By: Gabriella Cipriano, Student Written Communication Specialist, UConn School of Engineering
Just down the road from the main Storrs campus resides the CT Training and Technical Assistance Center (T2 Center), an invaluable resource providing transportation-related training for all 169 towns and cities across the state.
At the helm of the center is Donna Shea, who is both the executive director of the T2 Center, as well as the current president of the network of all 51 centers throughout the country.
“I really think this is exactly where I’m supposed to be… never in a million years did I think I’d be doing this.”
Though the only job she wanted growing up was to be a corporate pilot, Shea went to the Neag School of Education for graduate school, where she obtained an educational leadership degree with adult learning as her specialty area. She explained how “developing adult learning programs is the expertise that I bring to the table, which is different than some, because some directors in our centers are engineers.” This diversity of backgrounds allows for a variety of ideas to be brought to the table.
Shea started working at the T2 Center 21 years ago, when it had only two educational programs, and — with her Director for Training, Mary McCarthy — has built it to eight well-rounded “comprehensive professional development programs that target different aspects of the public works community.” These include the Public Works Academy, Road Master, Road Scholar, Transportation Leadership Program, Local Traffic Authority program, Safety Academy, and Traffic Signal Academy. Some of the workshops and trainings involved in these programs include Sustainable Winter Operations, Solving Local Traffic Problems, Workload Management, and the Basics of a Good Road. After completing a certain amount of hours or classes, participants receive a certificate of completion and become a CT Road Master, Road Scholar, etc.
Completing these educational programs provides so many benefits to participants. The T2 Center provides them with information on the latest technologies, innovations, and practices that they can immediately apply to their day-to-day operations. They are also given professional communication skills to use when speaking with residents and peers. Most importantly, agencies look to these designations as differentiators when choosing managers and leaders.
The T2 Center contributes not only educational services, but also a network of knowledge that can be shared between each town and city in Connecticut. The center facilitates round-table discussions, which involve program participants coming together to discuss different issues and solutions, and taking it back to their municipalities to apply it to their unique problems.
Shea explained that they have built strong communication channels that reach all of the CT local agencies with timely information.
“We have really great newsletters and technical briefings, we have tons of technical resources… and our safety and our traffic-signal staff members actually go out to the towns and offer free technical assistance.”
Shea says that municipal employees aren’t the only people making a difference in their communities, resulting from programs offered at the center. Teaming up with local school children, the T2 Center team holds an annual Roadway Safety Poster Contest For Children.
“They come up with these great taglines, about texting and driving or driving in the workzone, and we have a competition,” Shea said.
A judging group picks winners from each age category, and these winners get to visit the Department of Transportation (DOT) to get their prizes, see their posters on display as a part of the Work Zone Safety Press Conference, and meet law enforcement, highway crews and the Lt. Governor and DOT Commissioner.
With everything going on at the Center, and the growth of the programming over the past 21 years, Shea is still humbled at the role she gets to play on a daily basis at UConn.
“I’m just honored to be in this position, as a part of this passionate team, to be able to make that difference [in all 169 municipalities] with a group I really care about.”