The Source Civil Engineering Magazine Realigning ASCE for the future
President's Note

Realigning ASCE for the future

By Kancheepuram N.Gunalan, Ph.D., P.E., D.GE, F.ASCE

photo of K Gunalan

After 168 years of serving civil engineers and the profession, the American Society of Civil Engineers stands at the edge of transformational change. To ensure ASCE’s long-term success, we must now and then assess how we are structured and how we operate. And then ask whether we are poised to meet the challenges of today and those of the future as we envision it. 

The Society represents the collective voice of 150,000 civil engineers worldwide. To satisfy an expanding global practice and emerging technical areas, ASCE needs to be all-encompassing. ASCE Institutes provide members with technical and professional resources in specialty areas. Committees and other activities allow members to share their expertise and develop leadership skills. 

Still, we must remember not to leave any civil engineer behind as the profession strides into its future. 

To fulfill this obligation, the Society has two primary functions: to communicate and engage. In today’s digital era, communication happens at the click of a button. But engagement requires a greater commitment. It can be attending local activities, such as Section and Branch meetings. It can also be larger events at the regional, national, and global levels, such as the annual Convention and Multi-Region Leadership Conferences. 

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, several ASCE events were canceled. The challenges that were created from the pandemic only accelerated the need for innovative solutions. Our pivot to virtual connections proves that digital communication and engagement are not only possible but have been effective and successful.

Virtual events and webinars allow the Society to engage a broader global audience. They also contribute to ASCE’s sustainability objective by reducing our carbon footprint along with the time and cost of participation. But it doesn’t stop there. 

The Task Committee on Committee Realignment is looking at realigning our activities to optimize volunteer time while ensuring meaningful impact on the profession, practice, and community. The Task Committee on Organization Efficiencies is reviewing our structure to break down organizational silos and remove redundancies so that ASCE can be more effective in delivering value to you, our members.

In keeping with my election promise to realign and streamline ASCE, I’ve reviewed the Society’s structure and the various activities undertaken by our volunteer members. I found that these activities can be separated into four primary functions: those that contribute to the growth of individual members, those that contribute to the growth of the profession, those that govern the practice of civil engineering, and those that contribute to the sustainability of the organization. 

Based on this premise, I requested that the Board form task committees to review ASCE’s activities, specifically committee and organizational structure and their efficiencies. The Task Committee on Committee Realignment is looking at realigning our activities to optimize volunteer time while ensuring meaningful impact on the profession, practice, and community. The Task Committee on Organization Efficiencies is reviewing our structure to break down organizational silos and remove redundancies so that ASCE can be more effective in delivering value to you, our members. 

Members play a key role in improving the organization’s flexibility, nimbleness, and responsiveness. As part of the 2020 ASCE election, membership approved newly proposed constitutional amendments. These changes will allow for streamlined administration and more equitable voting rights.

ASCE never stops working to serve as the profession’s beacon of excellence. It’s our hope that you will recognize this and inspire others to join our community. Meanwhile, I ask you to encourage the Board to do its best to guarantee the long-term viability of this great organization so it can continue serving you and future civil engineers. I appreciate your continued support in making ASCE more transparent, diverse, inclusive, nimble, and sustainable.

This column first appeared in the September 2020 issue of Civil Engineering.

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