Secretary Pete Buttigieg visits Morgan’s transportation center

The university hosted a town hall with the U.S. Secretary of Transportation and provided a tour of technological advancements from Morgan’s transportation students.


Jordan D. Brown

Secretary Pete Buttigieg participated in a town hall meeting with University President David Wilson and Oscar Barton.

Jordan D. Brown, Editor in Chief

As the Biden administration vows to build connections with historically black universities, Pete Buttigieg, U.S. secretary of transportation, visited Morgan State University’s National Transportation Center on Wednesday.

Buttigieg received a tour of the National Transportation Center’s new developments from center director Mansoureh Jeihani and several students. 

Morgan is one of two HBCU lead universities in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s University Transportation Centers.

Innovations like traffic simulations and an autonomous wheelchair created by undergraduate and graduate students in the transportation center were on full display for Buttigieg’s visit.

Buttigieg said, “I could see in the work that people are doing their dedication to it, a glimpse of our transportation future, we’re going to need more talent from the new generation and we’re going to need more Black talent in every part of the transportation workforce right now.”

The simulations were just a glimpse of the work produced at Morgan. 

Students like Abisola Arowolaji, a junior computer science major, were ecstatic to share their work with Buttigieg and provide ideas for the future of transportation technologies.

Along with the other developments, Arowolaji’s project visualizes impairments and distractions a driver faces behind the wheel. Her team develops software that detects distractions to one’s driving for further analysis.

“I’m not a transportation major, but I’m so interested in this and I just want you to realize how these systems are getting engaged and I just think this is a good opportunity for students and if we’re able to explore it,” Arowolaji said.

Following the tour, Buttigieg participated in a town hall meeting with University President David Wilson and Oscar Barton, dean of the Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr. School of Engineering.

He spoke on President Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure law and its commitment to improve transportation equity in cities across the country like Baltimore.

One of his main talking points was the impact equity can have on the country’s infrastructure. 

“The decisions are objectively better when they’re made by people who reflect the constituents in the country that they serve…The more that looks like America, the more equity will be encoded in the decisions that are made at the career level and at the technical level, even as politicians come and go,” Buttigieg said.

When asked about workforce development funding, Buttigieg said the funding for programs are still being finalized, but skill development is crucial for the progress of the bill.

“In my view, we will only be able to deliver the benefits of this bill if we cultivate that workforce, and that’s at all skill levels, from laborers to PhDs. So many of those more technical skills are going to be cultivated at places right here, like Morgan State,” Buttigieg said.

Samira Ahangari, a transportation lecturer at Morgan, said funding towards transportation at Morgan and other universities will improve the workforce in the future along with the bipartisan infrastructure bill. 

Ahangari said, “If we receive more gear, we can do better job at our center because we have equipment and we need just money. We need funds to do research.”