Emerging Leaders in Transportation 2024 Recap

The NYU Rudin Center for Transportation and NYU C2SMARTER convened 36 early-career transportation professionals for our eighth Emerging Leaders in Transportation program. The three-day program included insightful panels, passionate discussions, a behind-the-scenes tour of Amtrak operations at New York Penn Station, and a celebratory reception.

Read below for a brief recap:

Day 1

The first day (February 13) was shifted to Zoom due to snow. It was headlined by a panel of transportation leaders currently working in a range of public and private organizations:


The speakers discussed ways to pursue innovation within a large bureaucracy, foster collaboration between the public and private sectors, and the value of connecting early on with fellow transportation professionals. This was followed by a spirited question & answer session with the Emerging Leaders. This session was conducted on Zoom due to the snowstorm.

Leadership panel on Zoom


Day 2

The second day of the program featured a tour of Amtrak’s Penn Station Control Center. At the control center, Sara Appleton, Assistant Director of the Gateway Program, presented to  the Emerging Leaders about many of the major capital projects that Amtrak is undertaking in and near New York Penn Station. The group visited the Penn Station Control Center, which manages about 1,000 train movements from Pennsylvania to New York every day, and toured behind-the-scenes and ongoing improvements at Penn Station and Moynihan Train Hall.

Group learning from Amtrak personnel

Emerging Leaders in Moynihan Station

Emerging Leaders in Moynihan Station


Emerging Leaders in Penn Station

Behind the scenes tour at Penn Station

Leaders then participated in “Building Your Influence,” an interactive workshop run by Emily Gallo, Director of Infrastructure and Mobility Equity, HNTB, at the NYU Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service. This activity focused on assessing Leaders’ ability to influence the direction of their work and ways to build their influence within their organizations and throughout their careers.

Emily Gallo


Later, the Leaders continued working on the ideation process for their individual innovation projects.

Emerging Leaders working individually


Day 3

The third and final day included a spirited interactive session on communicating ideas in transportation with John Surico, a transportation journalist and professor at the NYU Journalism Institute. Mr. Surico shared ideas about how to collaborate effectively with journalists to tell the story of a transportation project, and how to combat some of the most prevalent biases in transportation journalism. 

Surico presentation

Engaged participants

Participants then applied this to their own innovation ideas by putting pen to paper. Each Emerging Leader wrote out their proposal for how to design and implement a new project in their own workplace, in the areas of Communications, Technology, Operations, Administration, and Workforce Development. Leaders then participated in a ‘gallery walk’ around the conference room to learn more about each others’ ideas.

Emerging Leaders create idea postersEmerging Leaders create idea posters

Emerging Leaders "gallery walk" around idea posters

Emerging Leaders "gallery walk" around idea posters

Midori Valdivia

In the afternoon, Leaders heard from Midori Valdivia, Founder and Principal of Midori Valdivia Consulting and MTA Board Member, about changemaking in the field of urban transportation planning.










Later, several Leaders presented their ideas in 5-minute pitches to the cohort, followed by a spirited feedback and brainstorming session. Leaders connected on how they might help one another achieve their project goals.

Emerging Leaders collaborate on ideas


Emerging Leaders collaborate on ideas


Emerging Leaders collaborate on ideas

As the final day of the program came to a close, Emerging Leaders heard the Closing Keynote from Tiffany-Ann Taylor, Vice President for Transportation at the Regional Plan Association and alum of the Emerging Leaders program. Ms. Taylor spoke about building opportunities to lead, and shared practical lessons she has learned from her experience as a Black woman planner.

Tiffany-Ann Taylor

In the evening, a networking reception with current and past participants capped off the day’s activities and marked the close of this year’s Emerging Leaders Program.

Emerging Leaders closing reception attendees


Emerging Leaders closing reception attendees

The NYU Rudin Center would like to give a special thanks to Amtrak for the tour, and to the speakers and panelists who helped to make this program educational, engaging, and productive.

Emerging Leaders in Transportation is directed and moderated by Sarah M. Kaufman, NYU Rudin Center Executive Director, and supported by NYU C2SMARTER. Applications to join the 2025 Emerging Leaders in Transportation cohort will open in late 2024.