News | NAU Graduate Emmanuel James Inspires Future Generation

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by Lauren Hebroni, USC, B.A. Communication 2021


“I am a first-generation college student, so I wanted to get as far as I can in college education to inspire my family members and other siblings.”


Emmanuel James’s career at NAU has been nothing short of inspirational.  James began his journey at NAU in 2015 as an undergraduate studying Civil Engineering with a specialization in transportation. The NAU faculty and course content fostered his passion for research and working to advance the transportation of today to new heights. He was thrilled to be accepted into the NAU master’s degree program in Civil Engineering, to continue his focus on transportation, and contribute to the work of the NAU AZTrans Transportation Research Laboratory.



In addition to his coursework, James took advantage of the many opportunities for campus involvement and student leadership opportunities while at NAU. He was a member of the NAU student chapters of the American Society of Civil Engineering (ASCE) and the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE), where he served as Treasurer. Two of his fondest memories from his membership within these groups are attending the ITE Annual Meeting in Monterey Bay and the AZTrans K-8 outreach events, both pictured here (insert photographs outlined below (A, B). He shares that he particularly appreciated the chance to engage in relevant discussion with like-minded individuals, to improve the future of transportation, and to give back to the local community.


ITE group that attended the ITE Annual Meeting at Monterey Bay


James’ research at the AZTrans Research Laboratory centered on transportation safety, specifically for pedestrians and bicyclists, and includes the following publications: “Pedestrian Safety Paper” and “Tribal Crash Severity Research,” which can be viewed here.


In addition to these publications, James was selected from a large pool of candidates to be a member of the TRB Minority Fellowship cohorts for both the 2019 and 2021 terms. His work and experiences with the fellowship were featured in the Arizona Department of Transportation’s The Inside Lane Newsletter and TRB’s bi-monthly newsletter TR News. He is also a friend of the TRB Standing Committee ABE80: Native American Transportation Issues, and as part of his TRB fellowship, he completed research on traffic safety issues on Arizona tribal lands and wrote a paper as lead author. This paper was selected for presentation at the 2019 TRB Annual Meeting, where James was the sole presenter of this work and was accepted for publication in the TRR journal. James; advisor, Professor Brendan Russo, notes the extraordinary nature of this achievement. "In total, James has completed seven research presentations at local, regional, and international conferences/professional organization meetings, and he shows great promise for success in continuing to conduct transportation research," he said. James was also awarded the Pacific Southwest Region Master’s Student of the Year for 2020.


The capstone to James’ college career was publishing his graduate thesis: “Analyzing Factors Affecting Pedestrian Crash Frequency & Severity Considering Demographics, Land Use, and  Roadway Characteristics.” He worked diligently to analyze crash frequency and severity, roadway network consideration, and the role Census Block Groups play within this topic and recently presented his findings at the 2021 AZ ITS Student Summit. The complete publication will soon be available for public viewing on ProQuest.


Emmanuel with his colleague (Katherine Riffle) and advisor (Brendan Russo) at one of the k-8 student outreach events


After graduation, James hopes to contribute his expertise in tribal transportation to the industry, work with the Department of Transportation, and eventually begin his own engineering consulting firm.


James’ many accomplishments and contributions to the NAU community will certainly inspire generations to come. What makes his experience at NAU so special was not just what he achieved but with those who supported his efforts. James thanks his advisors, mentors, and family members for their unconditional support throughout his college career:


“I’m grateful for my experiences at NAU AZTrans research laboratory, and I’d like to thank my advisors Brendan Russo, Edward Smaglik, and Steven Gehrke! I also would like to thank my family, friends, and colleagues for their company, care, and constant words of encouragement! I would not have been able to learn, grow, and succeed without such support continually. Best wishes to you all.”


Congratulations, Emmanuel James! We look forward to seeing your future accomplishments.


About the Author:

Lauren B. Hebroni is an undergraduate student studying Communication at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism and pursuing a minor in Entrepreneurship at the USC Marshall School of Business.