July/August 2010 Volume 35, Number 7/8
LEADERSHIP & MANAGEMENT
Blaine D. Leonard, P.E., D.GE, F.ASCE, the Society’s president, traveled to China in May on a unique mission. He was to meet with his Chinese counterpart, Tan Qinglian, the president of the China Civil Engineering Society (cces), to sign a cooperative agreement that will have ASCE and the cces working together to achieve the goals set forth in The Vision for Civil Engineering in 2025 (click on “Vision 2025” under “Issues & Advocacy” at www.asce.org). In addition to participating in the signing, Leonard met with some of China’s political leaders and discussed engineering geared toward sustainable development with students at three of the country’s universities.
The ASCE reports The Vision for Civil Engineering in 2025 (published in 2007) and Achieving the Vision for Civil Engineering in 2025: A Roadmap for the Profession (published in 2009) stem from a conference organized by ASCE and held in 2006. There 60 participants from inside and outside the profession and from various countries thought long and hard about what the world will look like for civil engineering practice in 2025 and what role civil engineers will need to play. From that exercise a vision emerged of civil engineers, as a body of professionals, serving as master planners, designers, and constructors; as stewards of the natural environment; as innovators and integrators of technology; as managers of risk; and as leaders in shaping public policy. Here “master” pertains to both leadership and knowledge.
“We have had a fair amount of interest in Vision 2025, but this is the first international organization or country organization that actually signed an endorsement that says they are going to put this into action,” Leonard tells ASCE News. As the agreement states, “Now therefore be it resolved that the ASCE and the CCES will work collaboratively and encourage their civil engineers to work toward achieving that Vision for the future of the profession.” After the signing, one of the Chinese society’s officers told Leonard that the cces does not want to just discuss matters or have a signature on a piece of paper. As the officer explained, the CCES is intent upon implementing measures that can bring tangible results.
As part of his visit to China, Leonard visited Shanghai Jiao Tong University and Tongji University, both in Shanghai, and Tsinghua University, in Beijing. There he spoke about The Vision for Civil Engineering in 2025, placing emphasis on sustainable development, which Leonard believed “would be of relevance and of interest to them.” More than 60 students and faculty members from the universities listened to Leonard discuss ASCE, its plans for realizing the vision, and engineering in the service of environmental stewardship.
“As we move toward the future, in sustainability and in many other areas, we invite China and all countries to join us,” Leonard stated in his presentations. “As we transform the profession and move toward the vision of 2025, our goal for the future is a collaboration that creates a sustainable world and enhances the global quality of life.... The challenges we have before us today and for the future will not be easy. They will be daunting, they will be hard, and they will measure the best of our abilities. They will challenge us, they will make us better, and they will stretch us. They will provide work and an exciting opportunity to enhance the capability of independent innovation and accelerate the transformation of development.”
Leonard took questions from the students and faculty after his presentations. One student asked what he thought of China’s infrastructure as an outsider. Leonard responded that he had seen evidence of significant growth in China’s infrastructure. He pointed out, however, that with that growth there appeared to be some need for improvement in the area of construction efficiency and waste. He also said that he was struck by the tremendous gridlock of automobiles in Beijing. “We both need to be focusing on public transit systems and facilities in these large cities that will make things easier for the public and be sustainable for the future,” he said.
Another student asked Leonard how civil engineers would address the challenges resulting from continued population growth in 2025. He responded that developing countries would have the opportunity to learn from the mistakes made by developed countries and thus would be able to ensure that new infrastructure, including mixed developments, accorded with the principles of sustainable development. “As civil engineers, we need to use technology to advance our abilities to build and develop sustainably and efficiently,” he said. In his travels Leonard observed that China has already made great strides in attempting to balance the impacts of highway construction. He was struck with the pervasive use of trees along their new highways to absorb sound and help clean the air.
Leonard found the students he met to be bright and eager to learn. “They knew that there were a lot of things that they could learn from the outside because some of us have just been at it longer than they have,” he says. “They want to advance their own society and they know that they need help doing it.”