I believe strongly that ASCE and other professional organizations are what you make of them. The more you get involved, the more benefits you will reap.  A great way to jump start your ASCE involvement is to attend a conference.  The 2011 ASCE Annual Conference is just around the corner; have you made your travel arrangements?

Need another perspective?  Rafael Gomes de Oliveira is a young engineer who realized his goals through persistence and participation in the 2011 Structural Engineering Institute (SEI) Structures Congress.  Hereis Rafael’s story in his own words.

If there is one city in the world where luck really matters, it’s Las Vegas.  Some luck is random and some is earned.  It took a little of both at the 2011 Structures Congress, but I left with the opportunity to land my dream job.

I first learned about the congress through an ASCE email sent the previous January. I was assured that the conference would be a great opportunity to meet structural engineers, watch lectures on current topics, and visit Las Vegas and the Hoover Dam.

Mike O'Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, Hoover Dam Bypass Project

At the time I was studying structural engineering in Texas. So the next step after deciding to attend was to figure out how I would get there. The overall trip expenses including registration, plane tickets, and hotel were around $800. That’s more  than most college students can spend on such a trip. Then it occurred to me, what if I could get my school to pay for it? Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t trying to exploit the university. Perhaps I should phrase that. How would the university benefit from me attending this conference?

I came up with three good reasons to receive my university’s support. First, I would give a presentation to my classmates about what I saw at the conference. Sending me would be almost the same as sending all the civil engineering students. Second, by attending the congress and carrying myself in a very professional manner, I would promote the university. Third, I would meet professional engineers who could eventually come speak to the students at my school about their engineering experiences.

After putting together a proposal that included the costs and purposes of the trip, I looked for the people who could fund it. My search went beyond the civil engineering department. I even emailed the president and the provost of the university and  received a positive response. This  made a big difference in the end. You might be surprised by how willing people are to help if you have an organized plan and good intentions.

I left for Vegas the day before the structures congress was to begin. My efforts started paying off on the plane ride there. I met an engineer who was also attending the congress and who later accepted an invitation to speak at my school. I had already met one of my goals!

Luxor Casino

The three days I spent at the congress were really amazing. The hotel where it was held was nothing short of spectacular. The presentations themselves were very informative and interactive. It surprised me that every time I told someone I was an undergraduate student they would respond that I was the first one they had seen at one of these congresses. I  had expected that many more undergraduate students would be there in order to network and attend the presentations. Their absence helped me to stand out.

In addition to the conference activities, I was able to walk across and tour inside the Hoover Dam and see the Hoover Dam Bypass project. I attended an SEI Young Professionals Committee meeting just as the committee charter was being developed. I [VAC1] explored the Vegas Strip, walking in and out of every casino from Treasure Island to the Luxor. During my visit to Planet Hollywood, Kourtney Kardashian was celebrating her birthday. But more importantly, I received two job offer leads.

One of these opportunities developed into a full time internship in Chicago – it’s pretty much my dream job. I happened upon it by chance. If I had sat at a different table I would have missed my opportunity, but my attendance at the congress wasn’t coincidental. It wasn’t luck that I wrote a funding request proposal. And it wasn’t by chance that I emailed the president of my university to ask for funding.

To land your dream job, all it takes is taking a little initiative, talking to everyone you can, and staying optimistic. Upon returning to school, I presented my experiences to about 60 people. Many of them are planning to attend a professional conference in the next year. After reading this, I hope you will be attending one as well.

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  • It is brilliant idea. I am also planning to ask for my University to pay for my expenses. Can you please post your proposal so that I could have some reference.

    • Avatar Rafael Oliveira

      Hi Misgana. Thank you for the comment. Here is a copy of the proposal:

      Sponsorship Request

      Objective: To acquire financial sponsorship for attending the 2011 Structures Congress in Las Vegas, NV, on April 14-16.

      What is it?

      2011 Structures Congress
      Las Vegas, NV
      April 14-16

      The Structures Congress 2011 consists of 10 concurrent technical tracks that focus on the theme: “Don’t Gamble on your Future – Come to the Structures 2011 Congress.” The Congress will demonstrate what is redefining structural engineering in the areas of bridge and transportation structures, buildings, and advances in research. It will provide an opportunity to exchange ideas with peers and find out how their company has adapted to changes in today’s global economy.

      How will this benefit UT Arlington?

      The Congress will give me an opportunity to learn about the newest trends and topics in Structural Engineering, and to meet important professional contacts.

      In addition, I will be able to represent UT Arlington at the Congress, and show that UTA is committed to helping their students develop their education beyond the classroom.

