Orange County Branch Newsletter
My Introduction to the ASCE OC Branch Board
By Cindy Miller, PE
I want to thank everyone for giving me the exciting opportunity to serve as your new ASCE Orange County Branch (ASCE-OC) secretary for this year. This being my first article, I thought that I would share a little about my background and my history with Orange County. Orange County has been my home since 1991, when I moved to Tustin to begin my undergraduate studies in Civil Engineering at UC Irvine. I was born and raised in the Los Angeles suburb of Alhambra, and grew up without having ventured to any great extent into Orange County, except, of course, for my family’s annual visits to Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm. Growing up in the L.A. area, my life revolved around going to places like the Hollywood Bowl, the Los Angeles Arboretum, Huntington Library, and the Farmer’s Market on Fairfax. The Rose Parade was an annual tradition in my house, where we would get front-row seats in the street, just behind the blue line, thanks to my aunt and cousin who would spend the night on Colorado Boulevard guarding our family’s coveted spot. I thought L.A. had it all! My impression of Orange County was set early in my childhood, due primarily to a day trip my family decided to take to a place called Traveland USA, which was located farther south in Orange County than I recall ever venturing before. It was around 1974 or ‘75 and my parents were exploring the possibility of purchasing a used motor home. I recall my dad saying, after driving for over an hour that this place (i.e. Irvine) should be called the boondocks, because it’s out in the middle of nowhere! And at the time, it seemed to me that he was right. From our vantage point, I recall seeing almost no signs of civilization as I knew it, just acres upon acres of farmland, with majestic mountains rising in the background. How funny this seemed to me when I realized many years later after moving to Tustin, that Traveland was literally ten minutes away from where I lived and this place my dad called the boondocks, had transformed into one of the most desirable communities in the United States, thanks in large part to the Orange County civil engineering community!
My experience at UC Irvine was unforgettable, primarily because of the great mentorship I received from so many of my professors, but also because of the deep friendships I forged with many of my classmates that continue to this day. My involvement with UC Irvine was rekindled about ten years ago, when I joined the UC Irvine Civil and Environmental (CEE) Affiliates. The CEE Affiliates is a group of Orange County Civil and Environmental engineering professionals dedicated to provide support and guidance to the CEE Department, its programs, and students. Being involved in this group has given me the opportunity to become re-acquainted with my former professors, as well as get to know new professors and new programs at UC Irvine. But most importantly, it has allowed me to get to know the students and see what a phenomenal talent pool of future civil engineers are being bred right here within Orange County.
After graduation I anticipated going back to Alhambra to begin my career. But luckily fate took me down a different path when I was offered a position at RBF Consulting, where I’ve worked for the past eighteen years, at their office in Irvine. As I’m sure is the case with many new graduates, I started my new career with a lot of self-doubt and trepidation. I felt that although I held a degree, I really didn’t know how to implement what I had learned. Thankfully, one of the first lessons I learned was that we are each other’s greatest resource. The mentorship I received my first few years after college was priceless, and I carry those experiences with me to this day as I try to live up to the high standard that was set for me eighteen years ago.
Unlike my predecessor, I am new to the workings of the ASCE Board, so I look forward to embarking upon this new experience to learn how we can best elevate our collective voice to spearhead the cause of infrastructure improvements within our local communities, state, and nationwide. I participated in the preparation of the Orange County Branch ASCE Report Card in 2005 and 2010, and look forward to working with the Board on the next Report Card. I also have a passion for American history. I especially enjoy learning about larger-than-life civil engineers who are the unsung heroes responsible for transforming the United States into the great country we know today. I hope you’ll indulge me in future articles as I share with you some the stories I’ve learned about American civil engineering heroes from years past. Finally, I want to promote the cause of mentorship among our professional community. It may sound cliché, but if it were not for mentors both in my academic and professional careers, I would not be where I am today. We all, in one way or another, stand on the shoulders of those who came before us, who cared enough to pass on their wisdom so that we could succeed and their hard earned knowledge would live on. I believe that our profession cannot thrive without this succession of knowledge from those of us who practice civil engineering and I look forward to working with Orange County’s ASCE community to promote mentorship in our organization.