A University of New Orleans graduate student has been recognized as an outstanding student of the year by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Ian Butler-Severson, a UNO Transportation Institute (UNOTI) research assistant, will be honored at the next annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board, a unit of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, which takes place in Washington, D.C. in January 2018.
For the last 25 years, the U.S. Department of Transportation has recognized an outstanding student of the year from each of its University Transportation Centers (UTC). The UTC program establishes consortia of two- and four-year colleges and universities that come together to form a unique center of transportation excellence on a specific research topic. The University of New Orleans is a member of the Maritime Transportation Research and Education Center (MarTREC) consortium, which is led by the University of Arkansas and includes Texas A&M, LSU, Jackson State University and Vanderbilt.
According to UNOTI director Bethany Stich, Butler-Severson brings rich insight to the challenges of the nation’s urban systems to inform his approaches to creating more equitable and sustainable communities through improving transportation systems and policies. “There is a need for a greater understanding of national transportation planning and policy in order to improve public health, economic development, mobility and safety outcomes at the local level,” she said.
“Mr. Butler-Severson has a balance of interest and knowledge in the built environment as well as passenger and freight issues,” Stich wrote in a nomination letter. “He brings a freight-oriented perspective towards research that seeks to identify innovative strategies to address urban problems associated with increasing population, congested corridors and overwhelmed public services.”
Butler-Severson has developed a proposal to mitigate food deserts in New Orleans through containerized urban agriculture, which would repurpose and retrofit shipping containers for use as hydroponic, climate controlled crop cultivation sites. Benefits of this approach include use of existing technology to increase growing efficiency, utilization of currently vacant parcels of land and expanded access to healthy food. Butler-Severson’s skills in geographic information systems (GIS) allowed him to identify potential sites for containerized urban agriculture that would deliver the greatest benefit by locating areas that are both underserviced by traditional grocery stores and accessible by public transit routes, sidewalks and bike lanes.
Another area of focus for Butler-Severson is the changing energy market, specifically with regard to liquefied natural gas (LNG), which plays an important role in the regional economy as an export commodity, marine fuel and manufacturing additive. His research will ensure that relevant data is available to private industry as well as public officials concerned with maintaining south Louisiana as a leading port and viable transportation hub.
Butler-Severson comes to New Orleans from Minnesota, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in urban studies from Hamline University in St. Paul and attended the University of Minnesota's Graduate School of Landscape Architecture in Minneapolis. He spent five years working with the Minneapolis firm Ingraham and Associates as a professional park and trail master planner and landscape designer. In addition to his accomplishments in the planning and academic arenas, he is—in true New Orleans fashion—also a musician. From 2008 until 2015, he played guitar with Future Leaders of the World, a band featuring former Evanescence members John LeCompt and Rocky Gray. Gingerjake, the band he started performing and recording with in 2002, received a Minnesota Music Awards nomination in 2004 for best hard rock recording for their album titled “Paralysis.” A collection of his recordings is on display on the fourth floor of the Earl K. Long Library. He continues to work in the music industry here in New Orleans, providing composition, recording and production services for hire. Butler-Severson is set to receive his master’s degree in transportation from UNO in May 2018.
The UNO Transportation Institute incorporates scholarly and applied research with education and outreach initiatives to support advancements in both passenger and freight transportation systems. Its students, faculty and staff are leaders in creating more sustainable transportation systems with core expertise in maritime and port planning, transit planning as well as walking, bicycling and transit-oriented development.