Julene Paul, a PhD student in urban planning, was named the 2021 student of the year for the Pacific Southwest Region University Transportation Center, a federally funded network of eight partner campuses in Arizona, California, and Hawaii.
Julene’s initial interest in transportation was stoked while studying urban policy and working as a research assistant for the Education Innovation Laboratory as an undergraduate at Harvard. Later, while pursuing her master’s degree in city and regional planning at Rutgers, Julene experienced the professional world of planning for the first time while working for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. After graduating from Rutgers, she went on to work as a Program Manager at the Federal Transit Administration.
At UCLA, Julene works closely with both the Institute of Transportation Studies and the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies. She juggles a number of projects in her day-to-day work, including a study of the effects of COVID-19 on transportation behavior, an investigation into trends in automobile ownership, and a deep dive into BlueLA, an electric carshare program that provides services to low-income areas of Los Angeles. She has presented some of this research at national conferences and has been published along with her co-authors, including her advisors, Evelyn Blumenberg and Brian Taylor.
When asked for advice for the current generation of urban planning students, Julene advised students to seek out professors who teach classes in the fields that interest them. She also advised students to take advantage of internship opportunities and to seek out mentors from these experiences. Julene cites her work with the Port Authority as an example in which her supervisor, Gregory Wong, made concerted efforts to mentor her. She also encouraged students to venture out beyond their required classes when possible. She recently took a course at the UCLA Law School in employment law, and this challenged her to think critically about transportation policies and their effects on workers.
This article originally appeared on metrans.org.