NU Declassified: The road to success: NU’s transportation and logistics minor

Allison Arguezo, Reporter



Offered by the Northwestern University Transportation Center on the corner of Foster Street and Sheridan Road, the transportation and logistics minor is a small, but hidden gem at Northwestern. The Daily spoke with students and the lead faculty member about what makes the transportation and logistics minor unique.


JOHN KIM: As a kid, my parents and I would always go on road trips, so every summer or every winter break or whatever, we’d go on road trips to various parts of the country. For me, a huge part of that was just like, we’re driving around. We’re experiencing these different sorts of transportation infrastructure components, and I was just really intrigued, especially when I was younger, about sort of what factors and components went into developing and designing these systems. 

ALLISON ARGUEZO: That was John Kim, a McCormick senior. He’s studying civil engineering with a minor in environmental policy and in transportation and logistics.


ALLISON ARGUEZO: Offered by the Northwestern University Transportation Center on the corner of Foster Street and Sheridan Road, the transportation and logistics minor is a small, hidden gem at NU. From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Allison Arguezo. This is NU Declassified, a look into how Wildcats thrive and survive at Northwestern. In this episode, we’re hearing from students and faculty to learn just what makes this minor unique. 


ALLISON ARGUEZO: Like most minors, there are seven courses students have to take. There are three core courses —

IAN SAVAGE: And these courses, at the moment anyway, are in industrial engineering, civil engineering and in economics. One of the requirements are that you now have to take some of these core courses outside of your own major, so you kind of get an interdisciplinary idea.

ALLISON ARGUEZO: That was Prof. Ian Savage, an economics professor at NU and the director of the transportation and logistics program. As he explained, two classes have to be taken outside of your major. After that, there’s a wide variety of classes that can count for the four electives. Then there’s the senior seminar, which Savage teaches.  

IAN SAVAGE: So this is an opportunity for students to do some work on a topic they choose. It is an opportunity to do original research and get to talk to the fellow students and make presentations on their work. So it’s a real neat opportunity. So that’s what the minor has to offer.

ALLISON ARGUEZO: John is currently in Savage’s transportation seminar. He said it includes two research projects due in Fall Quarter and Spring Quarter.

JOHN KIM: The first paper is more of an analytical/reading analysis. So, you find a bunch of readings on a topic of your choice. You sort of just write a short little paper about it.

ALLISON ARGUEZO: Whereas in Fall Quarter, students work on a research paper, in the winter and spring, students focus on a research project. 

JOHN KIM: So you’re doing a lot of data analysis, and then you present to some of the transportation faculty at the end of Spring Quarter right before you graduate.  

ALLISON ARGUEZO: The program is small — Savage said the minor typically graduates about six students every year. Both Savage and John agree that a highlight of this minor is the ability to work closely with faculty.

IAN SAVAGE: So it really is sort of a one-on-one experience for the students with faculty, not only with me, but also other Transportation Center-affiliated faculty around the University. So I think what the students are getting is a far more personal experience. 

JOHN KIM: The biggest thing I can say is it’s a very close-knit environment. This year, we have just five seniors in the transportation program. So it’s very hands-on, you really get to talk directly with Prof. Savage. There’s a lot of interaction with faculty members, as opposed to maybe other minors at this school.

ALLISON ARGUEZO: The transportation minor doesn’t just offer close connections with faculty — it also gives students the opportunity to connect with a large group of alumni.

IAN SAVAGE: One of the nice things about this minor is because it’s associated with the Transportation Center, there’s lots of alumni out there in all sorts of places, so getting jobs is actually one of the sort of add-ons the Transportation Center can do because we have all these connections. 

ALLISON ARGUEZO: Marcos Rios is a McCormick sophomore majoring in Industrial Engineering. Last year, he stumbled into Civil and Environmental Engineering 376, Transportation System Operations, taught by McCormick Prof. Marco Nie. 

MARCOS RIOS: I took the class on accident.

ALLISON ARGUEZO: But he found a listening ear and a community of support.

MARCOS RIOS: I found myself with a professor that would listen to me ramble in office hours and ask many questions. I can truly say that the Transportation Center has become one of my communities on campus. I know that whether I want to do transportation industry, logistics industry, supply chain industry or even go into anything else or go into academia, I do feel really supported going into that by my professors.

ALLISON ARGUEZO: Though many of the courses for the minor have an engineering or an economics focus, Marcos says the minor can be tailored to fit each student’s specific interests and needs. 

MARCOS RIOS: You have a lot of freedom in the way that you construct the minor to work for you. If you want to focus on that sociality-equity side, you have that. If you want to focus on the pure engineering, I’m sorry, but it’s there. So having that flexibility in your research or in the way you construct your coursework is something that I feel really helps the Transportation Logistics minor be for anyone.

ALLISON ARGUEZO: When asked about what the program lacks, John said the answer is simple: more people. 

JOHN KIM: I would love to see this program expand more in the future. I think the small scale of the class is awesome right now, but definitely having a few more faces in the program would be amazing to see in the future.

ALLISON ARGUEZO: Both John and Marcos said even if you’re just a little bit curious about the minor, you should try a class. 

JOHN KIM: Because of the flexibility of the requirements, I think it also adds to the ease of having the transportation minor. I mentioned that there’s a large breadth of courses you can do for your electives, which range from social policy to economics to engineering to more. 

ALLISON ARGUEZO: Classes that count as electives can easily be transferred for distribution requirements or McCormick credits, John said. 

JOHN KIM: So I would definitely say to anyone that’s considering this program just to try it out, pick it up, see if you like it.

MARCOS RIOS: You don’t have to be in the minor just to learn about transportation logistics. You don’t even have to take a class to learn. I’m sure any of the professors or the students would love to talk to anyone. If you take class and you realize it’s not for you, at worst, you sat through four weeks of something that might give you a perspective later on, or made a new friend. 


ALLISON ARGUEZO: From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Allison Arguezo. Thanks for listening to another episode of NU Declassified. This episode was reported and produced by me. The audio editor of The Daily Northwestern is Lucia Barnum, the digital managing editors are Will Clark and Katrina Pham and the editor in chief is Jacob Fulton. Make sure to subscribe to The Daily Northwestern’s podcasts on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or SoundCloud to hear more episodes like this.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @allisonarguezo

Related Stories: 

NU Declassified: Exploring Engineering 

NU Declassified: American Studies — small cohorts, big opportunities 

NU Declassified: The melody of the music education major