Alumnus at nexus of transportation, environmental stewardship

December 1, 2020
Transportation company executive Maurice Henderson, '97, works to increase access to environmentally friendly transit

From Boise to Miami, Kansas City to Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles to Richmond, people young and old are hopping on electric scooters to ride to jobs, restaurants, and shopping. Maurice Henderson, '97, senior director of government partnerships at the micromobility company Bird, sees this as a good thing.*

After years of working in political advocacy, government, technology, and transportation, Henderson joined Bird in February 2019. The company, founded in 2017, has pioneered e-scooter-sharing programs in cities around the world. 

“Throughout my career, I have focused on creating opportunities for access for people, regardless of zip code, nationality, physical ability, or other variables,” Henderson said. “What drew me to the transportation sector was the potential impact for improving people’s lives. Transportation touches every single person every day, whether they’re thinking about it or not.”

E-scooters offer an affordable transportation option, reduce congestion in over-crowded cities, and mitigate climate change, he explained. 

“Transportation is one of the large contributors to our CO2 emissions,” Henderson said. “We should embrace tools that allow for the safe movement of freight and people, while promoting economic vitality and environmental sustainability.” E-scooters are one of those tools, according to Henderson.

Issues of access—access to a quality education, health care, and transportation—have always been top of mind for him, said the Jepson School of Leadership Studies alumnus and Jepson School Executive Board of Advisors member. His leadership studies education helped him frame the way he analyzes these issues.

“My take-away from Jepson was a reinforcing of a value set I hold dear, the ability to learn new data points, and the desire to seek diverse opinions—including those I don’t agree with—in order to achieve better policy and program outcomes,” he said.

In September, Oregon Gov. Katherine Brown tapped Henderson to join the Oregon Transportation Commission, effective Oct. 1. He is one of five commissioners responsible for guiding the policy and strategic focus of the Oregon Transportation Department.

“My previous roles in government as the Portland mayor’s chief of staff, the COO of a transit authority, and deputy director of the Portland Bureau of Transportation give me some perspective and knowledge base to do this work,” he said. “I hope to bring that experiential knowledge and thought leadership to support good outcomes for Oregonians.”

Meanwhile, Henderson continues his work with Bird to expand the reach of micromobility vehicles and their promise of greater access to transportation. He noted that Bird is constantly exploring the development of new vehicle innovations, including the potential for adaptive vehicles for people of varying physical abilities.

“From a leadership perspective, I’m in a position to remind folks that this work is really about human beings and how we engage and support each other’s ability to be prosperous and flourish.”

*Since the publication of this story on Dec. 1, the Biden administration has appointed Henderson senior advisor to Secretary Pete Buttigieg at the U.S. Department of Transportation.