As a junior at Purdue University studying civil engineering in 1976, Derek Crider participated in a yearlong study abroad program in Hamburg, Germany. Through his coursework, travel, and observations, he gained an understanding of how German public transport and urban planning were interconnected, and began to identify opportunities for improvement that could be applied to U.S. transportation systems — particularly in complex metropolitan areas where services were often disjointed. These explorations planted the early seeds of Crider’s professional engineering career in the transportation industry, which has now spanned over three decades and has included high-level work in both the public and private sectors.
It was also during his study abroad experience that Crider learned about the Fulbright Program and became interested in pursuing a grant himself. “Living in Hamburg allowed me to meet and interact with Germans and students from a wide range of countries. This exchange of ideas, experiences, and outlooks planted the seed for me to seek further options to expand my technical and personal understanding of other methods of analysis, design and planning, and to recognize how cultural perspectives shape policy,” he recalls. “I profited from having met Fulbright students studying in Hamburg and other locations in Germany, as this provided me insight into the program and prompted me to seek further information. The benefits of Fulbright study were clear.”
Upon returning to Purdue, Crider sought out more information about how to apply for a Fulbright grant to continue his research in Germany. He received the news that his application had been approved during his final semester of college, and spent the next year studying at the Technische Universität in Braunschweig. His research focused on public transportation, specifically examining the application of European public transit design and planning standards to U.S. urban transport systems. He also completed a Praktikum (internship) at the Hannover transit agency, gaining hands-on field experience in the design, operations, and planning processes associated with the incremental implementation of a light rail network.
Crider is currently based in Washington, D.C., where he leads the Strategic Planning Service group at AECOM, a U.S. engineering firm that designs, builds, and operates infrastructure in over 150 countries. The group provides support services for transit and transportation-related projects nationwide, including economic analysis, financial analysis, organizational management, and ridership estimation. His career trajectory is closely linked to his Fulbright study in Germany — and his international experience continues to exert a powerful influence on his approach to his work. “The Fulbright Program has instilled a worldview perspective for research, analysis, and problem-solving. For work challenges, I look beyond local boundaries to seek other methods of analysis or in-situ examples of solutions,” he shares. “My Fulbright experience has given me an intense interest in encouraging others as well to research, consider, and assess alternatives or processes used outside the realm of what is typical or national.”
An active volunteer in the Fulbright alumni community, Crider serves as a board member of the National Capital Area Chapter. This level of involvement provides him with opportunities to connect with students and support their interests in pursuing study outside the United States, a personal objective that he says has grown from seeing the benefits of his Fulbright experience throughout his career: “The NCAC board position is a vehicle to inform target audiences of Fulbright Program benefits and to seek support for the program to ensure continuing opportunities for research, education, and the exchange of ideas.”