Director’s farewell: Fond memories and exciting opportunities

U of M President Joan Gabel and CTS Director Laurie McGinnis
McGinnis shared transportation innovations—and rode a semi-autonomous
vehicle—with U of M president Joan Gabel during the president’s inauguration
week in September 2019. Photo: Rhonda Zurn

Laurie McGinnis stepped down as director of CTS on January 15. Below, she shares highlights from her decade as director and looks ahead to new opportunities for transportation.

What are some highlights from your decade as director?

This has been a dream job for me so it’s hard to choose only a few. I enjoy identifying and pursuing new opportunties, so I found great satisfaction in helping create three programs that have positioned our researchers as international experts—the Accessibility Observatory, the Initiative on the Sharing Economy, and the MnCAV Ecosystem. In each case, we have been able to advance the mission of the University and bring value to policymakers and practitioners.

Another highlight has been meeting and working with professionals nationally and internationally. Through various roles I held with the Transportation Research Board, I had the chance to participate in projects and activities with colleagues from around the world. It was exciting to compare challenges and collaborate on solutions.

What are you most proud of?

During the first year of my tenure as director, we evaluated our communications products and set a goal of maximizing the impacts of research results through those products. I am proud that we have maintained a commitment to that goal. We have been very effective at translating research results and connecting stakeholders to information and knowledge that informs their decision-making.

In addition, I’m very pleased about the level of stakeholder engagement that we’ve been able to sustain and grow during my time as director. I’m grateful for all our partners’ support in helping CTS be successful. 

But without a doubt, I am most proud of building a world-class staff of professionals at CTS and helping establish a culture of curiosity, excellence, and courage in which they can thrive. The staff are the backbone of all of CTS’s success. 

What challenges and opportunities do you see for transportation, and how can the U help address those challenges?

Transportation equity is becoming a critically important issue for CTS and our stakeholders. We’ve convened several meetings around this topic over the past six months, and significant work has begun toward defining roles for CTS and University researchers in addressing this challenge. Sustainability and technological innovation, including shared/automated/electric vehicles, are other areas of ongoing importance. I expect, too, that traditional issues such as safety, asset management, infrastructure design, and transportation finance, to name a few, will be with us for a long time.

The challenge, and the fun, is that transportation issues are complex and cross-cutting. The field keeps getting broader and drawing in more disciplines. That’s a key reason why the University of Minnesota is so well-positioned to address today’s complex transportation needs. The breadth and depth of research talent here means there are few limits to how the U can help address these challenges. 

What will you miss the most?

I will dearly miss the professional and personal relationships I have built over the years. I needed a “relationship job” to truly thrive and I landed in an amazing one. I’ll miss drawing on those relationships to be the broker—connecting researchers with funders, practitioners, and policymakers to ensure effective, impactful research solutions. And I’ll miss being part of strategic discussions about the new opportunities that continuously present themselves in this dynamic field. The variety of opportunities that crossed my desk made this feel like a new job week after week. 

What's on tap for you?

I’m taking a few months to reset and refresh. Then I’ll think about what’s next. I would love the chance to continue supporting the University in its work to develop and grow the MnCAV Ecosystem. That’s one way I can continue to enjoy all the special relationships I find so rewarding!

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Media Contact

Michael McCarthy
612-624-3645
mpmccarthy@umn.edu