By Mrs. Jacqueline M. Wilson, EI, A.M. ASCE - KAYA Associates, Inc., Staff Civil-Environmental Engineer
I felt honored to have attended the 2013 National ASCE Conference this year. As a first-time attendee, I came only to personally accept the Daniel W. Mead Prize for Younger Members and present in the "Body of Knowledge Ethical Debate" session. What I didn’t expect was the many other benefits this conference afforded – that it would be an engaging and informative professional experience full of networking opportunities and rich in academic/intellectual forums. To elaborate:
1) Nothing was boring about this conference! In fact, everything – from the key note speakers to conference sessions – was entertaining and enlightening. The location’s atmosphere also felt carefully selected for this purpose. The very first day, as I stepped out of my hotel and into downtown Charlotte, I couldn’t help but stretch my head far back to study the tall buildings encircled about me. And all I could think was “Wow! Civil engineers designed THIS!”
2) I also enjoyed convening with a diverse group of informed people. While I received many benefits from this, two are particularly noteworthy: (1) I learned more about what is happening in our profession on a national and even global scale; and (2) I had the opportunity to network with and receive more information from a large variety of people including students, other younger members, and seasoned engineers.
3) The scheduled ice breaker reception, exhibits, and dining periods were perfect for networking and dialoging about jobs, companies, and conference topics. Moreover, the ASCE Younger Member Leadership did an outstanding job of organizing a “Roundtable” conference session to facilitate this interaction among the younger members.
4) Each part of the program, including the Roundtable, felt like a comfortable opportunity to engage in academic forums. I always felt encouraged to ask the presenters questions or offer suggestions. Additionally, my presentation was set up as an interactive ethical debate with the audience where we could challenge and learn from each other. For me, this was the most valuable aspect of the conference.
Based off my experience, I would definitely encourage other younger members to attend the next annual conference in Panama City, Panama. The event was overall exciting, pertinent, and (as you’ve hopefully seen) an excellent platform to enhance your personal knowledge and career as a young professional civil engineer.