ASCE Student Mentoring
by Steve Miller, P.E., Membership Committee
The intent of this program is to provide ASCE student members direct, personal contact with a practicing, professional civil engineer. Through this direct and repeated contact, a one-on-one mentoring relationship is established. This relationship benefits the student, the mentor, and ASCE by bringing together the three key elements necessary for developing the future of the civil engineering profession.
The following are the main benefits the student receives from participating in this mentoring program:
Develop a trusted professional contact while in school.
- Have a professional civil engineer as a role model.
- Receive career guidance.
- Have a potential job source.
- Learn the value of ASCE.
- Gain networking opportunities.
- Be introduced to the engineering profession.
Exposing students to the "real world" of civil engineering will help develop a quality group of future civil engineers. By bridging the gap between Student Chapter activities and Section/Branch activities, this program helps keep students involved in ASCE after graduation.
Mentoring Activities Regular contact needs to occur between the mentor and student in order for the mentoring relationship to be successful. As a minimum, the student and mentor should be in contact at least once a month when school is in session. This contact may be a simple telephone call or e-mail message, but it should consist of more direct involvement such as attending local ASCE meetings together. The following are suggested mentoring activities; of course, there is no limit to the number and type of activities.
- Have the student visit the mentor's firm or construction site to experience the work environment.
- Attend Section/Branch ASCE meetings together. The mentor can introduce the student to other practicing professionals so he/she can build a network of professional contacts. The mentor can speak about a project of his/hers at a Student Chapter meeting. The mentor can also mentor other ASCE student activities, such as the concrete canoe and steel bridge competitions.
- Mentor the student's senior design project or other course projects.
- Be a guidance counselor and friend to assist the student in making decisions about his/her civil engineering career.
The Section/Branch can promote mentoring activities by designating one of their meetings as a special mentoring meeting. At this meeting, the mentors and students should be recognized and other members should be encouraged to participate. The exposure to the civil engineering profession that the student receives through a mentoring program is an invaluable asset to the development of that student's civil engineering career.
The mentoring relationship is not one-sided where the mentor does all the giving and the student all the receiving. The mentor also benefits greatly from the experience.
- The mentor gains insight into the world of the student and his/her expectations of civil engineering.
- Mentoring is a chance to give something back.
- Mentoring is a chance to share past experiences.
- Mentoring helps the professional civil engineer stay in touch with the educational system.
- Mentoring enables the professional civil engineer to gain a better understanding of how future civil engineers view ASCE and the civil engineering profession.
The knowledge the practicing civil engineer gains through mentoring college students is invaluable when interacting with young engineers fresh out of college.
Getting a mentoring program going is a direct and simple process. Mentoring is one-on-one and is best left with an informal, unstructured approach. Starting the program is as simple as having the faculty advisor take the names of students who are interested in having a mentor and what specialty area of civil engineering they are interested in. Give the list to the local Section/Branch of ASCE, who will then locate mentors through personal telephone calls, newsletters, announcements at meetings, etc. Better yet, have the students take the initiative and call local engineering firms to seek out a mentor. The faculty advisor could also contact past students who work in the area. Professionals may have a strong desire to mentor a student from the same engineering school from which they graduated. This way, they fulfill responsibilities to ASCE, their profession, and their alma mater.
Once the initial contact is made, it is up to the mentor and student to build a relationship and maintain it. The faculty advisor or Section/Branch should follow up yearly on the program to keep track of participants and to realize the successes and failures of the program. Every mentoring relationship is unique and a good mentor/student match will produce great results.