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Whether on a roadside, rest area, park, or lawn, turfgrass diseases can significantly damage turf in the Midwest. As governmental agencies continue to regulate inputs on turfgrass, it is important for managers to know how to meet new turfgrass management challenges—especially concerning diseases.

An online course from the University of Minnesota’s College of Continuing Education gives turfgrass managers the expertise necessary for controlling diseases in this challenging environment. The curriculum was created under the guidance of Associate Professor Eric Watkins of the Department of Horticultural Science. He also serves as the course’s content advisor.

The course prepares students to diagnose Upper Midwest turfgrass diseases and then determine control measures using both cultural and chemical methods. It is presented in Moodle, an e-learning platform that uses a number of interactive instructional tools. Cost is $75, and 12 professional development hours (PDHs) may be earned.

New this spring, the course counts as one elective credit in the Minnesota Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP) Roads Scholar program. (Minnesota LTAP is a program within CTS.) Aimed at maintenance personnel, the Roads Scholar Program combines a range of training options into a structured curriculum. Graduates earn a valuable professional development credential.

Read the full article in the April issue of Catalyst.

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The new Roadway Safety Institute, a $10.4 million regional University Transportation Center (UTC) established in late 2013, will conduct a range of research, education, and technology transfer initiatives related to transportation safety. Led by the University of Minnesota, the two-year consortium will develop and implement user-centered safety solutions across multiple modes.

The Institute will be a focal point for safety-related work in the region, which includes Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Other consortium members are the University of Akron, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, and Western Michigan University.

Max Donath, professor of mechanical engineering at the U of M, serves as the new Institute’s director. In this month’s Catalyst, Donath shared his vision for the Institute.

According to Donath, the Institute will focus on addressing regional traffic safety priorities, educating the public, and attracting more professionals to the safety workforce by connecting with students.

Research topics will focus on two key areas, Donath said: high-risk road users and traffic safety system approaches. The goal of this work is to prevent the crashes that lead to fatalities and injuries on the region's roads.

One unique Institute effort will involve working with American Indian communities in the region to explore and address the unusually high number of motor vehicle crash fatalities on tribal lands.  "Our research will work to better understand why this is happening and to develop more effective solutions," Donath said.

Read the full Q&A in the April issue of Catalyst.

'Line to Leadership' training helps workers advance careers

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leadership.jpgThe “gray tsunami”—the tidal wave of aging baby boomers—could mean big changes in the workplace. Organizations need to be thinking about grooming their younger employees to become effective supervisors and fill the shoes of retiring boomers.

The Minnesota Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP) partnered with Hennepin Technical College (HTC) this fall to help local transportation agencies meet this critical workforce development need. They offered a one-day workshop—“From Line to Leadership: Transitioning from Operations to Supervision”—in October in St. Cloud and Rochester.

The workshop is tailored for new supervisors and those thinking of taking their career to the next level, as well as for current supervisors who want to enhance their leadership skills, communication, and effectiveness. It focuses on avoiding common pitfalls and identifying ways to make the most of a leadership role.

“Our industry partners said they wanted this training because they are anticipating a skills gap and a leadership gap, and they didn’t have a way to effectively move people from operations to team leader,” says Mike Colestock, HTC’s associate dean.

HTC developed the initial version of the workshop in collaboration with industry partners, and it has expanded the program in response to overwhelmingly positive feedback. The trigger to offer a version through Minnesota LTAP came in part from the Minnesota LTAP Steering Committee.

“When many highway/street/public works departments need a new supervisor, they look to promote their existing employees since those employees know the facilities, the equipment, the mission of the organization—they know the ropes,” says Greg Isakson, county engineer of Goodhue County and a member of the committee. “Unfortunately, the skills to operate a machine do not relate to supervising others. The operator with the best potential to become a supervisor may not possess the set of new skills required to become a successful supervisor," he says. "This class was designed to fill that gap and provide those basic supervisory skills."

Read the full article in the December issue of Catalyst.

