Methodist University Awarded Strategic Highway Research Program Education Connection Initiative

Methodist University has been announced as a recipient of the Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP2) Education Connection cooperative agreement, a grant designed to help academia incorporate solutions into existing transportation curriculum. The grant was awarded to just 10 universities in the country, each of which will incorporate one or more SHRP2 themes into its current academic curriculum.

“We are very excited to be a part of this Strategic Highway Research Program,” said Dr. George Hendricks, dean of the School of Public Affairs. “Methodist University’s proximity to the I-295 loop construction in Fayetteville and our faculty expertise gives us the unique ability to develop and evaluate innovative curricula that address ecological concerns in our nation’s roads and highways. This curriculum will help professionals in the transportation industry meet environmental, economic, and community requirements on highway development and maintenance projects.”

With the grant money provided, Methodist will use the theme “Implementing Eco-Logical,” which covers planning and environmental risk management, to help develop a curriculum to help students address ecological and environmental planning challenges. The project will be led by Dr. Deborah Branson, the department chair of the university’s Environmental and Occupational Management Program and director of the MU Southeastern Center for Environmental Excellent (SECEE). Using an “Eco-Logical” approach for classes in SECEE, the theme will develop a curriculum for 20 undergraduate students, and included in a certificate course for 60 professional certificate seekers.

“Eco-Logical is an initiative that incorporates a broader perspective into the planning process for the Department of Transportation, incorporating the elements of the environment. It has been taught as part of an Environmental Assessment class at Methodist,” said Dr. Branson. “In this course, students learn how the National Environmental Policy Act process for Environmental Assessments is conducted. ‘Eco-Logical’ is a structured planning tool that can be used in any environmental assessment and gives the students a framework.”

Materials developed from the project will include four case studies with live virtual teleconferencing with project managers from different regions and climates in the country, site visits to multiple stages of Interstate 295 to document and analyze in an eco-logical approach, and a 3-D planning exercise to aid in the development of virtual planning in geographically accurate environments. The project will also help develop a pre-test at the start of the class, one new exam on the material presented, and a post-test at the conclusion of the class, as well as a course survey.

The Strategic Highway Research Program is a large-scale cooperative research program funded by Congress and administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration. To learn more about SHRP2 Solutions, visit www.fhwa.dot.gov/goshrp2. For more information on SECEEE, visit www.methodist.edu/environmental-health.

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