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Frazier applies transportation planning to wilderness areas

When national park and forest managers face transportation issues, they call community planners like Jonathan Frazier ’12 at the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center in Cambridge, Mass. Frazier’s internship with the center, an innovative fee-for-service project of the U.S. Department of Transportation, led to a job directly after graduation.

Jonathan Frazier

Jonathan Frazier ’12

Frazier, from Mercer Island, Wash., said he loved his internship experience because it blended his two biggest interests: protection of wilderness and recreation areas and transportation planning. He worked on a variety of projects, but especially enjoyed assisting the Assateague Island National Seashore.

“What we’re doing is planning for climate change, since the island is likely to lose parking capacity due to rising sea levels and severe hurricane damage,” he said. “But it’s also one of the most sensitive seashores in the country and is the biggest undeveloped island on the East Coast. So we’re looking at shuttle buses, bicycles, and other transportation solutions because they don’t want to invest in new parking lots that will harm the beaches and just end up underwater anyway.”

Frazier majored in environmental policy and international relations, and he credits an earlier summer internship with the Cascade Land Conservancy for helping to link his interests in urban and wilderness policy.

“The conservancy formed to protect wild spaces in the Northwest and spent most of their effort fighting unsustainable logging practices,” Frazier said. “But in the 90s urban sprawl became more of an issue. Seeing a wilderness group shift more to urban issues helped tilt my focus more in that direction.”

Frazier learned similar lessons during Environmental Ethics, one of two Cornell course he completed at the Wilderness Field Station in northern Minnesota, and the course continues to shape how he approaches all of his work.

“It’s good having a framework for looking at how humans can both preserve and enjoy the land. We need to figure out how to protect our right and heritage as Americans to visit public land without totally destroying it.”

Frazier said the flexibility of the block plan played a large role in landing a full-time job with the DOT because it allowed him to meet a federal threshold for internship hours by extending his summer internship for an additional two blocks during the school year. He also appreciates OCAAT because it allowed him to “live and breathe” each subject, but noted that he initially had to address concerns the DOT had about him being able to handle a portfolio of projects.

“I explained that it’s just that the subject matter is similar, but you’re still juggling a number of tasks with many different deadlines, such as writing a final paper while studying for an exam.” During the internship, he proved to his employers that “OCAAT definitely made me a very fast worker.”

Frazier is excited to embark on the next phase of his journey in Boston. But he still subscribes to the notion that “the West Coast is the best coast” and hopes to one day move closer to home.