Weighing In, In Washington

FosLandrieuThis week, I headed to Washington, D.C., where I met with U.S. senators and congressmen who represent the city of New Orleans. I joined Vice President of External Affairs Rachel Kincaid and Director of External Affairs Crystal Ellerbe in meeting with legislators on behalf of the University. Our mission was to pursue funding that will help to advance ongoing efforts of the University of New Orleans Merritt C. Becker, Jr. Transportation Institute.

We spent Tuesday in back-to-back afternoon meetings with U.S. Senator David Vitter (R-La.), U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) and U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.), as well as their legislative staffs. Our legislators and their staffs were generous with their time and energy and they promised their continued support. They have collectively written letters and spoken on our behalf regarding three major funding pursuits – and offered continued support of UNO’s efforts to compete for peer-reviewed federal grant funding.

The University of New Orleans Transportation Institute has been part of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s University Transportation Center program since 2005, first as a member of the Gulf Coast Center for Evacuation and Transportation Resilience in partnership with LSU, then in 2009 as part of the Southwest Region University Transportation Center (SWUTC), which includes a consortium of Texas A&M/TTI, University of Texas at Austin, Texas Southern University, and LSU.

Over the past eight years, UNOTI has succeeded in obtaining US DOT funds and support from other private and public entities totaling more than $4 million. These funds support both fulltime faculty and research staff, as well as graduate research assistants.

Now, we are working to bring more research funds to Louisiana. UNOTI is competing in a DOT competition for University Transportation Centers as a member of three consortia. UNOTI’s portion of each, and the projects associated with the UTC’s, if awarded, would be as follows:

Southwest Region University Transportation Center for Economic Competitiveness — $405,000 each for UNOTI; Texas A&M/TTI; University of Texas at Austin; Texas Southern University and Louisiana State University
• Transportation Emergency Management and Evacuation Modeling
• Gulf Coast Megaregion Development
• Economic and Industrial Freight Based Economic Development
• Streetcar and Transit Oriented Development

Maritime Transportation Research & Education Center — $250,000 each for UNOTI; the University of Arkansas; Jackson State University; Louisiana State University.
• Ports and Waterways as economic drivers through industrial development, tourism and recreation
• Inland Waterway freight movements in a changing global supply chain
• Ports and Waterway assets to Homeland Security and Emergency Management
• Energy sustainability through water generation

National Center for Strategic Transportation Policies, Investments, and Decisions
— $125,000 each for UNOTI; the University of Maryland; North Carolina State; Old Dominion and Michigan State.
• e-Navigation for Commercial Shipping
• Moving Freight from Trucks to Rail
• Preliminary Assessment of Louisiana International Gulf Terminal (LIGTT)
• Effects of freight operations on mobility, environment, and health exposure

We face stiff competition for the funds. I have learned that the Department of Transportation received a total of 142 applications for the nearly 35 University Transportation Centers that the department may select through this competition. I asked legislators to express their support of the UNO Transportation Institute’s efforts in competing for funding.

At all my meetings, I also let legislators and their staffs know that UNO has appointed a new Vice President for Research and Economic Development. Dr. Kenneth Sewell is currently serving as Vice President of Research and Economic Development at the University of North Texas. We look forward to his July 1 arrival.

I spoke to legislators about 2013 Spring Commencement, which fell on May 17. One thousand graduates received 1,041 diplomas – they hailed from 46 states and 62 countries and included 14 summa cum laude, 44 magna cum laude, 52 cum laude and 13 University honors graduates.

I spoke about the UNO Summer Outreach Program for High School STEM Students, now in its 13th year. This eight-week summer program is designed to advance research skills of minority high school STEM students.

Last, I let our legislators know that UNO is the recent recipient of a 3-year, $315,000 grant from the National Science Foundation designed to help the University’s annual summer research program for undergraduate students, which is heavily focused on exposing minority students to scientific research. The National Science Foundation has funded the program, which is run by UNO’s Department of Chemistry and Advanced Materials Research Institute, since 2003.

The Capitol buzzed with energy Tuesday as the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives debated a landmark immigration bill destined to shape future demographics for decades. The three of us – Rachel, Crystal and I — ran ourselves ragged as we travelled via miles of underground tunnels from building to building for back-to-back meetings. We went home exhausted, but believing that the rush and effort had been worth it.

Knowing that Rep. Cedric Richmond would play that night in the annual Congressional baseball game, I brought him a UNO Privateers baseball jersey and cap. Congressman Richmond represents the Second District of Louisiana, which includes the majority of New Orleans and the area where UNO resides. He wore the cap and jersey to deliver the introduction to The Daily Rundown on MSNBC with members of the Democratic Congressional Baseball team. That night, Congressmen Richmond served as the Democrats’ all-star pitcher in the annual congressional baseball game.

Peter Fos

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