Orange County Branch Newsletter

October 2011

Secretary's Column

EWB and ASCE a Match Made in Heaven


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

As your new ASCE Orange County Branch (ASCE-OC) secretary, I am really looking forward to taking on the duties of the position this year.  I am a native of northern California who migrated south in 1993. When I graduated from high school, I wanted to choose a career where I could help people.  Since I can’t stand the sight of blood, I ruled out medical, police, and fire as potential career paths.  Civil Engineering was the field that I felt could help me achieve my goals of having a career where I could help people and also afford to live in southern California (I’m still working on the second one).  I had the pleasure of obtaining both my bachelors (1996) and masters (2002) degrees in Civil Engineering from California State University, Long Beach (CSULB).  I have been hanging my hat in Orange County since 1999. 

My adventures in ASCE started with being involved with the concrete canoe team at CSULB.  Our team didn’t win the canoe competition, but we had a fun time participating in the conference. I recall CSULB’s canoe that year was strong enough to crash into UCLA’s without a scratch to ours, although UCLA wasn’t very happy after losing a fragment of their canoe.   I continued my involvement in ASCE the following year as the president of the student chapter at CSULB, and was introduced to ASCE-OC as a member of the Student Activities Committee.  My passion outside of ASCE is to travel and admire the great engineering achievements around the world such as the Eiffel Tower and Leaning Tower of Pisa. Whenever possible, I also make time for some memorable culinary experiences during my travels.

I have served in various positions in ASCE since graduating from CSULB, and most of the positions were with ASCE-OC.  I plan to share some of those experiences in my articles throughout the year, with each newsletter covering a different position. I received so much fulfillment from each position that I felt I had to give back to ASCE each following year.  This cycle has been continuing over the years since I was a student.  By volunteering in the positions at ASCE-OC I have enjoyed advancing the goals of ASCE-OC and helping the branch venture into new territory.   Some years my participation was simply in helping with one event each year.  I hope by sharing my experiences, our members will be encouraged to become active in ASCE-OC.    

The first position (and actually the last) position I held at ASCE-OC is as the Engineers Without Borders (EWB) liaison.  I chose to start with this position, because it gave me an opportunity to talk about my other passion, which is the EWB Orange County Professional Chapter (EWB-OC).  As I was proceeding with my Civil Engineering career, I felt that something was missing and I was unfulfilled.  That was until I received a notice about the formation of EWB-OC.

There were about six active members at the founding of the EWB-OC and each one of us was given a position on the board and my position became Vice President for External Affairs.  As I was learning more about this new position and the core values of EWB, I saw a lot of correlations to ASCE’s strategic goals.  The shared values include providing safe drinking water, building bridges to connect communities, providing young engineers with leadership skills, and being leaders in sustainable practices.  Soon after taking on the position at the EWB-OC, I approached the ASCE-OC about creating a position where the two organizations can work together.  We developed the EWB liaison position and began our cooperation by having the EWB-OC president speak at the ASCE-OC December meetings each year.  As the programs at EWB-OC in Honduras, El Salvador, and Kenya evolved and eventually became projects, we were able to update ASCE members on the progress of the programs.  This relationship expanded to the ASCE-OC Younger Member Forum (YMF), where ASCE-OC YMF teamed up with EWB-OC on a golf tournament that was able to raise funds for the EWB-OC projects.

Later as EWB-OC developed the Corporate Challenge as their major fundraising event, the ASCE-OC YMF assisted with providing volunteers for the event.  The EWB-OC Corporate Challenge is an event where companies compete against each other in competitions such as an obstacle course, ropes course, dodge ball, and tug-of-war.  If you or your firm is interested in this event, the third annual EWB-OC corporate challenge will be happening on Sunday, October 16th.

Through the position of the EWB liaison the relationship between the two organizations has grown over the last four years.   The president of EWB-OC, Daniel Ramey, will be giving a presentation on the recent assessment trip for the Honduras water project at the December ASCE-OC lunch meeting and I hope you will join us.

As a Board member I plan to maintain and potentially enhance the relationship between the EWB-OC and ASCE-OC.  I also hope to broaden this cooperation with other Civil Engineering organizations.  ASCE-OC has a good relationship with the American Public Works Association (APWA) OC/LA Chapter and has held annual joint meetings for over 10 years.  I plan to work with the rest of the Board to find opportunities to enhance the communications with the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC), Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS), Society of American Military Engineers (SAME), and other Civil Engineering professional organizations.  The relationships with each organization will likely be unique and we will have to find the right fit with each one.  ASCE is planning to help get the word out for the APWA’s upcoming National Conference in Anaheim next year and there may be some opportunities to work together with other organizations as ASCE LA Section celebrates it’s 100-Year Anniversary in 2013. 

While I serve as the ASCE-OC secretary over the next year, I look forward to having the opportunity to speak with Branch members and to get a better idea of what direction they would like to see ASCE-OC go in the coming years.  As we look to the past, hopefully we will get better ideas on how to improve upon what our predecessors have accomplished.  I trust that my articles will be informative, or at least cure that bout of insomnia you are having.

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