ASCE Annual Conference

November 20, 2008

Last week was the 158th Annual ASCE Conference.  Hundreds of ASCE members met in Pittsburgh to participate in a week of committee meetings, seminars and networking events.  The Annual Conference brings together a diverse group of civil engineers.  I enjoy the opportunity to meet people from around the country who work in all aspects of the civil engineering profession.

The title of this year’s Conference was “Engineering: The Workforce of the Future.”  ASCE recognizes that if the U.S. is to address the challenges of an aging infrastructure, shrinking energy and water resources, and globalization, the profession must act to attract, educate, and train talented new professionals.  Recognizing that the future of the society will have to shoulder these challenges, the Conference provides a lot of activities for Students and Younger Members.

Every year, the Committee for Younger Members plans a day-long leadership symposium during the Annual Conference.  This year’s agenda featured presentations and panel discussions on public speaking, being an entrepreneur, the importance of being politically active, and salary negotiation.  However, the highlight for most younger members is the social program.  On the final night of the conference, we rode a funicular up to Mount Washington, which overlooks the city.   At the top, we found a great view.  The younger member program makes it easy to get to know other younger engineers.

Unfortunately, I had responsibilities that kept me working (for ASCE) throughout the Conference.  On Wednesday, I attended a meeting for the Committee on Younger Members.  I serve as a corresponding member, meaning that I receive the committee notes and assist with its activities, but my travel to meetings is not reimbursed.

I am also the chair of the Committee on Pre-College Outreach.  We held an impromptu meeting on Thursday.  With Committee Members coming from as far as Alaska, it’s important to try to meet whenever a quorum of members is present.   On Friday, I presented my Committee’s work in a seminar track about how engineering outreach is being used to improve kids’ technical literacy and attract future engineers.  For many conference participants, this was their first opportunity to learn about the outreach activities being undertaken around the country.  Younger Members and Students were especially interested in learning more about pre-college outreach.

I learned a lot during the conference and met many interesting people – including Wayne Klotz, the President of ASCE.  The President had some good ideas about invigorating the Society, particularly the idea to establish what he dubbed “the no Wrist-Watch Committee.”  The goal of this committee would be to find out what ASCE Members younger than 30 think the society needs to meet their needs.

The most awkward moment came when discussing politics with a group of Texans who were not as excited as me about the presidential election results.  All was forgiven after buying them a round and stumbling through a couple of line dances.

From political activism to pre-college outreach to networking events, ASCE presents many opportunities for civil engineers to broaden their professional horizons.  The Annual Conference is one event that brings it all together in one place.  Next year’s Conference is in Kansas City.  Attending the Annual Conference is a great way to kick start your participation in ASCE.

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