Montana State University

Students raise record $100,000 for own endowment

March 23, 2007 -- By Tracy Ellig, MSU News Service


The road ahead looks clear for the Montana State University student chapter of the Institute of Transportation Engineers, which raised $100,000 for its own endowment. It is the largest sum a student group has ever raised for an endowment at MSU. (MSU photo by Jay Thane.)   High-Res Available

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After five years of work, a group of engineering students has raised $100,000 to create their own endowment for travel to professional conferences. It is the largest amount ever raised for a perpetual endowment by Montana State University students.

The MSU student chapter of the Institute of Transportation Engineers is primarily made up of students from the civil engineering department, where transportation engineering is a sub-discipline. Annually, roughly 20-30 students join the chapter out of 600 in the department.

"The students that worked so hard over the past five years to achieve this goal are not the ones who will benefit from the endowment fund," said Jodi Carson, the group's faculty advisor until 2004, now employed at Texas A&M University. "These students worked to support future generations."

Interest earned on the endowment will provide $4,000 to $5,000 annually for students to travel to conferences. It will supplement the travel support the ITE chapter receives annually from MSU's Western Transportation Institute. In addition to financial support, the WTI offers students interested in transportation engineering undergraduate and graduate research positions and fellowships.

"We realized that those funds might not always be available in the future," said Joey Markuson, (formerly Joey Paskey) chapter president from 2002-2003, now working for G.C. Wallace Inc. in Las Vegas. "We felt lucky to have had the wonderful opportunity to attend these conferences and knew that the endowment fund would be a way to preserve those same opportunities for other students forever."

Professional conferences are an under-appreciated, but valuable, way of advancing a career, former students said.

"I think almost all of us who were active in the chapter were hired by a firm we had met through our involvement in ITE," said Meagan Powers, chapter secretary from 2003-2004 and now working for DKS Associates, a transportation planning and engineering firm in Seattle.

"The chapter's reach is amazing," said Casey Durbin, chapter vice president in 2006. Durbin now works for G.C. Wallace, Inc. in Las Vegas. "Last year I planned a student field trip to the Bay Area and found three or four people - not former members, professionals - who knew of the chapter, loved it and helped make the trip a success."

To raise the money, students hosted golf tournaments, held raffles; did data collection for companies; provided traffic control during football games; and sold glasses, T-shirts and calendars. However, most of the money came from corporate and individual contributions.

"It was incredible how generous everyone was when we came asking," said DJ Clark, chapter vice president in 2001, and now a senior transportation engineer for Engineering Inc. in Billings.

"Year after year, people donated and we did our best to represent ourselves in a way that showed why we deserved it."

The chapter won best in district in 1999, 2000, 2002 and 2003 beating out 30 other schools in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, California, Alaska and Hawaii. The chapter was also named best in the nation in 1999, 2000 and 2003. The MSU student chapter was the first to have been named best in the nation for two consecutive years.

"These students have done something phenomenal," said Rich Romer, past international president of the Institute of Transportation Engineers and principal with Orth-Rodgers and Associates, Inc., which has offices in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Nevada and Florida.

In February, Romer's firm hosted the student chapter while it attended the Las Vegas Transportation Technical Tour.

"The ITE endowment fund project signifies the tremendous support of the transportation profession to future MSU transportation engineers," said Ahmed Al-Kaisy, MSU civil engineering professor and ITE faculty advisor since 2004. "It also speaks to the vision of Dr. Carson, who served with exceptional passion and enthusiasm."

Several of the former students point to Carson - who oversaw 75 percent of the fundraising - as one of the main reasons for the chapter's success in creating the endowment.

"By far the biggest motivation for the fund-raising effort was Jodi herself," said Danielle Reagor, who was chapter president from 2001-2002 and now works for Engineering Inc. in Billings. "Her enthusiasm was infectious. Five years later, I still feel that joining ITE as a student was one of the best things I could have done for my career."

Contact: Ahmed Al-Kaisy, civil engineering assistant professor and ITE faculty advisor, (406) 994-6116 or aalkaisy@ce.montana.edu