Graduate student wins Eisenhower Transportation Fellowship

Contact: James M. Mayo, School of Architecture, Design and Planning, (785) 864-4184,
Hometown interest: Lawrence, Lecompton and Newton

Graduate student wins Eisenhower Transportation Fellowship

LAWRENCE – A graduate student at the University of Kansas has received one of 56 prestigious Dwight David Eisenhower Transportation Fellowships awarded nationally by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Ariel Laura Heckler, who is pursuing a master’s in urban planning in KU’s School of Architecture, Design and Planning, received a $5,000 fellowship for one year. She will use her fellowship to conduct transportation research and attend the annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board in January in Washington, D.C.

Heckler’s research focuses on how transportation professionals can improve their outreach and communication with the public, particularly in regards to the costs and real value of transportation systems and infrastructure.

In her proposal, Heckler explained, “People, throughout the world, travel from point A to point B everyday via one or multiple modes and for various reasons. Even though transportation is vital to our daily lives, most people seem to take it for granted.”

“In a time of tight state budgets and an emphasis on the most effective use of taxpayer dollars, Ariel’s research is especially meaningful and important so that citizens and elected officials have the information they need to prioritize projects and make tough decisions,” said Bonnie J. Johnson, assistant professor of urban planning and Heckler’s research adviser. “This is what good planning is all about. We are very pleased Ariel has this opportunity to further her studies and conduct her research.”

Heckler also is employed as project coordinator at KU’s Transportation Research Institute.

“I knew Ariel was an exceptional person the first day I met her,” said Bob Honea, director of the Transportation Research Institute. “She has continually revealed talents I didn’t even know to ask about when we interviewed her for the KU TRI administrative position. I am certain she will be an academic star in whatever field of research she chooses.”

Heckler earned a bachelor’s in 2000 from Wichita State University. She and her husband, Heng Tran, reside in Lawrence. She is the daughter of Robert and Alma Heckler of Lecompton and a Newton High School graduate. Her husband and her parents are KU alumni.

Established by Congress in 1991, Eisenhower Transportation Fellowships are nationally competitive and awarded on the basis of merit, which includes class standing, grade-point average, transportation work experience, recommendation letters and the student’s proposed plan of study. The program’s objectives are to attract the best and brightest to the transportation profession, to encourage transportation research and retain top talent in the United States.  Applications are evaluated by a review panel consisting of prominent transportation professionals.

For more information on the Dwight David Eisenhower Transportation Fellowship Program visit

For more information about KU’s urban planning program, go to


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