A Message to Students from ASCE President K.N. Gunalan

K.N. Gunalan’s year as ASCE president certainly has been unique among the annals of Society history. But Gunalan has guided the Society through the COVID-19 pandemic with strength and grace, and, as his presidential term winds down this fall, he shares this Member Voices article – a message of reassurance and resilience to civil engineering students around the world.


I hope and trust that you’ve been safe and healthy and had a reasonably good summer considering the circumstances. I also hope that you have a good plan and are all set for the coming fall semester.

I write to you as your president during these unprecedented times to share a message of hope, encouragement and optimism. I’m sure you have all had very different experiences over the last few months, and I know I cannot understand or appreciate every one of them – but I can say optimistically that “this too will pass.” Be patient and responsible and you can come out of this unscathed, more resilient and successful. Human beings in general are very resilient and will adapt seamlessly.

ASCE President K.N. Gunalan at St. Joseph University in Beirut, Lebanon, during his presidential trip.
ASCE President K.N. Gunalan spoke to a standing-room-only crowd of more than 700 students at St. Joseph University in Beirut, Lebanon, during his presidential trip in February.

As you begin the semester, be encouraged and enthusiastic about the new things you are slated to learn. You know how time passes when you’re having fun, and at the same time, you’re gaining knowledge and insight on how to solve real-life problems. Hopefully, these past few months have opened your eyes to new ways of learning, new ways of looking at the world and new ways of solving challenges that we will face as a society.

You’ve chosen a great field for your career, that of a building profession that helps communities cooperate in enhancing the quality of life. With the world’s population projected to reach 9 billion, opportunities to envision, plan, engineer, design, build and maintain sustainable and resilient infrastructure are going to be abundant.

Bright, innovative engineers like yourself will always be needed. While in school, make sure you develop a strong understanding of the basic principles and learn to use the tools and technology that will enable you to successfully compete in a global society. Collaborate with your peers around the world (easy now using technology), learn about other cultures and practices, and use ASCE to help you develop your leadership skills.

President Gunalan visits the St. Joseph University civil engineering department during presidential trip.
President Gunalan also visited the St. Joseph University civil engineering department during his presidential trip.
2020 presidential trip in included a visit with the civil engineering department at Qatar University.
The 2020 presidential trip in February included Gunalan’s visit with the civil engineering students and dean of engineering and faculty at Qatar University.

ASCE competitions are meant to teach you about working in teams. Take advantage of any opportunity to collaborate and participate, because each one is a learning experience that helps to build not only your resume, but more importantly your personality. While collaborating you will learn to work with all kinds of people with different personalities and communication capabilities. This will enhance your respect for all human beings, your ability to entertain differing opinions, and even your willingness to accept quite a few of them. At the end of the day, your development of an accepting and welcoming personality will be reflected in the people who are ready to work around you or for you under any circumstance. Also be reminded, it is our personal integrity that shines brightest as civil engineers; we are global leaders entrusted with stewardship of both the built and the natural environment. This is critical for a successful career in which you will secure the public’s safety, health and welfare.

I feel very good about your future and wish you only the best in the coming months. Stay safe, healthy and on course. I’m equally optimistic that you are bound for greatness.

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  1. Great thoughts Guna! Looks like an awesome trip and opportunity to foster global relationships within the ASCE community. Thanks for your efforts and leadership in the society!

    Rick Campagna


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