Board Heads into 2017 More Diverse; Calls for Broader Look at Raise the Bar Strategy

With diversity a key theme at the ASCE 2016 Convention in Portland, OR, it was fitting that the Board of Direction meeting, at the outset of Convention week, welcomed the most diverse Board in Society history.

The Board’s fall meeting marked the final gathering of the outgoing 2016 members whose terms expire this year, and an unofficial first meeting of incoming 2017 Board members who were there to observe. When the new members were sworn in at the annual business meeting during the Convention, Friday, the Board will include six women, led by 2017 President Norma Jean Mattei, Ph.D., P.E., F.SEI, F.ASCE and President-Elect Kristina Swallow, P.E., ENV SP, F.ASCE.

“I believe we’re going to be 30 percent women,” said Swallow. “I’m excited about it for the leadership of the organization. We’re going to have different perspectives and different questions and different solutions as a result. I’m also excited about it for the future of the profession that we have women who can be looked up to.”

The outgoing 2016 members completed their terms with a busy meeting, including votes to approve a new policy on unmanned aircraft systems and new approaches for the Raise the Bar initiative. The Board also received reports on the forthcoming Dream Big film, the new online platform for ASCE 7-16 on Minimum Design Loads for Buildings and Other Structures, and plans for the first-ever ASCE Technical Congress, among other business.

Momentum building for 2017

Based on reports to the Board, 2017 is shaping up as an exciting one for ASCE.

• Filmmaker Greg MacGillivray updated the Board on Dream Big: Engineering Our World, ASCE’s giant-screen film under his direction that is set to premiere in February

• Members of the ASCE publications team demonstrated the new online version of ASCE 7-16 on Minimum Design Loads for Buildings and Other Structures, which will for the first time allow members to access ASCE’s signature standard in a user-friendly, interactive format when it is released in early 2017

• The Committee on Technical Advancement outlined plans for ASCE’s first Technical Congress – an opportunity for various division specialty conferences to convene for a united event – for 2017

Valuing drones

With unmanned aircraft systems – or “drones” – becoming more and more important as tools of innovative civil engineering, ASCE now has a policy statement encouraging their safe and legal use. The Board approved a new statement supporting the “safe and responsible use of UAS in compliance with federal, state and local regulations, laws and ordinances in the planning, design, construction and inspection of civil engineering infrastructure projects,” so long as they are not “used where they are incompatible with the environment.”

Raise the Bar strategy

The recently appointed Raise the Bar Review Task Committee presented its recommendations as the Society continues to identify ways to achieve its commitment to increasing the educational requirements of future civil engineers for entry into professional practice.

A greater breadth and depth of education in a more complex future will allow future civil engineers to better advance the public health, safety, and welfare.

Specific recommendations include gathering more data, researching additional background, and exploring additional tactics to better reach that goal and in the process make the concept of raising the educational bar more universally accepted. The areas for future exploration and action include:

• To better define the problem, look further into the evidence pointing to the need for additional education for future civil engineers

• Focus ASCE’s Raise the Bar efforts solely on civil engineering

• Consider differing educational requirements for engineers in different civil disciplines. For example, should structural, geotechnical, and environmental engineers have the same educational requirements as engineers involved in land development?

• Recognizing the necessity for broad skills when leading project teams, consider accepting advanced degrees in other areas as valuable additions to civil engineering skills and potentially counting toward meeting licensure requirements

• Assess how the civil engineering body of knowledge can be further refined to better serve as the outcomes-based “bar” for what knowledge, skills, and attitudes are required to enter professional practice

• Consider whether the professional engineer license could be an entry-level qualification followed by specialty licenses in specific disciplines

• Explore the possibility of making the PE exam more rigorous so that more advanced education will be required to pass it

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