Fifteen years ago, Rachael Barolsky Sack graduated with bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Boston University’s energy, environmental analysis, and policy program and began her career at U.S. DOT’s Volpe Center.
Sack wasted no time in taking the advice of colleagues and joining the Women’s Transportation Seminar, or WTS International. The association and its chapters host professional development activities, networking events, and lectures by prominent leaders in the transportation sector. Its mission is to expand opportunities for women in the industry.
Sack’s commitment to WTS began as an individual member and continued for more than a decade with new leadership roles and responsibilities.
On May 19, 2017, WTS International honored Sack’s exceptional leadership and commitment with its “Chapter President of the Year” award. The honor—the first of its kind granted by the association—required numerous letters of recommendation and an extensive nomination from the WTS-Boston board of directors.
As WTS-Boston chapter president, Sack helped generate new memberships, scholarship donations, and media attention. Her introduction of new events also helped reach a larger number of women in the transportation industry. (Volpe photo)
From Chapter Member to Chapter President
WTS-Boston Chapter President Rebecca S. Williamson highlighted Sack’s leadership innovations, including implementing changes to “improve chapter operations, enhance the effectiveness of the board, and increase membership and attendance at events for both the public and private sectors—all while promoting women in the industry.”
Sack, who manages U.S. DOT’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program and is chief of the Volpe Center’s Innovative Research Program Office, credits her work at Volpe with helping to prepare her for a very successful two-year term as WTS-Boston chapter president.
Managers and mentors at the Volpe Center, such as Director Anne D. Aylward, have watched Sack grow into her leadership role, and recommended her for the award.
“Rachael used her professional expertise to analyze chapter operations and implement numerous business process improvements,” said Aylward in her letter of support. These improvements included redesigning leadership communications processes, reorganizing board meetings, and hiring an accountant to facilitate preparation of tax documents.
Rachael Barolsky Sack receives the WTS International “Chapter President of the Year” award.
Participation early in her career as a young member of the TRB Committee on Public Involvement also allowed Sack to develop and test out skills in facilitation, capacity building, and strategic planning.
The Volpe Center’s workforce includes a wide variety of professionals, from economists and planners to engineers and environmental scientists. Interacting with colleagues with many different backgrounds allowed Sack to cultivate a leadership approach that is adaptable, agile, and inclusive.
As WTS-Boston chapter president, Sack leveraged these skills to engage the 50+ chapter leaders, including board members, committee chairs, volunteers, and individual members in a way that made her stand out to WTS International.
Sack led a year-long celebration of WTS Boston’s 35th anniversary, which generated new chapter memberships, scholarship donations, and media attention.
Her introduction of new chapter events such as roundtables for small business owners and mid-career professionals were well-attended and helped reach a larger number of women in the transportation industry.
Sack has seen firsthand the growth and advancement that WTS promotes through its mission.
“My colleagues and I are able to continuously sharpen our professional skills while serving as volunteers and leaders of WTS, and there is no doubt that these experiences help us grow as professionals, ultimately benefitting the work we do in our respective jobs and for our respective agencies or companies,” she said.
What’s next for Sack? Now that her term as WTS-Boston chapter president has come to a close, she will serve as chair of the chapter’s advisory board for two years and has an opportunity to become engaged with the organization’s global mission.
WTS-Boston will host the WTS International conference in 2019, where Sack aims to showcase public sector work in transportation.