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Jerom Theunissen 2018-19

Jerom Theunissen is from Rye, NY and graduated from Vanderbilt University's with a Bachelor of Engineering degree in May 2018. He majored in Civil & Environmental Engineering and Public Policy Studies, with a policy concentration in urban planning. Through his work with Vanderbilt Student Government’s Residential and Environmental Affairs Committee, Jerom improved campus bicycle infrastructure via two Green Fund proposals for bicycle maintenance stations and a covered bike shelter. His contributions to FutureVU, Vanderbilt's forthcoming campus master plan, included developing the university’s transportation and mobility strategy. Encouraged by his experiences at Vanderbilt, Jerom saw the Michael B. Keegan Traveling Fellowship as an excellent opportunity to tap into the global conversation on how cities are addressing their own unique mobility problems.

Jerom's project is titled "Transportation’s Impact on Urban Livability: The Physics and Human Factors of Mobility." From a young age, Jerom became interested in studying how mobility can shape the city’s form through the built environment. As a Dutch and American national who was born in Bangkok, Thailand, Jerom’s background has exposed him to unique mobility systems in these countries. His most profound experience was studying abroad in Copenhagen, where he experienced the city’s bottom-up approach that focuses on the evaluation of both physics and human factors of mobility. On physics, urban designers and engineers are primarily concerned with the physical aspects of urban infrastructure: network capacity, roadway alignments, and traffic operations. Human factors are equally, if not more important, to understanding the choices and preferences people have to get around. By testing and trying out solutions over the years, cities that have taken this incremental approach have shown that this method can be applied to enhance livability in any city.

In particular, Jerom will explore the strategic directions that innovators have undertaken to incorporate consumer preferences and behaviors via human-centered design. Jerom is delighted to work with his with his advisor and Professor of Civil Engineering, Dr. Lori Troxel, to put this approach to the test. He will visit cities of all sizes in over twenty countries across six continents that either struggle or excelled in their effort for enhanced mobility. Jerom will examine the livability aspects of each city’s mobility schemes via 1:1 observation of urban phenomena. In this approach, each city will function as an urban laboratory for critical analysis to test and evaluate how mobility’s livability effects compare in theory versus reality. Along the way, Jerom is keen to investigate new business models, technology, and financing mechanisms, such as ridesharing, bikesharing, autonomous vehicles, congestion pricing, and public-private partnerships. In all the cities Jerom plans on visiting, he will meet with city officials, community organizations, academic researchers, transportation engineers and urban planners to gain an interdisciplinary understanding of how to deliver sustainable mobility in urban environments.

Upon his return, Jerom plans to pursue a career in the transportation planning industry or to enter a graduate program in the subject. By meeting community stakeholders and experiencing different mobility systems firsthand, he looks forward to simultaneously finding new problems that need to be fixed, while assembling a toolbox of mobility solutions to enhance livability in cities around the globe. Jerom is thankful for the opportunity and assistance of Michael B. Keegan and the Keegan Fellowship alumni, and the continued support of his friends and family.

Read more about Jerom's travels and research on his blog.