Dr. Jill Hough
Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute
Small Urban & Rural Transit Center
North Dakota State University
Chair, APTA Higher Education Subcommittee
How many people do you employ?
About 10, including students. We use graduate research assistants from either the master’s degree program in Transportation and Urban Systems or the Ph.D. in Transportation and Logistics.
How long have you worked in the public transportation industry?
I conducted my first research project in 1994, but I began focusing more of my time on public transit in 1999.
How long have you been an APTA member?
What drew you to a career in public transportation?
I came to understand the difference mobility makes in people’s lives. I realized that public transit is not only a means for moving people, but also an economic engine.
I became acquainted with public transit issues at my job, when I started working at the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute in the early 1990s. Originally I worked on logistics and economic development projects, but later I was exposed to public transportation issues. After that, I earned my Ph.D. in Transportation Technology and Policy at the University of California at Davis.
I have been the director of the Small Urban & Rural Transit Center (SURTC) from the beginning: I wrote the proposal to develop the center and have served as its director since 2002.
SURTC reaches out to students at the university. We hire undergraduates to help with data entry and collecting information. I primarily work with graduate students in the classroom setting, and when they help conduct research, I also advise them on their thesis and dissertation work.
What have you found to be the most valuable APTA benefit or resource – that helps you do your job?
I rely on the APTA Fact Book and other printed resources quite a lot. I send students to APTA’s website for a variety of educational resources.
I’ve also invited several APTA members to be guest lecturers and mentors for the public transit class. Our mentorship program brings students together, one on one, with public transit professionals who are or have worked as general managers. Some of them have moved into the private sector. Basically, the mentor and mentee work together for about an hour a week, usually by phone and e-mail since they’re most often in different locations. The interaction begins with a list of structured questions, but the participants can add others. The process centers around what the students learn in class, but the mentors also can describe how these lessons play out in real life.
Please explain why or how this has helped.
Making APTA’s educational resources available to students—especially for classroom use—helps them find the information they will need and gives them a place to look for it. I also direct them to other reports available through APTA, such as those produced by the Transit Cooperative Research Program.
What do you like most about your job?
I really enjoy the people I work with, both internally and externally. I like meeting a variety of people, helping them discover the meaning and value public transportation offers to society. And I appreciate that I’m helping to bring the next generation of public transit professionals into the field.
What is unique about your organization (what would readers be surprised to learn)?
The work we do spreads far beyond our local area and across the U.S. We conduct research, we can do nationwide studies, we offer training across the nation at remote locations (for example, principles of transit management, advanced transit management, ethics). I teach a course online. I’ve had students from Spain, Massachusetts, the District of Columbia. Our efforts reach well beyond North Dakota.
Make sure you see Jill Hough’s video, now that you've read this!