Next Stop: Career Success, Thanks to KC Streetcar

UMKC location paved the way for students to make a professional difference in the community.
The Kansas City streetcar sits in front of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield building with the Link stretching above the streetcar

Iain Blair (B.S.Ci.E. '23) got to give back to the city he calls home by applying science to the real world to make a positive difference.

“I chose to study at UMKC because I live in Kansas City and Kansas City's my home,” Blair said.

Blair chose to focus on two distinct fields, majoring in civil engineering and minoring in environmental sustainability. The pairing provided him the opportunity to learn the interesting crossroads of designing systems to account for the climate crisis.

Iain Blair faces the KC Streetcar with his back to the camera as the doors of the streetcar open.

“Engineers are the ones that create the systems that our society is built on," he said. "By adding environmental sustainability, it adds this extra nuance of how we design our systems intelligently to accommodate for a growing population.”

Ian Blair in front of KC Streetcar

Blair is now a transportation planner at HDR, which he describes as a dual role where he’s part engineer and part transportation and community planner.

“Going to school in a university inside of the city, there's just so much more opportunity and employment available than a college town,” Blair said.

A construction worker in a yellow vests stands in a hole filled with lines for the KC streetcar, looking up and speaking to a row of students on the street in orange construction vests and hard hats.

Bill Yord, who is an adjunct professor at the School of Science and Engineering and a senior project manager at the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority, said that as the utility manager for the KC Streetcar south line extension, he was able to loop UMKC students into being part of the project.

“The students provided a voice for UMKC with the streetcar extension,” Yord said.

Iain Blair and Bill Yord face John Kevern as the three speak inside the Plaster Center with equipment surrounding them.

The ability for students to be involved in a significant city project such as the streetcar extension had its benefits, especially when it comes to preparing students for real-world experiences.

students in construction gear taking part in streetcar construction.

“Engineering is a team sport," Yord said. "It’s designing the project but it’s also who you are designing the project for and the larger community and so the students got a real-world experience of what engineering really is.” 

There’s also benefits to studying engineering specifically in Kansas City.

“We have a lot of engineering power in Kansas City, and students have the benefit for that community for jobs, guidance and opportunities,” Yord said.

Iain Blair stands in an orange vest and hard hat speaking to a woman with her back to the camera. She is dressed in a yellow construction vest and wearing a hard hat with a braid over her shoulder.

As a result of these experiences, students are able to learn important skills crucial to their careers outside the classroom.

“With our senior design project, we worked with KCATA, and the great thing about it was that we got to work with our client and interact with them directly, which provided a lot of really great real-world experience as opposed to just theoretical classroom experience,” Blair said. 

Iain Blair sits in front of a wall of windows inside the Plaster Center with his elbows on his knees and hands clasped in front of him smiling with green space outside the window behind him.

“I really am proud to be a Roo," Blair said. "I'm proud to graduate from Kansas City and I'm really proud to know that I'm making a difference in the city that I live in and love so much.”

Learn more about School of Science and Engineering

Published: Nov 7, 2023

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