News | Professor James Moore Celebrates 30 Years at USC

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Professor James Moore Celebrates 30 Years at USC

Sunday, February 4, 2018

by By Lilly Nie, USC Price B.S. of Urban Studies & Planning 2021

“If you want to hear God laugh, make a plan!”

In the summer of 1981, after obtaining his B.S. degrees in Industrial Engineering and Urban Planning from Northwestern University, Professor Moore—a Midwestern native—recounts how he was driving across the Bay Bridge toward Stanford, certain that he would never return to the unbearable cold of the Midwest.

Well, he was wrong.

Ironically enough, after he completed his Stanford Ph.D. in Civil Engineering, the best school that offered Professor Moore an Assistant Professor position was Northwestern. And so Professor Moore returned to his alma mater to teach, braving the cold once more. He stayed there for a year and a semester before moving to USC, where he has now worked for 30 consecutive years. Since his transition from Evanston to Los Angeles in January of 1988, Professor Moore has tackled challenges with grace and compassion, unfazed by plans gone awry.

November, 2015?: Prof. Moore and USC students, faculty members, and alumni at the WTS-Los Angeles scholarship banquet. Prof. Moore received the inaugural Honorable Ray LaHood Award, recognizing men who support women in transportation.
Photo courtesy of John Livzey


Professor Moore faced uncertainty early in his career at USC; current students and recent graduates are likely unaware that he switched into the Viterbi School of Engineering in 1998 following a structural shakeup in what was then the School of Urban Planning and Development and the School of Public Administration. The University had closed the Institute of Safety and Systems Management a few years earlier, notifying several tenured faculty members that they would be fired. Unimpressed with how USC had managed the change, Professor Moore expected changes were inevitable for the School of Urban Planning and Development too. Though Professor Moore was tenured there in 1993, he knew this would do him little good if the School was dissolved. He hoped that transitioning his primary appointment to Civil Engineering would place him in a position where he could protect himself and speak up for his colleagues if they were faced with losing their jobs.

Prof. Moore with USC Astani Department MSCE alumna Charmaine Solla, whose firm was recognized for its pedestrian/bicycle project work at the California Transportation Foundation Awards Luncheon in 2015.

Photo courtesy of CTF

Since that pivotal moment, Professor Moore has continually distinguished himself as a transportation expert with a wide breadth of expertise. Having received tenure in what is now the Sol Price School of Public Policy, the Astani Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and the Epstein Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, Professor Moore has the privilege of calling a tremendous circle of individuals his colleagues. He values them all.

Prof. Moore with USC Astani Department PhD student Pouyan Hosseini, who received the California Transportation Foundation Heinz Heckeroth Scholarship in 2017. A former Caltrans District 7 Director and chief Deputy Director in Sacramento, Heckeroth is an Astani CEE Department graduate.
Photo courtesy of CTF


His work was not just constrained to the USC campus. In 1998 and 1999, Professor Moore spent a sabbatical year working with the USC external affairs office in Sacramento to draft a budget trailer bill for the California legislature; it was a bill that would require federally funded university transportation research centers in California to automatically receive matching state funds. This was the first time that Professor Moore had ever participated in policymaking at the ground level—he admitted to how scared he was by the process, because “it was a real longshot.” Yet, on the day that Governor Pete Wilson signed the budget bill into law, Professor Moore had the opportunity to see his labor come to fruition. It was a truly empowering moment—not only for himself, but for the university. Today, METRANS continues to conduct high quality research to address pressing transportation problems in the Los Angeles region because of that budget bill. Professor Moore served as the Associate Director of METRANS, later serving on the center’s executive committee from 1998 to 2011. As the director of USC’s Transportation Engineering program for the past 28 years, he is still a longtime friend and supporter of the center.

June, 2017?: A casual WTS-Los Angeles lunch in DTLA for mentors and mid-career proteges. Several of the professionals mentored by Prof. Moore (right) and Prof. Shen (center) are USC Price and USC Viterbi alumnae.
Photo courtesy of Eric Shen


The pride and commitment which Professor Moore holds for USC is apparent. Outside of the transportation profession, Professor Moore has served as a Faculty in Residence at the Honors House for 26 years, even having the chance to walk an alumna down the aisle at her wedding (it’s a story worth asking him about)! Asked to reflect on his 30-year career at USC, Professor Moore instead took the time to praise the University, which has “come a long way” since he first arrived. He shares that it has been a pleasure for him to witness USC rise to become an academic powerhouse, far surpassing the rate at which he expected the university to improve (and far surpassing the school on the west side of town, for that matter). I was incredibly humbled to hear these words, especially from an individual who is deserving of high commendation. There is little doubt in my mind that Professor Moore will continue to serve the University with compassion and professionalism—regardless of whether a wrench is thrown in his plans. Congratulations on 30 years, Professor Moore! Here’s to the future.

Did you know that Prof. Moore rides an Urb-E to campus every day from his office on Adams Blvd?
Photo courtesy of Eric Shen


About the Author: Lilly Nie
Lilly Nie is a freshman at the USC Price School pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree of Science in Urban Studies & Planning and a minor in Spatial Studies. She is the Programming and Communications Officer of the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) student chapter at USC, an intern at Public Matters, and a volunteer for The People Concern. Any further inquiries can be directed to the following email: ?[email protected].


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