Sunday, November 8, 2009

ASCE Annual Conference

Posted by Will it stand? at 4:25 AM
This year’s ASCE Annual Convention was held in Kansas City. The event provided an excellent opportunity to network with industry leaders, learn about the direction of the profession and learn new skills for improving your business acumen. My favorite part of the conference was meeting old friends from previous ASCE commitments.

The formal conference began with several inspirational speeches. Outgoing ASCE President, Wayne Klotz, declared, “modern society cannot exist without infrastructure.” He urged the incoming leadership and all in attendance to embrace the ABCs of ASCE: advocate for, believe in and commit to advancing the profession and protecting the nation’s infrastructure. The importance of advocacy was driven home by Jim Suttle, professional engineer and mayor Omaha. In short, we all lose when engineers shy away from advocacy and the public debate.

Klotz Opening

Throughout the conference many sessions were offered to promote the profession through better management practices. These included: Negotiating Better Engineering Contracts, Maximizing Your Bottom Line - Flexible Work Arrangements, The Economic Crisis - Leveraging Infrastructure Development for Recovery, Making the Most of Generational Differences, and more. Technical tracks on sustainability and Building Information Modeling were also among the conference offerings. Students and Younger members also attended symposiums specifically tailored to their interests. There was something for everyone.

Ben Stein was the final speaker at the conference. Far from the monotone sleep inducing lectures attended by the Wonder Years’ kids, his talk was very entertaining. He woke everyone up by starting, “I like you guys because your job’s not B.S.” As opposed to the entertainers with which he frequently works, he expressed thanks that engineers work “real jobs with exactitude.” The connection between his various stories and civil engineering was subtle but important. People from all walks of life are seeking answers to the complex questions of our day. Engineers are viewed as an elite team of problem solvers with the education and creativity to solve these problems. It is a lofty charge but one we can achieve if we accept this vision for the profession.

Sunday was perhaps the most fun day of the trip. Traditionally, a service day is planned following the conclusion of the conference. This year ASCE members volunteered to make improvements to the Heartland Therapeutic Riding Ranch. This facility provides equine-assisted therapy to children and adults with disabilities through human interaction with horses. The day’s events also included outreach activities that introduced engineering principles to over 50 local children.

In addition to the typical conference events, I was busy working behind the scenes on many tasks. On the Wednesday before the conference, I attended the Committee on Younger Members meeting. There, I learned about proposed changes to the organization to adapt to the needs of upcoming generations of engineers. I also met with members of ASCE’s media relations staff to discuss the blog I write for Student and Younger members, http://blogs.asce.org/bridgingthegap/. The Committee on Pre-College Outreach, which I chair, also met informally. We brainstormed some good new ideas and sought to gain support immediately by fanning out into the afternoon ice breaker reception and talking with ASCE leaders. Friday night, I had dinner with the editor of the Journal of Leadership and Management in Engineering. He asked me to contribute a column to their next edition. What a week!

Seattle YMF
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