ARTBA Recognizes Top Women in Transportation Design & Construction
(WASHINGTON) – Two transportation construction professionals, a leading academic, two vehicle technology researchers, and a company empowering female employees were all honored with the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) Foundation’s “Women Leaders in Transportation Design & Construction” awards Sept. 11. The awards were given during the association’s national convention in La Jolla, Calif.
Ethel Birchland Lifetime Achievement Award
Named for an ARTBA executive from the mid-1920s, this award is given to individuals who demonstrate outstanding leadership, long-term service in the industry’s public or private sectors and dedication to the advancement of innovation and other women leaders.
Laura Mehiel, senior associate/director of transportation, A. Morton Thomas and Associates, Inc. (AMT)
Mehiel is a 37-year veteran of transportation infrastructure design who focuses on large and complex transportation projects. As director of transportation for the northeast region at Maryland-based engineering firm AMT, Mehiel has helped the company achieve many firsts, including AMT’s first major project for the Virginia Department of Transportation ($47 million Southgate Drive Interchange); first large design-build project ($82 million Route 1 at Fort Belvoir), and first Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration design-build project ($63 million US 219). Mehiel encourages other female employees to expand their professional capabilities. In 2020, she and her colleagues received the ARTBA Glass Hammer Award for their efforts.
Natalia Homedi, president, AEG Atlas Engineering Group LTD
An engineer for almost four decades, Homedi has helped shape America’s transportation network through her work in both the public and private sectors. She worked as an engineer for the Illinois Department of Transportation and Project Manager at the Illinois Tollway. In 2007, Homedi co-founded Deerfield, Ill.- based Atlas Engineering Group, a growing WBE/DBE firm. Homedi serves on the board of directors of the American Council of Engineering Companies – Illinois (ACEC-IL.) and chaired several other engineering organizations. As a member of WTS since 2000, she promotes initiatives that advance emerging women leaders.
The Glass Hammer Award
This award honors companies in the transportation construction industry that have innovative programs and activities directed at successfully promoting women leaders within their organization.
Terracon Consultants, Inc.
Terracon’s approach to supporting women in leadership roles is grounded in three principles: treating everyone fairly and respectfully; committing to inclusion; and speaking up for yourself and others. Under President and CEO Gayle Packer, the company increased the number of female employees in every Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) category. The firm’s “Increasing Women in Leadership” group mentors and promotes women from within, while improving the company’s ability to recruit talented female executives. Terracon also takes part in a mentor-protégé program with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), providing guidance for Service-Disabled Veteran Owned (SDVO) and Economically Disadvantaged Woman-Owned (EDWO) businesses.
Excellence in Academia Award
This award is given annually to at least one woman in academia or a research institution who has demonstrated outstanding leadership, mentorship, and significant educational and/or research contributions in the transportation industry.
Dr. Hilary Nixon, deputy executive director, Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI)
At San José State University, Nixon oversees a multi-million-dollar transportation research program that focuses on ensuring safe, equitable, accessible, and sustainable transportation systems. A strong proponent of advancing women in academia, research, and transportation, Nixon served as vice president of the Faculty Women’s Interest Group (FWIG) of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning from 2013-2015 and currently serves as a chair of the Transportation Research Board’s (TRB) Standing Committee on Women and Gender in Transportation. She also served on TRB’s steering committee for the 6th International Conference on Women’s Issues in Transportation. Dr. Nixon frequently speaks on the topic of gender inclusion in transportation and has appeared before the World Road Association, ITS America, WTS, UTC Congressional Spotlight.
Future Industry Leader Spotlight Award
This award recognizes students enrolled in undergraduate or graduate studies at an American college or university who have achieved an outstanding academic record while demonstrating extraordinary leadership skills within and outside of the academic environment.
Denissa Purba, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC)
Purba conducts research on emerging transportation system infrastructures for new vehicle technologies, which are threatened by a changing environment. She volunteers on the Transportation Research Board AMR20 Disaster Response, Emergency Evacuations, and Business Continuity Committee. At UIUC, she is president of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Transportation Development Institute and a professional development coordinator at the Graduate Society of Women Engineers) Illinois.
Shanshan Liu, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC)
Another doctoral candidate at UIUC, Liu is a research assistant at the university’s civil and environmental engineering department, analyzing sustainable transportation systems. She served as mentor for two undergraduate research assistants in civil and environmental engineering at UIUC, guiding their research on residential and electric vehicle charging electricity load analytics. As vice president of the ASCE Transportation & Development Institute at UIUC, she created opportunities for interdisciplinary networking and skill development among students.
Established in 1985, the ARTBA Foundation is a 501(c) 3 tax-exempt entity designed to “promote research, education and public awareness” about the impacts of transportation investment. It supports an array of initiatives, including educational scholarships, awards, management and education programs, roadway work zone safety training, special economic research and reports, American National Standards Institute-accredited transportation project safety certification, and an exhibition on transportation at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.