Maria Lorena Herrera Ponce
- Course: MSc (Eng) Transport Planning and Engineering
- Year of graduation: 1988
- Nationality: Chilean
- Job title: Lecturer and Freelance Consultant
- Company: Pontifical Catholic University of Valparaiso, Chile
Nowadays I have two jobs. At the University I am a lecturer and the director of a program known as “Formulation and Social Appraisal of Projects”. Through that I teach undergraduates of Industrial Civil Engineering and also Commercial Engineering on subjects of social appraisal of projects and also specifically social appraisal of transport projects. Through the Program we give lectures to civil servants in the matters of social appraisal of projects in the area of transport as well as many others.
As a freelance consultant, I have developed new methodologies, for the social appraisal of projects in transport as well as numerous other areas. Specifically, in transport, I had been working in measuring new benefits of those projects rather than the traditional: time and fuel, especially the impact in land use in the areas where poor people live. Also I have been introducing the distributive approach in the social appraisal of projects for transport, as well as in other areas of public investment such as city development and pedestrian facilities amongst others.
My experience at ITS was a milestone in my career. Thanks to what I had learned at ITS and my PhD studies, it became possible to work in the areas I have experienced throughout my career, areas which I really enjoy working in. Learning new subjects, knowing the way UK face transport investment and policies, enriched my point of view and allowed me to make contributions in that area in the Chilean public investment. Proof of it is that nowadays I have been invited by the government to join a commission of national specialist to give guidelines on how to improve social appraisal of transport projects methodologies.
Before applying to ITS at Leeds, I dedicated time to explore the different options for studying transport planning as well as transport economy. At the same time I talked with Chilean specialists in transport. All roads lead me to choose ITS and the University of Leeds to study a post-degree because of ITS’ prestigious reputation, the professors and their many publications in those subjects. Now I can say that I am so proud and happy being a the University of Leeds and especially an ITS Alumni.
My advice to students interested in this course and a career in transport is that the most important thing is to be sure that they are interested in transport issues, and hold an understanding that it is present in all aspects of our lives. It is a very nice area to develop a professional career, it allows me to make important contributions in making people’s daily lives better. It always presents new tasks, which makes every day work different and challenging. I have been so happy dedicating my professional life to this theme, so I encourage you to do so.
Highlights of my career so far include when I was the director of the Planning Transport Office for the north of Chile for 14 years. In that position I had the chance of being the director of many studies including a Transport Planning Investment Plan for the main cities in the north of Chile. I directed and put into operation two Traffic Central Systems which operated the traffic lights of Great Valparaíso and Antofagasta City in Chile. I was in charge of supervising the social appraisal of at least 30 different transport projects in those northern cities.
After I left the public sector, I worked at the Pontifical Catholic University of Valparaíso as a lecturer in the areas of social appraisal of projects. As an independent consultant I worked in developing new methodologies in different sectors as well as identifying, quantifying and valuing from the social point of view, other benefits of transport projects rather than the traditional time and fuel savings.
I have the feeling that after finishing my studies at ITS in Leeds, I was prepared to help making improvements in the Chilean transport system especially in the area of the social appraisal of projects, which I have being trying to do until now.
As an international student, my advice to potential new ITS international students who are seeking work in the transport sector is that it seems to be very important to look in an area of transport where they can feel more motivated. One very important thing to be a contribution in the workplace is to enjoy every day work. Transport has many areas of development: management, planning, social appraisal of projects, among many others. ITS gives very good tools in all of them so each student needs to find his/her own special interest.
As a professional woman and also mother of two, I feel so proud of the way my life has played out so far and certainly ITS played an important role in helping me in what I have accomplished professionally along the way.