      After the completion of the Congress, I intend to perform a presentation to the Civil Engineering students/faculty about the highlights of the technical sessions I attended at the Congress. I will also be able to extend an invitation to professional engineers at the Congress to possibly come speak and share their experiences with UTA students on future opportunities.

      While at the Congress, I will abide to UT Arlington’s Student Code of Conduct which states: “All students are expected to obey federal, state and local laws and regulations, the Regents’ Rules and Regulations of The University of Texas System, the rules and regulations of the University, and the orders or instructions issued by an administrative official of the University or the U. T. System in the course of his/her duties, and to observe standards of conduct that are appropriate for an educational institution.”


      Wed, Apr 13, 2011
      08:30 pm – 09:15 pm: Flight from Dallas (DFW) to Las Vegas (LAS)
      09:30 pm: Hotel check in

      Thu, Apr 14, 2011
      08:00 am – 09:30 am: SE Licensure – Sam A. Rihani, P.E., F.ASCE
      10:00 am – 11:30 am: How the Future of Structural Engineering Sees the Future of Structural Engineering – Robert Pekelnicky, P.E., SE., M.ASCE
      12:00 pm – 02:00 pm: Opening Lunch
      02:15 pm – 03:45 pm: Thinking about Engineering – Jon A. Schmidt, P.E., M.ASCE
      04:00 pm – 05:30 pm: Lateral Force Systems – Rafael Sabelli , P.E., S.E., M.ASCE
      06:00 pm – 07:30 pm: Opening Reception

      Fri, Apr 15, 2011
      07:45 am – 08:30 am: Experiences from the Christchurch Earthquakes
      08:30 am – 10:00 am Tall Building Design in Seismic Regions: Design Philosophies & Global Perspectives – Ahmad Abdelrazaq, SE., M.ASCE, Tracy Kijewski-Correa, Ph.D., A.M.ASCE
      10:30 am – 12:00 pm: The 14th Edition AISC Steel Construction Manual – William Thornton, Ph.D., P.E.
      12:00 pm – 01:30 pm: Lunch
      01:30 pm – 03:00 pm: Current and New Technology in the Business of Structural Engineering – Pat McCormick, SE., P.E.
      03:30 pm – 05:00 pm: Comparing the Results of Wind -Tunnel Studies of Unconventionally- Shaped Tall Buildings -Elizabeth C. English, Ph.D., A.M. ASCE
      05:30 pm – 08:00 pm: Reception

      Sat, Apr 16, 2011
      08:30 am – 10:00 am: ASCE 7-10 Snow, Rain and Flood Loads – Don Dusenberry, P.E., F.ASCE
      10:30 am – 12:00 pm: ASCE 7-10 Wind Loads – Ronald Cook, Ph.D., P.E., M.ASCE
      12:00 pm – 01:30 pm: Lunch
      01:30 pm – 03:00 pm: Closing Session
      03:00 pm: Hotel check out
      06:30 pm – 11:00 pm: Flight from Las Vegas (LAS) to Dallas (DFW)

      I would like to give a presentation to the Civil Engineering students and faculty about the highlights of the Congress within two weeks of the end of the Congress.


      Student Registration: $129.00
      Flight Ticket (Round-trip) – $422.00
      Hotel (2 nights): $305.00
      Lunch + Reception: $220.00

      Total: $1076.00

      The Congress Proceedings could be purchased for an additional $100.00.

      I would like to request either full or partial sponsorship for the costs of attending the 2011 Structures Congress.

      The University of Texas at Arlington and its Civil Engineering students/faculty will greatly benefit by sending a student to the 2011 Structures Congress. More information about the Congress can be obtained at http://content.asce.org/conferences/structures2011.

      If possible, please respond by Friday, March 11, 2011. That is the date of the hotel reservation deadline.

      On your response, please include the decision regarding sponsoring my attendance. If yes, please include the financial amount that could be provided. Details regarding the method of providing the sponsorship can be discussed in detail later on.

      I can be reached by email at tyler.durden@fake.aol.com and by phone at 555-555-5555. Please, feel free to contact me with any questions you might have (flight ticket/hotel prices, food costs, etc). I have enclosed my resume for your review.

      Thank you very much.

      Rafael Gomes de Oliveira

      Hope it helps!

  • Good comments

  • Excellent write up. Thank you very much for sharing with us too. Your story is not merely a guide path of attending a professional conference, rather an unique motivation to way out a job to do and categorize an idea about what a forthcoming engineer may dream.

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