As one of 10 students who either applied or were nominated to participate in the IRF Road Scholar Programme 2021-22 class of Fellows, it took me some time before I realised the enormous and positive significance of this experience.
2020 and 2021 challenged the world with the COVID-19 pandemic, and the IRF Road Scholar Programme was not immune to one of the largest disruptions to everyday life. As a result, this required a change of plans for both the 2021 and 2022 classes of IRF Fellows. Those of us in the 2021 class started with an online video conference format, where we first met each other in a virtual environment and participated of presentations by IRF leaders and partners. Due to the small size of both classes, and the interest in providing the full experience to all IRF fellows, the 2021 class joined the 2022 class as part of the Road Scholar Program events hosted in Washington, DC, on January 5th-13th, 2022.
During the Road Scholar Programme, we were delighted by presentations from notable road transportation sector leaders. These included Dr Gummada Murthy, the director of the AASHTO Committee on System Management and Operations, and Michael Sakata, president of the Maryland Transportation Builders and Materials Association. They provided us with immense advice on leadership and the latest news on transportation policy and public investments in the US.
The class was divided into two competing teams, the Pavers and the Winners, each consisting of both 2021 and 2022 Fellows. Throughout the fellowship program, we amassed points through team building exercises, the scavenger hunt, the bridge competition, demonstrating our responsibility and punctuality throughout the program, participation in select events and exhibitions throughout the TRB Annual Meeting, and the final exam.
In the end, the self-fulfilling prophecy for success occurred for Team 2, The Winners, who indeed emerged victorious after a heated final exam on our learning of the IRF Road Scholar Programme, in which only one out of the 50 required answers decided the fate of the competition!
During the morning of the last day, we had our graduation ceremony and received a farewell message from Dr Kamil Kaloush, congratulating us for being part of the program, for our achievements and aspirations in our careers, and some parting words of wisdom.
I want to personally thank Chris Sanders and Lindsay Transportation Solutions for sponsoring my participation. We also thank the other sponsors: the Japan Roads Association; the Berger Charitable Foundation; VSS International; Troxler; and the IRF Fellows Alumni Association.
The 2021-22 IRF Road Scholar Programme brought together a cadre of international rising stars and made them great friends, opening opportunities for the most amazing partnerships in the road engineering industry!