ASU’s engineering power couple

By Bobbi Ramirez
November 9, 2023

Sanjay Paul (left) and Rumpa Dey (right) at the College Avenue Commons on Arizona State University’s Tempe Campus. Paul and Dey are alumni of the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment part of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at ASU. Photographer: Erika Gronek/ASU

Rumpa Dey and Sanjay Paul, alumni of the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, part of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University, are no strangers to awards and recognitions. This year, the husband-and-wife duo celebrates multiple prestigious honors recognizing their accomplishments as professional leaders in transportation and traffic engineering.

Even in life after ASU, the couple largely credits the university’s proud and diverse community as a major factor to their success in the United States.

“When I think about ASU, it is full of beautiful memories,” says Dey, who earned a master of science degree in civil engineering from the Fulton Schools. “We came from Bangladesh to Arizona. I still remember that day; it was 118 degrees. Overall, it was a culture shock but in a good way.”

Dey and Paul said while their main focus at ASU was on their studies, it was equally as important for them to begin building their community and exploring Arizona’s culture. The couple participated in the activities of multiple organizations for engineers, including the Friends of Civil and Environmental Engineering and ASU’s Institute of Transportation Engineers, also known as ITE.

Dey became the ITE fundraising coordinator and Paul the vice president of the chapter. While participating in the club, they undertook a project to contribute to the ITE National Trip Generation Manual,which is used today by traffic professionals across the country.

“We learned so much about the United States and American cu­­­lture,” says Paul, who earned a doctoral degree with a focus on transportation engineering from the Fulton Schools. “We developed a network of professionals through different activities and research projects. We had a network and I think that definitely helped us early on.”

This year, both Paul and Dey are celebrated by Engineering News-Record among ENR Southwest’s 2023 Top Young Professionals for their experience, leadership and community involvement. Mass Transit magazine also honored the couple as part of its 2023 40 Under 40 program, which recognizes individuals pushing the transit industry forward.

In addition, Dey is recognized as the Business Leader of the Year for small and medium-sized companies in the 2023 Champions of Change awards by AZ Big Media and Paul was recognized in Phoenix Business Journal as part of the 40 Under 40 list of high-achieving young business leaders in the Valley.

Having been a couple since they were 17 years old, the duo shares that their common interest in engineering is a plus but their emotional support for one another leads them to take on new challenges.

Finding support as students

In 2012, Dey became pregnant with their first child while pursuing her master’s degree and working as a research fellow. With the support of faculty and Paul, Dey was able to receive the support she needed to finish classes, earn her degree and build their family.

“The professors were incredibly supportive,” Dey says. “They knew my due date and let me do makeup exams. People here are so friendly and so understanding.”

In addition to joining student organizations, Paul and Dey also found support in mentors, including Professor Ram Pendyala, who is now the director of the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment and served as their graduate degree advisor.

Dey says it was under Pendyala’s guidance that she and Paul were able to build professional relationships, gain experience and find work.

“Through hard work, dedication, outstanding service to the profession and a passion for innovation, Sanjay Paul and Rumpa Dey have excelled as leaders in the field of transportation systems engineering and become exemplary mentors,” Pendyala says. “Their journey from our graduate program to their current status as industry leaders is a testament to their relentless pursuit of excellence. They illuminate the path for the next generation of professionals, inspiring all of us to envision a brighter and more efficient future for transportation.  We congratulate Sanjay and Rumpa on their many successes and look forward to everything they will undoubtedly achieve in the future as their careers unfold in the years ahead.”

Life as ASU alumni

After graduation, Dey and Paul had no issues finding work due to their professional relationships, research experience and community work. Following Dey’s final term project presentation with data from the Arizona Department of Transportation, she met a classmate who was impressed by her work and later offered her a job.

“There are so many opportunities, you don’t need to view your classmates as competition,” Paul says. “They will be your supporters. Once they get jobs, their companies will need more people. Their supervisors will say ‘Hey, bring your friend so that you can work together.’ That’s how it works.”

Currently, Dey is the associate vice president and Emerging Technology Leader for AECOM’s Arizona and Utah divisions. Paul is the Arizona and New Mexico area traffic business class leader for HDR Engineering, Inc. Both, Dey and Paul have continued their involvement with ASU ITE and the ASU community that they call family. As leaders in their companies, they reciprocate the opportunities they were given back to a new generation of students through mentorship and by connecting them to jobs.

“We always invite the students to attend the conferences and talk to professionals,” Paul says. “If you’re looking for a job, that’s your place to connect with them and send your resume. It’s the ASU community — we all have to help each other.”

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