Going global: CEE grad students launch online series

When life throws lemons, it’s best just to make lemonade. That’s exactly what two University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign graduate students did in the middle of the Spring 2020 semester when students began remote learning due to COVID-19.

Meet Javier García Mainieri and Izak Said, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering master’s and doctoral students, respectively. Together they swiftly moved the typical in-person Kent Seminar Series online.

The student-led chats feature a transportation leader each Thursday of the spring and fall semesters. But the adjustments made due to the pandemic for the Spring 2020 semester made the students eager to provide more lectures in an online format.

Izak Said

“(We) wanted to take advantage of what is going on right now (and) make some good out of the bad things that are happening in the world and show unity,” Said said.

They developed Kent Around the World, a weekly spin-off series of the original Kent Seminar Series featuring 10 global transportation leaders from June 11 through Aug. 6.

“We realized that online we could reach (others) further than ever before,” García Mainieri said. “We set out for great speakers and ended up with a list from all over the planet!”

Javier García Mainieri

For Said, the focus is all about unifying the transportation community.

“We are all trying to solve the same problems, but each one from their own perspective,” Said said.

“There might be a student, for example, from China or in Switzerland that’s watching the seminar and is working on a certain problem like dynamic loading,” he added. “It’s nice to see people from different countries with different perspectives that are trying to solve the same issues.”

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Written by: Emily Jankauski

Posted: June 11, 2020