Frank Douma '92Frank Douma ’92 will be a featured speaker in the Leading Innovation and Entrepreneurship speaker series on Friday, October 6. The event, which is free and open to the public, will start at 2:00 p.m. in Harris Cinema. The Donald and Winifred Wilson Center for Innovation and Leadership is sponsoring the speaker series and associated course.

Douma has been interested in transportation issues for much of his life (the train tracks through Grinnell's campus were influential in choosing his college), but had no idea that he could make a career out of studying them until the summer after his 3rd year at Grinnell, when he participated in an internship in Southeast England organized by Professor Wayne Moyer. For eight weeks, he studied the anticipated impacts of the opening of the Channel Tunnel on the Borough of Ashford, a railroad town that became the only rail stop between London and the Tunnel.

This exposure to planning as a practice led him to adjust his career goals by adding a Masters Degree in Public Affairs to his plans to attend Law School. The decision became fortuitous as his work in Ashford helped him obtain a research assistant position at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, looking at the potential environmental issues created by new transportation technologies. As he moved towards graduation and beyond, he parlayed that work into positions with the Twin Cities’ Metropolitan Airports Commission, Minnesota Department of Transportation, and the Canadian Pacific Railway.

Having gained experience across several transportation modes in the public, quasi-public and private sectors, Douma returned to academia as a Research Fellow with the State and Local Policy Program, the same organization he worked with as a student at the Humphrey School. Since that time his work has continued to focus on policy and legal issues related to transportation technologies, including telework, tolling and other pricing, safety, and, most recently self-driving vehicles, which resulted in his only quotations to date in both the New York Times and Wall Street Journal (along with a number of additional longer and drier articles in academic journals). He was named the second Director in the history of the State and Local Policy Program in October 2015, and his current projects include examining inter-relationship between traffic laws, speeding, and safety, as well as the possible role of pricing in an environment with an increasing number of self-driving cars.

While work and family life seem to have colluded to keep Douma from further travel abroad, and he has never been in a tenured or tenure track academic position, he believes his ability to find new research opportunities and define key research questions for nearly 20 years comes from understanding bureaucratic politics and the meaning of life through his Political Science major and courses in the works of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky as part of a concentration in Russian and Eastern European Studies while a student at Grinnell.

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