The ASCE Board of Direction did nothing short of face down the future of the entire civil engineering profession at its March quarterly meeting in Arlington, VA. The goal is to take the lead in shaping that future, not merely reacting to it.
“Society and the world we work to improve is changing rapidly,” said ASCE President Kristina Swallow, P.E., ENV SP, F.ASCE. “Our role as the Board is to think strategically and engage in discussions that will help identify ways in which we can better ensure civil engineers are prepared to address today’s challenges and, perhaps even more importantly, the challenges of tomorrow.”
The Board engaged in several future-focused discussions and decisions, including:
• The Board voted to move forward with the first phases of the Future World Vision project. Led by ASCE’s Industry Leaders Council, the project will explore and assess an array of future possibilities, then visualize what civil engineers’ role will be in 50 years, so that work toward making that a reality can begin now.
• Kenneth Fridley, Ph.D., F.ASCE, provided the Board with information about the third edition of the Civil Engineering Body of Knowledge, a book developed by ASCE members outlining the knowledge, skills, and attitudes essential for entering into professional practice. ASCE members are encouraged to comment on a draft of the third edition.
• ASCE Distinguished Member Stephen J. Ressler, Ph.D., P.E., gave a presentation, “Sociology of Professions,” defining professions, analyzing the factors that make them strong or weak, and considering the effects of those factors on civil engineering. (ASCE members can watch the entire presentation as a free archived webinar.)
• A panel discussion – Shaping the Future: The Role of the Profession and ASCE – followed, featuring committee chairs and academies, building upon Ressler’s talk.
• Roy Wright, FEMA deputy associate administrator for insurance and mitigation, also led an engaging discussion on resilience and risk mitigation in the wake of last year’s devastating hurricanes and wildfires.
“The discussions at the Board meeting in March were engaging and encouraging,” Swallow said. “I’m looking forward to seeing how our committees will move forward with their programs based on the discussions and to further strategic conversations with the board at our July and October board meetings.”
Raising the Bar
The Board voted to support recommendations from the Raise the Bar Committee to refine the initiative’s strategy to promote increased educational standards for civil engineers practicing professionally.
ASCE will seek to affect change in areas where it has greater control, such as specialty certifications and member-grade requirements, and is exploring the development of a new credentialing system that would recognize fulfillment of the Civil Engineering Body of Knowledge.
The Board adopted a new strategic plan for the Society, culminating more than a year of effort to hone ASCE’s goals and strategies. The six goals are:
1. Civil engineers develop and apply innovative, state-of-the-art practices and technologies.
2. All infrastructure is safe, resilient, and sustainable.
3. ASCE advances the educational and professional standards for civil engineers.
4. The public values civil engineers’ essential role in society.
5. An ever-growing number of civil engineers are members of, and engage in, ASCE.
6. ASCE excels in strategic and operational effectiveness.
Over the last several months, the Board Strategic Advisory Council gathered member comments on the best strategies for accomplishing those goals, including those of attendees at the Multi-Region Leadership Conferences, and from other stakeholders including ASCE Institute members and the Industry Leaders Council.
Based on that feedback, the Board debated possible strategies for each of the six goals and approved more than 40, with five identified as focus strategies. With a strategic plan approved, the focus now turns to implementation.