Mark W. Woodson, P.E., L.S., D.WRE, F.ASCE
To say ASCE is a big part of my life is an understatement. In fact, my wife Lupe says she should have included a line about ASCE in our wedding vows since membership in this storied organization is truly a family affair.
While ASCE has been a part of our life since we got married over 33 years ago, my affinity for engineering began long before then. You see, my father was an engineer and a builder, back when you didn’t need a college degree to do what you wanted to do, or be what you wanted to be. He learned the ropes of surveying and drafting by joining the U.S. Forest Service after high school, and later worked on the Pan American Highway in Costa Rica with the U.S. Bureau of Public Roads. When Dad returned to the United States, he married my mom and started a family and eventually moved to Phoenix, Arizona. He signed on with the city’s engineering department and enjoyed a fulfilling career there.
Throughout his career, my dad was fortunate to have good mentors, and he in turn became a good mentor to me. I’m proud I followed in Dad’s footsteps, and equally proud to have been a member of ASCE for more than 30 years.
ASCE has allowed me to make friends all over the world. I’ve had the pleasure of serving at the Branch, Section and National levels; at the Technical level on the T&DI Board; and as Chair of Strategic Planning, working to keep ASCE’s primary strategies front-and-center while keeping important new initiatives on our radar. I’ve become a better engineer and leader because of my involvement with this incredible group of leaders, and now I’m ready to step up and lead ASCE as President-elect during this transformative time in our organization’s history.
There are three primary strategies we must continue to pursue going forward in order to sustain and expand ASCE’s impact across the globe. We must raise the bar for our profession; ensure our global infrastructure keeps pace with growth; and focus not only on the sustainability of our infrastructure, but the resiliency of it, too.
Raising the Bar: Nowadays, engineers have many opportunities to continue their education beyond college. Whatever course you choose, the importance of staying current and broadening your knowledge in this fast-paced world of technology is paramount. As such, providing opportunities for continuing education, professional development, and personal growth should continue to be primary goals for ASCE.
I recently raised the bar for myself by becoming an “elected” official, and I urge you to consider similar advancements for yourselves because I’ve seen first-hand how effective it can be when you have a seat at the political table.
For most of my career, I’ve worked with governmental bodies as a consultant, City Engineer, and Public Works Director. And although my work was instrumental in gaining funding and approval for various types of projects, I never had the final say when it came time to making decisions that affected our work as engineers. Not until I was appointed to the Flagstaff City Council in 2012 did I fully realize where the real decisions are made. Now I am part of a governing body that has the final say on decisions, that impact my community, and particularly as they pertain to infrastructure.
This experience has taught me that we all need to have a stronger voice in order to be heard. We all need to get a better “seat at the table”. We all need to look at our profession, examine our shared strategies and goals, and then channel our collective thinking, reasoning and influence together as one unified body so we can achieve our mission together. By raising the bar for ourselves as individual members, we can collectively influence decisions at a higher level while ensuring ASCE remains non-partisan as an organization.
Infrastructure: We’ve made great strides with infrastructure, and ASCE is recognized as the leading source of information for national and local officials when it comes to infrastructure and funding. With a backlog of $2 trillion in infrastructure repairs in the U.S. alone, we need to ensure our infrastructure keeps pace with growth. And since infrastructure is the backbone of the economy, we must ensure government officials and the public understand the benefits of sound infrastructure, locally and globally.
Sustainability: The Envision rating system has made it possible to help stakeholders plan, develop, build and operate a measurably sustainable system of infrastructure. However, sustainability alone is not enough. We must also consider our infrastructure’s future resiliency, and plan accordingly so our infrastructure is prepared to weather the storm when disasters like Hurricane Sandy strike.
While we’re on the subject of sustainability, I want to talk about the sustainability of ASCE itself. We must continue providing benefits and services in order to retain valued members while encouraging others – especially younger generations of engineers – to join ASCE and get involved.
Diversity and Technology: These two issues go hand-in-hand. Thanks to technology, we can now provide international members with the same services, benefits and opportunities that we’ve long enjoyed through ASCE domestically. As we look toward the future, we must think globally in our continued support of a more diverse membership and active participation with Younger Members and Students. We must leverage technology to build a face-to-face rapport with our multi-generational and international colleagues, and we must continue to incorporate social media into our communications strategy.
Like many ASCE members, I’m hooked on the organization. I find this time of transformation and technology not only exciting, but necessary for our organization’s growth and sustainability. My passion for engineering and for ASCE’s place in the world grows stronger every year. I would be honored to serve you as President-elect and eventually President, and I would continue working hard to accomplish great things for our members, our society, and our growing community of engineers around the globe.
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