Board building crucial Society-wide cohesiveness, collaboration

While the past year has revealed the marvels of technology’s ability to keep people connected around the world, the virtual workplace has also reaffirmed the necessity of coordination and communication.

The ASCE Board of Direction at its quarterly meeting (yes, held virtually), April 30 and May 1, continued its efforts to further enhance the Society’s cohesiveness – from collaboration among the institutes and geographic regions to better integration of student members.

“We are a very big team,” said ASCE President Jean-Louis Briaud, Ph.D., P.E., D.GE, Dist.M.ASCE. “Teams work better when everyone contributes and participates. Big teams require a bit of help to make sure communications and coordination take place.

“This is why it is important and very impactful to increase communication and coordination. This also tends to lift everyone’s spirits, which I think is needed these days.”

To that end, the Task Committee on Institute Operating Procedures presented the board with an interim report detailing potential strategies for increased Society-wide collaboration as well as recruiting and retaining ASCE members – all based on interviews with institute presidents, geographic region directors, and technical region directors. The task committee will bring a final report to October’s board meeting.

The Board Strategic Advisory Council presented its revised dashboard, a sleek, color-coded means of easily tracking progress on the board’s 10 priority strategies – another vital tool toward improved cohesiveness.

Meanwhile, the Student Presidential Group continues to thrive. Chair Matthew Jacobson, EIT, S.M.ASCE, highlighted the group’s recent work, including efforts to connect student chapters and link students with their local section, branch, institute, and younger member groups.

The SPG’s integrative work has gone so well, the model has expanded to include a region-institute presidential group that also meets regularly with Briaud.

“The success of our Student Presidential Group has surpassed all my expectations,” Briaud said. “So I thought that extending this to the regions and institutes would make sense as well, and I have not been disappointed.”

To certify or not to certify

ASCE held a client summit Feb. 26 to help inform the Society’s plans for its Civil Engineering Certification program. Specifically, the summit’s organizing committee sought to better understand what knowledge and skills agencies and owners are looking for in their hires, and how ASCE can help those agencies and owners better prepare or identify civil engineers that meet those needs.

The report from that summit – presented during the board meeting – indicated that while clients do face certain challenges finding and identifying qualified engineers, it’s unclear whether or not they view certification as the best solution to that problem.

“Certification is an important topic without a clear solution at this time,” Briaud said. “The board had an open and frank discussion in light of the additional information provided by the recent client summit.”

The board voted to create a new task committee that will further explore the potential market for a certification program and return with a progress report this fall and final recommendations next spring.

“There are different opinions, and both the mission-driven approach and the market-driven approach are being considered,” Briaud said. “My hope is that this will be the last such task committee and that soon the board will be ready to make a clear decision on our role in certification for years to come with a complete commitment of all ASCE entities.”

Report card success

Kristina Swallow, P.E., Pres.18.ASCE, chair of the Committee on America’s Infrastructure, updated the board on what has been a very successful cycle for the ASCE Report Card on America’s Infrastructure.

ASCE released the 2021 report card March 3 with a media conference and solutions summit that featured U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, among other elected officials and decisionmakers.

As a means of spreading the word about America’s infrastructure investment needs, it’s difficult to imagine a better messenger. The report card has generated more than 550 print/online placements with more than 532 million impressions; more than 1,000 broadcast features with nearly 8 million viewers; and 27 radio interviews with a reach of 3.6 million listener impressions, according to Swallow’s report.

“The report card places ASCE at the national table for the infrastructure discussion,” Briaud said. “I believe that there is consensus in our government that infrastructure renewal needs to be addressed. We have heard that from many new administrations before, but I think this time is different. Many of the stars are lined up, and this gives us the best chance to see something significant happen in the near future.”

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