2015 KAI Interns Gather for Annual Jamboree

August 18, 2015

As he left Portland International Airport and rode the MAX light rail to his hotel downtown, Daniel Torre knew the Rose City was not going to disappoint. Daniel, who lives in Orlando and attends the University of Florida, had heard about Portland’s progressive and diverse transportation system and was excited to see it firsthand.

“In Orlando you can’t go anywhere unless you have a car, so it was great to see how seamless the system in Portland is and how easily you can get around without a car,” he says.

Daniel was among the six KAI interns who met in Portland July 28-29 for the firm’s annual Intern Jamboree. The Jamboree is designed to expose interns and transportation students to myriad aspects of the industry and to provide a forum where they can discuss their internship experiences, the studies they are pursuing, and career opportunities down the road.

Held in different regions of the country each year, the Jamboree also gives participants the chance to engage with peers, begin building their network of future colleagues, and learn about other areas of transportation in which they may choose to study or work in the future. The first day of the Jamboree is typically held in the KAI office with local staff while the second day involves activities around the city with other interns from local agencies. This year, the Jamboree included interns from Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT), Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), and TriMet.

During this year’s Jamboree, the interns took a bike tour of Portland led by Peter Koonce, Division Manager for the PBOT’s Signals and Street Lighting Division. The day’s activities spanned from the Collaborative Life Sciences Building on the South Waterfront to OHSU’s Marquam Hill campus, courtesy of a tram ride, to the recently completed Tilikum Crossing.

“A highlight for me, and probably for everyone, was the bike tour,” says Michael Alston, a graduate student at UC Berkeley who did his internship in KAI’s Oakland office. “Not only did we get to see a lot of the bike infrastructure, but we got to stop in some experimental treatments like the bike box.”

“It was also really cool to see the Tilikum Crossing,” he adds. “The engineer emphasized that it’s a land-use project as much as anything and will encourage development on either side of that bridge.”

During the Jamboree, interns engaged in a group problem-solving exercise; heard newer KAI staff members describe some of their experiences; engaged in a discussion with Mark Vandehey, Senior Principal Engineer and KAI’s Chief Executive Officer; and took part in a session titled “Personalities in the Workplace: How you can Influence and Work with Others.” In addition, representatives from KAI, TriMet and ODOT led a Transportation Leadership Panel for the interns.

Alvaro Laguna, a senior at Virginia Tech who did his internship in KAI’s Orlando office, says he appreciated the chance to meet the other interns and KAI staff in person.

“I had emailed with people, so it was nice to meet them face to face and talk to them about their work environment and day-to-day experiences,” he says. “The Jamboree also allowed me to increase my network and get to meet more people. I had talked with Wayne (Kittelson) and Mark (Vandehey) before, but getting to meet them in person was a great experience.”

Alexander Kado did his internship in KAI’s Portland office and said the Jamboree experience gave him a chance to see the principles he’s learning about in the classroom successfully implemented in communities.

“Just being around those transportation systems that are truly operating and having someone explain it to me really reaffirmed what I’m interested in doing for my career,” says Alexander, who is earning a master’s degree in transportation planning at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

“I really liked our tour of the city, and Peter talked about signalized intersections that Portland has modified to better accommodate people,” he adds. “The focus is on moving people instead of vehicles, and using signals to improve safety for pedestrians and bike riders who are vulnerable to collisions.”

Daniel, who did his internship in KAI’s Tucson office, says he benefited greatly from the problem-solving exercise and discussions about how different personalities interact in the workplace, particularly during high-pressure situations. He also saw firsthand how innovative strategies can create a multimodal transportation system that accommodates all users.

“It’s given me a goal of what I’d like to do, hopefully in my hometown,” he says. “The Jamboree was a phenomenal and unique experience that I won’t forget anytime soon.”

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