The History of the IDR Society
by Aly Tawfik, Initiator & Founder
My personal motivation for starting the IDR society is based on two personal experiences:
(1) I was taking the “Citizen Scholar” course with Dean Karen DePauw. We were required to design and pursue a civic engagement project. The project I wanted to pursue was a theatre play to educate the public about transportation engineering in a light, comic setting. I started writing the play and with the Dean’s help, I started searching for collaborators fromthedepartments of English (for theatrical writing) and Performing Arts. Sadly, I was not able to find any and I ended up doing a different project for that course. This is a project that I still hope I could complete one day.
(2) I was doing my PhD in Transportation Engineering in the Civil Engineering Department. A big portion of my literature review was in Discrete Choice Models which is an area under Economics. I spent a significant portion of my time only trying to figure out where I can start tolearn this theory. I read many books and took many courses. All the knowledge I was gaining was very interesting but only little was helpful for my actual objective- learning Discrete Choice Models. After finally succeeding in learning this theory, I discovered that had I known someone
who was familiar with Discrete Choice Models, that person could have saved me a lot of time and effort. To me, this signified an inherent challenge in pursuing interdisciplinary research.
For me, both experiences indicated a void. In both cases, I was unable to find a way to connect with people in other disciplines who would be interested in helping and working with someone from another
discipline. I was convinced that these cannot be isolated personal experiences. felt certain that there are definitely many others who are having similar uneasy experiences. So, I started thinking about what could be done to fill this void. At that time, I was the President of Alpha Epsilon Lambda (the
Academic Excellence and Leadership Honor Society, AEL), and we were working on starting AEL’s 1st Leadership Workshop. I was very happy when the workshop attendance spanned all colleges and most departments in VT. I was also truly impressed with the enthusiasm and the feedback that we received
from the workshop. So, I thought an IDR Honor Society could be a good way to structure and fill this void. In addition, I was unable to identify any honor society that was ever started at VT; so, I thought it would be something that we could give back to the school.
Accordingly, I met with the Dean to ask for her opinion. As always, she was very supportive and gave me some great advice. She advised me to start with a focus group. So, I sent out an announcement in Monika Gibson’s weekly email. And, this is how we started. I still know all of these dates and remember
the leaders of each task. The first meeting with the Dean, the first announcement, the first meeting, our
first definition of IDR (Jordan Hill), our first motto (Risa Pesapane), our first logo (Nina Quadros and Ivan Sergejev), our first website (Tobias Ecker, Ivan Sergejev and Santhip Kanholy), our first YouTube channel
(Santhip Kanholy), our first call for membership (Tammy Parece), our first mission and vision statements (Shaimaa Lazem), our first cords (Souvick Chatterjee), etc.