Student Spotlight: Maria Sipin, Portland State University
Maria Sipin, Graduate Assistant, Portland State University
Maria Sipin is a Portland State University grad student in Urban Planning and Public Health, and an IBPI Active Transportation Scholar. Watch Maria's video, "Communicating Intersections," on the power that transportation planners have to affect positive, equitable change in our daily lives. Or, read the final report she co-authored "Elevating People: Planning for Equitable Travel to Marquam Hill" - a report on OHSU’s vision for diversity and inclusion and their goals to reduce single-occupancy vehicle trips and promote the increased use of sustainable multimodal transportation.
Tell us about yourself:
I started grad school in fall 2016, just a week after moving to Portland from Los Angeles. I’m exploring Portland every day by bike and on foot and public transit and getting more acquainted with academic institutions, government agencies, transportation organizations, and community members throughout the region.
I was born in the Philippines and was raised in Manila and Los Angeles. This experience of migration and navigating my cultural, racial and ethnic identities in the United States play a major role in my work as a person, student, transportation professional, and community-based advocate.
I came to Portland to gain new perspectives, skills, and appreciation for coffee and seasons. I ultimately chose PSU because of the dual degree program in urban planning and public health, to have access to experts, planning norms, and contexts that are different from my hometown. Having been hired as a graduate assistant at PSU’s Institute for Sustainable Solutions has also been vital for me as a student with limited resources, and WICHE (Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education) has helped too. Studying and working in Portland was one way I could expand my networks, and I also felt determined to share my own experiences and expertise to connect LA and Portland—two places pursuing similar goals in transportation.
What has influenced your path in transportation?
Living in many neighborhoods in Los Angeles throughout my life and the relationships I had with people in these places influence the lens I view power structures and transportation systems. My background strengthens my commitment to improve sociopolitical, physical, and built environments that affect people’s life experiences beyond transportation. I have been volunteering for an organization that I have credited as one of the most transformative experiences of my life. Multicultural Communities for Mobility (MCM) has influenced my approach to mobility justice and my role as a leader and as a community member. This organization, where I serve as a board member, has invested most of its resources on developing young leaders and influencing local transportation spaces and policies by supporting people of color to engage in planning in various levels. MCM has also been a platform for women and non-binary people of color to elevate their leadership and influence in transportation. I also worked in health care and have been nurtured in a department at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles that has solely focused on direct care, community networks, and policy change to improve health outcomes for youth, particularly those who are homeless or identify as LGBTQ. Transportation access and safety are some of their basic needs that intersect with other health necessities.
How are you preparing for a career after graduation?
I’m doing many of the things that transportation planning students have been socialized to do, while seeking out other ways to thrive in this field at this point in my life. I have two internships that are providing me with unique experiences. As an IBPI Active Transportation Scholar, I have developed relationships with many professionals who have been genuinely interested in my growth and contributions in transportation. I also want to continue collaborating with people outside of transportation, identify opportunities for policymaking that advance racial equity, and create more pathways with fewer barriers for young people who are underrepresented in higher education and the workforce, especially in urban planning.
This is an installment in a series of monthly Student Spotlights we'll be shining on students and alumni that are involved with TREC (Transportation Research & Education Center at PSU), NITC (National Institute for Transportation & Communites) and IBPI (Initiative for Bicycle and Pedestrian Innovation).