Doughty, Chair, WTS Northeast Region Council, WTS Boston Chapter Member, and Administrator at New Hampshire DOT, described what her region has been implementing in order to adapt to a new normal post COVID-19:
“The Northeast Region Council is working on connecting Chapter Leadership to share best practices, program ideas and discussions on what Chapter's look like and how they operate post-COVID. We are starting with setting up President's and Treasurer's calls to communicate and share.”
WTS offers many venues for providing support to processionals in transportation, as Lisa Hoekenga, Vice Chair, WTS Central Region Council, WTS Northeast Ohio Chapter Member, and Senior Structural Engineer at Michael Baker, Intl. mentions in the description of her introduction to WTS:
“I was fortunate to be selected for the WTS Wisconsin Chapter Molitoris Leadership Scholarship and went on to be selected for the WTS International Molitoris Scholarship as well. After finishing graduate school, I moved to Chicago and got involved with the WTS Chicago Chapter. The connections I made through the Chicago chapter helped me professionally and personally.”
Linda Zug, Vice Chair, WTS Northeast Region, WTS Pittsburgh Chapter Member, and Project Manager at Civil & Environmental Consultants, Inc., also explains the importance of events at WTS, one of which had a profound impact on her and led to her journey with WTS:
“I attended one of the first meetings of WTS Pittsburgh Chapter and signed up to help with planning events. It was so fantastic to see a room full of women, all from the transportation industry, with different backgrounds and expertise.”
As Chair, WTS Southeast Region Council, Jenny Fleming, WTS North Carolina Triangle Chapter Member and Regional Water Resources Director at VHB, shares the region’s approach to setting priorities and the impact WTS had on her career:
“The Southeast has been focused on getting feedback from our Chapters on what they see as their top priorities and concerns so that we may be of assistance. The three initiatives that rose to the top include Communication, Membership and Best Practices. We have developed sub-committees for each initiative and are developing the 2022 region work plan to revolve around these core areas.WTS has had a profound impact on me both personally and professionally. I have been able to participate in the Executive Leadership Training which helped me hone my vision of myself and my legacy. The connections I have made have allowed me to grow my company to a point where we were sought after for acquisition...something I would not have dreamed of when I first opened the door. I have WTS to thank for so much of my success.”
In addition, Joy Lanham, Chair, WTS Central Region Council, WTS Columbus Chapter Member, and President and CEO of Lanham Engineering, shared constructive feedback from the work in her region and how WTS supported her entrepreneurship journey:
“We are getting good feedback on our quarterly calls with chapter leaders. While the discussions and networking on the International level are useful for the groups, we have heard it is also impactful to conduct this on a smaller, regional scale. I started my own company after realizing my future clients were all in the room at WTS events. Being up front and center at meetings gave me the exposure to make my new venture a success, and the networking opportunities at events helped grow my business.”
Some Region Council’s have seen growth in the form of new WTS chapters, ultimately contributing to the success and growth of not only their region but WTS as a whole – for example, Jeanette De Renne, Vice Chair, WTS Pacific West Region Council, WTS Tucson Chapter Member, and Transportation Planning Manager of the Pima Association of Governments, states:
“We are excited about the formation of the Central California Chapter. The women and men contributing to the formation of this chapter demonstrate the value of WTS and are creating opportunities for more professionals to access our organization. I was new to the industry when I got involved with WTS. The friendships made through WTS are amazing. These women have supported me not just through career moves but through life's ups and downs.”
Janelle Robertson, Chair, WTS Northwest Region Council, WTS Utah Chapter Member, and Project Manager at Utah Transit Authority, highlighted how WTS impacted her on a personal level:
“WTS quickly became near and dear to my heart as a young woman professional in an extremely male dominated field, (especially in Utah). Simply knowing that I was not alone made all the difference in my confidence to do my job and stay in a transportation profession. Having a stable career can truly have a meaningful impact on a woman's personal life, and overall health and wellbeing.”
Finally, Region Council Leadership shares why you should get involved with WTS and stay active:
Nensi Lakrori, Chair, WTS Pacific West Region Council: “WTS is unlike any other organization I have belonged to. People are so warm and welcoming and do not think twice about sharing their knowledge and experiences to help others grow or to better themselves. For those who are interested in joining, don’t just become a member, stay involved. Take on a role within the board and volunteer. In other words, lead a task. It will be very beneficial to your career.”
Jeanette De Renne, Vice Chair, WTS Pacific West Region Council: “Paving the way for the next generation of women in our industry is a legacy that we can all share. The women who have come before us made huge strides in diversity and inclusivity in our industry and we can continue that progress through WTS.”
Joy Lanham, Chair, WTS Central Region Council: “Young engineers don't fully understand why building relationships is the key to success. WTS puts an emphasis on it, and membership and active attendance lead the way to new connections.”
Lisa Hoekenga, Vice Chair, WTS Central Region Council: “WTS is hands-down the best professional organization for growing your network and promoting equity for women in the transportation industry. If you are looking to grow your leadership skills, branch out to new areas within the industry or if you are passionate about equity, WTS is going to offer you opportunities you couldn't find elsewhere.”
Loretta Girard Doughty, Chair, WTS Northeast Region Council: “I have a long history with WTS, and I always say, "I'll stay involved as long as they'll have me". I have given a lot of my time and effort to WTS over the years, but I have also received so much more in return. The connections and friendships I have gained is immeasurable, and it has provided me great leadership opportunities; as well as professional and personal development throughout my career.”
Linda Zug, Vice Chair, WTS Northeast Region: “Even though you may be in a transportation group such as ASHE or ACEC, WTS has and can give a different interpretation of events that some of the other groups may not. We are also a lot more fun!"
Jenny Fleming, Chair, WTS Southeast Region: “I would recommend WTS to any transportation professional as it allows you to build your network locally and more broadly. In addition, the mission of WTS is Advancing Women / Advancing Transportation...being part of the leading organization to develop a more diverse and equitable transportation industry is a great way to leave your mark and make our industry stronger.”
Angela McMurray, Vice Chair, WTS Southwest Region Council: If you are a member of WTS you always have a way to connect into your community regardless of where you are in your career, either in physical location or professional level.”
The impact and influence of WTS Region Councils cannot be quantified. The support provided to professionals in the transportation industry, and their respective communities continue to move WTS forward in advancing women and advancing transportation.
Find out more about your region here.