I have been a member of ASCE for twelve years now, and I often wonder how I got here. I wanted to elaborate on my story to give a comprehensive view of my level of involvement with ASCE and why I’ve stayed involved. I have served leadership roles in a Student Chapter, a Younger Member Group, a Professional Branch, and a national committee. But why, you may ask, do I spend all of my free time on this stuff? By wearing so many hats, I have seen the direct benefits to investing my time in ASCE.
As a Student Member, participating in the steel bridge and concrete canoe competitions taught me a lot about how to practically apply the skills I learned in the classroom. I finally moved beyond mundane calculations to solving a defined problem with the freedom to make engineering decisions. Moreover, I got a lot of practice working with other people (even with some I didn’t like much) and I had my first exposure to writing a technical paper and delivering a professional presentation. Check out my story about the Nevada Concrete Canoe Team to read more about my presentation experience. I also made so many friends as an undergraduate that I’m still in contact with today.
After I moved into the professional world, I really grasped the importance of everything I learned as a Student Member. I was asked to give a technical presentation at a major conference, which required me to stay within a certain time limit. I wrote a proposal for federal grant funding that had to adhere to very specific formatting requirements (just like the concrete canoe design paper). I also worked with teams of students and engineers that needed to operate as a cohesive unit but didn’t necessarily get along well 100% of the time. Seeing the application of what I learned just by being involved with ASCE made me want to let others achieve the same results.
In 2009 I became the Practitioner Advisor of the ASCE Student Chapter at the University of Nevada, Reno. I was very excited about assisting students with the same problems I faced while I was in their shoes. I have been involved with them ever since and it’s one of the most rewarding things I do with ASCE. I have the opportunity to mentor students and watch them grow into stronger people before graduating college.
Next, I was asked to sit on the Truckee Meadows Branch Board of Directors from 2012-2015 and saw a whole new level of ASCE and the potential benefits of the organization beyond being a Student Member. During that time, I served as president of the Younger Member Group (for two years) and every major position at the Branch level (Secretary, Treasurer, President-Elect, and President). I learned to effectively manage a budget, how to recruit people to participate in a volunteer organization, and what it means to be a leader. I have also experienced how networking with people in the local community can present opportunities that I otherwise never would have encountered.
Currently, I sit on the Committee on Younger Members and I continue to build on all of the skills I’ve acquired by being a part of ASCE. I now am responsible for planning national events put on by the society and I get to participate in leadership training workshops and legislative affairs. Last winter I was even asked to give a presentation to 200 engineers at one of ASCE’s largest conferences!
After sitting back and thinking about all of these things, places I’ve traveled, people I’ve met, and members I’ve helped, I couldn’t imagine a better use of my free time. I truly think I’m a more skilled and resilient person after devoting 12 years of my life to a volunteer organization. However, I think you only get as much out of any activity as you put into it. So if you’re looking for a way to get more out of your experience with ASCE, please leave a comment below and I will find out how we can make it happen!