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Caroline Kotila

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Membership & Development Coordinator, Intelligent Transportation Society of America

Please describe your professional history. How has your SIWP experience helped you along the way?

"I owe a great deal of my professional history and success to the Semester in Washington and Native American Political Leadership programs. I worked with the program staff to arrange an interview at the U.S. Department of Transportation and ultimately secured an internship within the Office of the Secretary’s policy office.  Not only did I have an outstanding internship experience, but I met several individuals who still serve as my mentors today.  I returned to U.S.DOT for additional summer and winter break internships until I graduated from the College of William and Mary. 

Upon graduation, I started working full time for the Under Secretary of Transportation for Policy.  There, I supported various policy initiatives, including the TIGER program, the National Freight Advisory Committee, MAP-21 implementation and reauthorization.  I was also fortunate to be able to put my degree in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies to use by working with other Federal agencies, external stakeholders, and internal groups to advance women in the transportation industry. 

In April 2014, I joined the Intelligent Transportation Society of America as the Membership and Development Coordinator.  ITS America is the nation’s largest nonprofit association dedicated to the research, development, and deployment of Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) to improve the nation’s surface transportation system.  I am responsible for strategically supporting membership retention and recruitment, as well as operation and thought leadership of the Leadership Circle."

Please describe your current position. What is a day in your work life like?

"Since I have just recently started in my current position, my responsibilities and tasks grow by the day.  My main duties include communicating directly with the Society’s members on a regular basis, developing targeted outreach plans, supporting operational needs, and developing member incentive programming.  I also work closely with the External Affairs and Meetings teams to ensure that all outreach, programming, and events will benefit and speak to our members.  I have really enjoyed the transition from the Federal government to the non-profit world and working with a smaller, but very determined, team of colleagues."

Where did you intern during SIWP? What was that experience like? How did it help you get where you are?

"I interned for the Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy at the U.S. Department of transportation during SIWP/NAPLP.  I had an incredible experience working for the front office political team and really grew as a professional.  The internship opened my eyes to the importance of transportation policy and the transportation industry in general. I stayed on board at US DOT for another summer and winter break of interning, then I accepted a full-time job upon graduating from undergrad.  In April 2014, I had the opportunity to try my hand at the non-profit world while staying within the transportation field.  My position at the Intelligent Transportation Society of America would not have been possible without the connections I had started to cultivate during my NAPLP/SIWP internship."

How has SIWP helped you over the course of your career? Are there lessons you learned in class/the practicum/your internship that you still use?

"The classes I took during the NAPLP/SIWP helped me grasp a sense of the political climate in Washington during the summer that I was in the city.  The classes also really stressed the degree of professionalism that is required when working in politics, especially in Washington.  After participating in the mock political campaign, I became more interested in local politics and closely followed the 2012 presidential election—watching all debates, paying attention to the detail of campaign marketing strategies, etc. Of course, the internship shaped my career in Washington, D.C. to date. I learned how to navigate a political office within the Administration, build a strong network of colleagues, and the importance of maintaining these connections."

Anything else interesting? Any words of wisdom for prospective or current students?

"Outside of the class and internship experience, through the NAPLP/SIWP I met some of my closest friends.  I was lucky enough to be paired up with a roommate who is one of my best friends all these years later.  I have also stayed in touch with a number of my fellow classmates and it is always a treat to see them.  The program really allowed us to form close bonds with people very different from ourselves but who all shared a common interest in politics and Washington, D.C.  I would encourage as future or current students to embrace every day of the program and have an open mind to the people and experiences that they will undoubtedly encounter."