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Message from the President

July/August 2010 Volume 35, Number 7/8  

MEMBERSHIP & COMMUNITY

Sharing the Vision Globally

As part of my Society stewardship, I engage in outreach activities. Most of the time, I represent this organization domestically, conversing with members, project owners, policy makers, government leaders, faculty members, consultants, officers in engineering organizations, students, and journalists. But I also travel abroad on behalf of ASCE as part of our outreach efforts to advance civil engineering globally.

As I meet with these people, I usually discuss the The Vision for Civil Engineering in 2025 (click on “Vision 2025” under “Issues & Advocacy” at www.asce.org). If you have been reading my blogs or columns, you will be familiar with this report, a multiyear effort to transform the civil engineering profession at home and around the globe. It states that engineers will be “entrusted by society to create a sustainable world and enhance the global quality of life” and that we will do this by serving “competently, collaboratively, and ethically.” I have found that civil engineers throughout the United States and around the world share our resolve to realize this broad vision. They desire to improve their skills and to work together for a future that is consonant with the principles of sustainable development.

 ASCE’s global efforts date back many decades, and great strides have been made. During his presidency, William P. Henry, P.E., Pres.05.ASCE, began an initiative focused on raising ethical standards worldwide in engineering and construction. “An Engineer’s Charter,” an international agreement developed as part of that initiative, states that the signatories will show no tolerance whatsoever for bribery, fraud, or corruption. Individual engineers and leaders of engineering societies in the United States and in dozens of countries have signed this agreement to demonstrate their commitment to this effort. This broad support is auspicious, for only a global effort can have a significant effect in this area.

Our president-elect, Kathy J. Caldwell, P.E., M.ASCE, recently returned from the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering’s annual conference, which was held June 9–12 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. ASCE representatives attend this conference annually. We also meet regularly with leaders of the United Kingdom’s Institution of Civil Engineers and participate in the World Federation of Engineering Organisations’ meetings. We share publications and ideas with engineers in South Africa, Japan, and Australia, and we work with engineers in Portugal and Spain toward common goals in the areas of education and licensure. Indeed, The Vision for Civil Engineering in 2025 has been published in Spanish. We cosponsor a triennial conference on civil engineering in the Asian region, and I will be speaking at the next one (the Fifth Civil Engineering Conference in the Asian Region), which will be held in Sydney, Australia, in August. The list goes on and on.

In late May a significant event within the global engineering profession took place. After a year of planning, I sat with Tan Qinglian, the president of the China Civil Engineering Society, in his office in Beijing, and we signed an agreement to work together toward achieving the goals set forth in The Vision for Civil Engineering in 2025. In preparation for the meeting, my hosts had translated the relevant documents. (See “China Signs Endorsement of Vision 2025; Leonard Addresses Chinese Students,” page 1, this issue.) The Vision for Civil Engineering in 2025 is finding reflection not only in many of the programs within ASCE but also in countries around the world. But the Chinese are the first to sign a formal agreement embracing it.

In addition to the signing ceremony, I discussed our goals at the 13th China Beijing International High-Tech Expo with an audience of entrepreneurs and government officials. I also visited three universities and talked with professors and students there about our vision. My reception was warm and I was very impressed with their interest and enthusiasm.

While I was in China, a delegation of political leaders from the United States and Europe also was there for discussions. As Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton recently put it, “Virtually every major challenge that we face in the world requires China and the United States to work together.” As the two largest economies in the world, with advanced technologies and growing populations, it is our responsibility to work together and find solutions to these problems. Civil engineers have a role in this effort.

All ASCE members, both domestic and international, benefit from our global reach. Did you know that ASCE has approximately 14,000 members outside the United States, has agreements of cooperation with 72 engineering organizations in 59 countries, and can boast 12 international sections and 19 international groups? Each year ASCE strives to expand its global community because in this “flat earth” era we need to look beyond our borders, forge partnerships, and work together to create a better future for us all.

A few years ago, we created Region 10 to encompass all members outside the United States. Through the efforts of that region’s director, Potenciano A. Leoncio, Jr., P.E., M.ASCE, and its governors, our international members have become increasingly active. For many of them, membership in ASCE is secondary to membership in the engineering society of their home country. But they value the stature and resources of ASCE and are proud to be members.

If we are true to our vision, civil engineers will be working as leaders in creating a future for the globe that embodies the goals of sustainable development. To this end, ASCE is working to develop guidelines and tools that will help us design civil infrastructure in an environmentally responsible way. By the end of the year, we will have a rating system in the area of sustainable infrastructure ready for trial use on our projects. (See “ILC Works to Help Develop Sustainability Rating System,” ASCE News, May 2010, page 1.) This system is based partially on an assessment and awards scheme developed in the United Kingdom for improving environmental stewardship in civil engineering and on the principles expounded in documents developed by the International Federation of Consulting Engineers, or fidic (from Fédération internationale des ingénieurs-conseils). International experience is essential to our effort in this area.

I practice in a medium-size city and focus on projects that are local. But as is the case with many of you, what I do is affected by the globalization of both the economy and the practice of engineering. We use innovations from Europe. Local firms use offshore labor for drafting and detailing. The prices of our steel and concrete are affected by demand for these materials in China and Mexico. Materials and equipment are imported from many places around the world, and project financing often comes from outside our borders. We learn from floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, and failures worldwide. And the engineers working on our projects in many cases grew up and were educated outside the United States. Our world is truly flat, and the projects we undertake are improved because of many of these influences. We practice in a global environment, even if we don’t literally practice globally.

As part of our outreach efforts, we will continue to advance the goals outlined in The Vision for Civil Engineering in 2025, and we will do our utmost to foster collaboration and enhance our influence. As all nations continue to improve their economies and maintain and expand their infrastructure while protecting their citizens and the air, water, and land that support our existence, we will move toward a better global quality of life. And ASCE will play a significant role in all of this.

—Blaine D. Leonard, P.E., D.GE, F.ASCE