The Florida Department of Transportation presented UNF with a $10,000 scholarship check Feb. 2 in a small meeting room at the FDOT Jacksonville Urban Office.
The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials awarded the FDOT the check for winning the grand prize of the 2011 America’s Transportation Awards. The AASHTO recognized the FDOT for completing the Interstate 10 and Interstate 95 interchange under budget and on time, according to the America’s Transportation Awards website.
According to the FDOT press release, the interchange took six years to finish and cost $154 million, making it the most expensive public works project by the FDOT in North Florida.
The FDOT had an option to either give the prize check to charity or to help fund a scholarship, according to the prize conditions. They chose to present the $10,000 check to UNF President John Delaney and UNF College of Computing, Engineering and Construction Dean Dr. Mark Tumeo.
Tumeo said the check will be used to fund a future transportation research project conducted by two UNF civil engineering graduate students. He said there will be an application process to apply for the scholarship this semester and the fellowships will begin in the fall semester.
Tumeo said the FDOT chose UNF as the recipient because of his college’s education program.
“I think part of it is that we have a very good reputation,” Tumeo said. “The community is training and educating our students so that they’re ready to go out and work on the field, so I think they’re recognizing that.”
He said the other part of the equation is UNF’s close proximity to the interchange.
Delaney said UNF has an ongoing relationship with the FDOT that has brought job opportunities for graduates.
“[The FDOT] has some programs to train transportation-oriented engineers and we’ve had a number of [UNF] students gone through it,” Delaney said. “I think they’ve hired eight of them is what [FDOT District 2 Director of Transportation Operations Nick Tsengas] told me, so there’s a lot of good connections that way.”
Tsengas said the connection between UNF and the FDOT has benefitted both sides.
“With this being a project in the Jacksonville area that we’re proud of, we felt like — with our relationship with UNF — it would be pretty impressive if we could do something within the community,” Tsengas said.
After a photo-op outside the FDOT office, located nearby the I-95 and I-10 interchange, Delaney said he was thankful the FDOT considered UNF as the recipient of the scholarship check.
“It is wonderful that [the FDOT] thought of us because, really, they could go to any charity,” Delaney said. “I was doing a calculation as I was driving in here that we have to fundraise $50,000 every hour. So it’s nice to get them in chunks of $10,000 and we appreciate them thinking of us.”
Check out this animated short based on the story you’ve just read. It was created by students in the Applied Journalism class at UNF.