Orange County Branch Newsletter

November 2011

Secretary's Column

Students are Our Future

By Gary Gilbert, P.E., G.E.

In this article I am going to share my experiences, and hopefully show the impacts that ASCE has on civil engineering students.  I joined ASCE as a student so I could be co-lead for the canoe team at Cal State Long Beach.   One of the responsibilities as co-lead for the canoe team was to participate in general meetings.  During the general meetings we had the opportunity to see presentations from local civil engineering companies, and this was my first exposure to what a real civil engineer does.  Since the major employer in Long Beach is the port, we saw many presentations on projects in the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles.  The presentations by engineering professionals helped give me direction on what to pursue as I was nearing graduation.  In my last year at Cal State Long Beach, I had the opportunity to be the president of the Cal State Long Beach student chapter.  As president of the student chapter I was encouraged to participate in Orange County Branch activities and met members of the civil engineering community.  It was surprising how welcomed students were when we attended Orange County Branch general meetings.  Some of the relationships that I developed as a student continue to this day.  My experience at Cal State Long Beach interacting with professionals was rewarding and I decided to stay active in ASCE. 

After I graduated college, I realized the impact the participation of professionals in student activities had on the students and I wanted to help the future students.  My first opportunity to help students was to become involved in the ASCE Orange County branch right after graduation as practitioner advisor for Cal State Long Beach.  With this position I felt like I quickly became a parental figure.  The journey as a practitioner advisor was a bit of a roller coaster, but very rewarding.  The main duty of the practitioner advisor was to make contact with the student chapter on about a monthly basis.  Since I was going to Cal State Long Beach for my Masters in Civil Engineering, I was able to drop by and see how the student chapter was doing. I could tell by the students’ responses that showing up to meetings or leaving a voicemail did help encourage them to achieve more.   The students would exceed my expectations at times at regional conferences, winning scholarships, or other student activities. 

Eventually, I decided to take on a new position at the Orange County Branch, which was the Student Activities Chair.  This position oversees the student chapters at Cal State Long Beach, Cal State Fullerton, and UC Irvine.  As part of my duties, I gave presentations at each school once or twice during the school year.   Years afterwards, past students would approach me at other ASCE events.  Having already met me at their school was a nice icebreaker for the students and they felt more comfortable attending the meetings.  To encourage more students to participate in the Orange County Branch events, I continue to return to Cal State Long Beach, Cal State Fullerton, and UC Irvine to give presentations so they could find a familiar face in the crowd.   Over the years, leaders of the Student Activity Committee have found a partner in the Younger Member Forum to create a path for students to follow after they graduate.  

One of my focuses when I later joined the Younger Member Forum was to strengthen the bridge between student chapters and the Orange County Branch.  I introduced the Younger Member Forum members to the student chapters and we gave presentations on life after college.  Over time, the Younger Member Forum has increased the interaction with the graduating students.  The recent graduates have become increasingly involved with ASCE and feel more comfortable attend the Orange County Branch events.  Despite these efforts, a majority of students members do not continue as professional members.  Hopefully getting experienced professionals to present to student chapters will help increase the amount of students who continue in ASCE as professional members and enhance the Orange County Branch.

As the new secretary of the Orange County Branch, I would like to increase the interaction with experienced professionals and the student chapters.  Like my experience, students are looking for a little guidance on what they should do after graduation.  I hope that some of the Orange County Branch members at the November History and Heritage/Student Night dinner will approach the student chapters and see about speaking to their student chapters.  I am continuing my involvement with the student chapter at Long Beach by giving a presentation in November. 

On a different note, you may notice that we do not have Leadership or a Corporate Spotlight articles this month.  Regarding the Leadership article, Steve Kaye, who wrote the articles in the past, stopped writing about leadership and has literally gone fishing.  We don’t want to just rerun the previous Leadership articles or print something that is not useful to our members, so we have temporarily discontinued this article.  We are diligently looking for new sources for the Leadership article and would welcome suggestions from our members.  For the Corporate Spotlight article, we are continuing the articles as we receive submittals from our members.  The Orange County Branch is contacting local companies for submittals and feel  free to contact me if you are interested in submitting your company for a future article.

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