• August 10, 2021

    Michael Kyte Awardee Spotlight Series: Kristina Currans

    It has been twelve years since PacTrans began facilitating the Michael Kyte Region 10 Outstanding Student of the Year Award. We want to take a moment to look back and see where each of our twelve awardees is now. 

    Kristina Currans received the Michael Kyte Region 10 Outstanding Student of the Year Award in 2012. Currently located in Tucson, Arizona, Kristina is an Assistant Professor of Urban Planning at the University of Arizona. Here are a few words from a conversation we had with Kristina:

    Q. Please share your best college memory.

    A. For a few years, we held the “Urban Olympics” at Portland State. Students would compete in various tasks- like scavenger hunts or racing the streetcar while peeling an orange and completing a puzzle- for the privilege and honor of representing their majors. It’s one of those things that I forget about and then come across a photo that just makes me laugh.

    Q.  How did PacTrans help prepare you for what you’re doing today?

    A. I graduated from a civil engineering program and am currently working in an urban planning department. A fair amount of my work overlaps with multiple fields of study. I think the most valuable parts of my education and participating at a PacTrans university were the experiences that forced and encouraged me to look outside of my own expertise, to talk with people doing very different things, and to try to bridge gaps. I believe a lot of innovation happens where disciplines overlap, but it’s also challenging to partner with people that don’t necessarily “speak your language”. I think these kinds of experiences and exposure were valuable in shaping my worldview and ability to collaborate.

    Q. What is your greatest professional accomplishment?

    A. I’m not entirely sure this is very measurable, but since becoming an Assistant Professor, I have spent a lot of time working on my teaching and communication. There have been a lot of highs and lows, a lot of reading about teaching and revising what I’m doing, but nothing feels better than watching a lesson click with a student. I really love it when I can tell that a student has improved in some way, or demonstrates a new skill in a new context. It’s even more rewarding when they do it elsewhere, recognize it, and report back that something I did may have helped them in some way. As I continue to work on my teaching, it’s these kinds of things that make me think I’m headed in the right direction.

    Q. What advice would you give current students or recent graduates interested in pursuing a career in your professional field?

    A. I think academia can be a tough nut to crack, but I would recommend students spend time thinking about all the ways they can use their skills in different arenas. Doctoral students that study transportation also generally develop a lot of great skills for policy analysis, problem-solving, and practical applications. I think it helps to recognize that a Ph.D. in a transportation-related field can help students build a career in a lot of different ways, and in some cases, spending time thinking about these things can help students market themselves in really competitive ways after they graduate. 

    Q. What hobbies/ interests do you have? Feel free to share a fun fact about you!

    A. I am slowly, season-by-season, learning to garden. If you ever want to feel like you’re taking two-inch steps towards climbing a mountain, move to the desert and try to grow a tomato. It turns out, one problem you can’t read your way into solving is six months of 90-plus degree heat.

    Stay up-to-date with Kristina’s career by connecting with her on LinkedIn.