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Press Release

Cal Poly Student Receives U.S. Department of Transportation Student of the Year Award

Contact: Charlotte Tallman

805-756-6402; [email protected]

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — Cal Poly graduate student Peyton Ratto was honored with the Student of the Year award by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The Santa Clarita, California, resident was among 34 students nationwide to receive the title.

The award was presented in January by U.S. DOT’s University Transportation Centers Program (which awards grants to universities across the nation as it advances transportation research and technology and develops the next generation of transportation professionals) and the Council of University Transportation Centers. The council promotes university research, education, workforce development and technology transfer as essential to the nation’s transportation system.

Graduate student Peyton Ratto
Peyton Ratto will graduate from Cal Poly with dual master’s degrees in civil engineering and city and regional planning.

Each Outstanding Student of the Year honoree is selected based on accomplishments such as technical merit and research, academic performance, professionalism and leadership.

Ratto, who is pursuing dual masters’ degrees in civil engineering and city and regional planning, was nominated by civil engineering Professor Anurag Pande, who recognized her exemplary work on the book Pande was writing. Ratto added a section to help non-engineering students succeed in their math, physics and statistics prerequisite courses.

“When I started the master’s program, Dr. Pande shared with me his textbook that would be developed as part of the ongoing U.S. Department of Education Open Education Resource project,” Ratto explained. “I enthusiastically jumped on board and co-authored the text that helps non-engineers get through the wall of prerequisites.”

Rotto, who earned a bachelor’s degree in City and Regional Planning, in 2021 from Cal Poly, had a different perspective on the engineering-focused prerequisite coursework. She wanted to use her experience to help future students succeed in their lower-level classes.

“Coming from a non-engineering background, I took into consideration my struggles while taking the prerequisites alongside my first-year transportation engineering courses,” she said. “I researched the fundamental topics in math, physics and statistics applicable to transportation engineering and created appropriate lesson plans to help those like me in the future.”

Pande said Ratto’s unique perspective would benefit non-engineering students in these undergraduate prerequisite courses.

“Her contributions, which are undoubtedly inspired by the challenges she faced in her prerequisite classes as a non-engineering student, have resulted in more engaging and useful content than an engineering professor — or any student with an engineering background — could have produced,” Pande said.

Ratto’s undergraduate and graduate courses have helped her excel.

“Cal Poly’s signature Learn by Doing pedagogy allowed me to develop skills in data analysis while developing general and specific plans for communities to apply them in real-world settings,” Ratto said.

After earning her planning degree, Ratto wanted to continue her education in the industry.

“I fell in love with my major,” she said. “I loved working toward the goal of helping the public, and I loved that I got to explore the interactions between different elements within a city.”

Ratto listed her co-authorship with Pande as her top accomplishment in 2022. She will work as a transportation analyst at Kittelson & Associates Inc., a civil engineering company in San Diego, after graduating later this year.

Peyton Ratto receiving the outstanding student award
Peyton Ratto accepted her award at the U.S. Department of Transportation 32nd annual Outstanding Student of the Year award ceremony.