Internship program continues its success in second year

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Interns Sharon Wong and Joseph Casanova working at MnROAD

Participants in the 2013 Summer Transportation Internship Program gained valuable experience in the transportation industry and received a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT).

Six student interns participated in 10-week internships at a variety of MnDOT offices, including Materials, Human Resources, Environmental Stewardship, and Metro Maintenance. The program was offered in partnership by CTS, Howard University, and MnDOT.

Students' favorite aspects of the internships included working with and learning from MnDOT staff, seeing research put into practice, and getting hands-on experience. Several students also used complex testing equipment, created project reports, and gave professional presentations for the first time as part of the program.

“This internship was a great stepping stone for me to be more prepared to face the world as an engineer in the future,” said Sharon Wong, who worked with Bernard Izevbekhai, MnDOT research operations engineer. Wong and her fellow intern Joseph Casanova participated in test cell construction instrumentation and monitoring at the MnROAD pavement research facility.

Izevbekhai, Wong’s supervisor, agreed that the internship program helps students prepare to join the workforce. “It creates an opportunity for interns to experience engineering practice in the real world of competing priorities and approaching deadlines. It’s a friendly environment for classroom-acquired skills to be refreshed, rekindled, or developed,” he said.

For more about the internship program:

As students head back to school and CTS staff reflect on the second successful year of our Summer Transportation Internship Program with the Minnesota Department of Transportation and Howard University, we'd like your thoughts on what helped you learn the skills you needed early in your career.

What jobs or internships helped you get started in your career? Join the conversation by signing in and commenting below.

Perspectives on the Summer Transportation Internship Program

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Intern Paula Rolim (left) from Howard University inspecting a bridge

This year's Summer Transportation Internship Program came to an end in August after another successful year. The program, which began in 2012, continued this year with a strong partnership between the Center for Transportation Studies, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), and Howard University, located in Washington, D.C.

This year, as the internship program coordinator, I had the opportunity to engage with six undergraduate students who were selected for the program from a candidate pool of 28 applicants. Students were selected from three institutions: the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, the University of Minnesota Duluth, and Howard University. Students were placed in various MnDOT locations, including the Office of Materials Services, Office of Environmental Stewardship, Metro Maintenance, and the Office of Human Resources.

In 2013, the program increased from 8 to 10 weeks. This was a great decision, because adding an additional two weeks to the program gave students the opportunity to learn more about MnDOT and to build stronger relationships with their MnDOT supervisors and colleagues.

Each student came into the program with different experiences and interests. The one thing that really struck a chord with me was how dedicated the students were to the work they were given. In each of my discussions with the students, they expressed great satisfaction in being able to learn about the inner workings of MnDOT and about how MnDOT provides a service to the people of Minnesota.

All six students had great experiences, but I wanted to note a few examples of the program’s success.

In a final wrap-up meeting with the students and MnDOT Commissioner Charlie Zelle, one student noted that a relative of hers didn't have a high opinion of MnDOT. The student explained that she was able to sit down with her relative and explain MnDOT’s vision and role in the state of Minnesota. Since that discussion, the student’s relative has more appreciation for MnDOT’s work and service to Minnesota. It was wonderful to see the transfer of knowledge from a student to another person.

The Howard University student—originally from Belém, Brazil, and currently a senior in civil engineering—came to Minnesota with a passion for engineering. She had the opportunity to work in the MnDOT Metro Maintenance Bridge Inspection Unit. Her internship experience included accompanying other bridge inspectors to inspect bridges and culverts for damage or cracking. This required her to be lifted high in the air in a bucket and to crawl through tight spaces in the bridge or culverts to get to the damaged areas. She always said “yes” with a smile on her face and really enjoyed the experience.

Thanks to the Summer Transportation Internship Program, I am proud to say that MnDOT now has six potential hires for the future MnDOT workforce.

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Center for Transportation Studies

University of Minnesota

200 Transportation & Safety Building

511 Washington Ave SE

Minneapolis, MN 55455

Phone: 612-626-1077

Fax: 612-625-6381

E-mail: cts@umn.edu

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