ASCE realigns student conferences, enhances student experience

ASCE’s student conferences will have a new look next spring – a “reimagining” to use the term favored by Scott Schiff, chair of ASCE’s Committee on Student Conferences and Competitions.

In a strategic decision more than two years in the making, ASCE has realigned the conferences to better fit with the Society’s geographic region boundaries, creating a more integrated, consistent, and valuable student experience.

“The more we can leverage ASCE resources and volunteers for these student conferences, the better it will be for the students as they look to grow their careers and their networks,” said Schiff, Ph.D., M.ASCE, a professor and undergraduate program director in the civil engineering department at Kansas State University who has helped lead the ASCE team developing this new student conference model over the last year.

The student conferences have long been a staple of the ASCE calendar, convening student chapters for weekend-long programs of competition, professional development, and networking. The new model takes the positive aspects of the previous conferences and streamlines them, makes them more consistent and repeatable across the country, and – most crucially – better connects them to the ASCE volunteer community.

Beginning in 2022, instead of a student conference potentially including schools from three different ASCE geographic regions with the region leadership often disconnected from the planning and hosting of the event, the new student conferences are aligned specifically with those geographic regions in mind. Schools will play host on a rotating schedule, just as before, but now they will have far more support and participation from ASCE region leadership and section, branch, institute, and younger member groups.

Region Champion Support teams include the region director, region governors, section, branch, and younger member group leaders, along with a representative from the Committee on Student Conferences and Competitions or the Committee on Student Members, will form each year to support the student conference hosts, making it easier to identify volunteers, sponsors, and competition judges for the events, while forging stronger connections between students and local ASCE members.

“A lot of students graduating now have visions of changing the world,” Schiff said. “Well, you change the world by being a leader. And by connecting students to our ASCE leadership at these student conferences, it allows the students to envision themselves in that position.”

ASCE’s Board of Direction last October approved the proposal for student conference realignment, giving the geographic region boards of governors final say over the specifics. The Committee on Student Conferences and Competitions then worked with student chapters, region leadership, and other stakeholders to develop the new conference plan.

Next steps include identifying host schools for each 2022 event, naming the new student conferences, and hosting an inaugural business meeting for each conference later this spring.

“This is not the end. It’s the beginning,” Schiff said. “The real work is ahead of us, as we help provide the structure and tools to grow these student conferences.

“It’s a great opportunity. I think we’re really just getting started.”

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