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The Benefits of Younger Member Participation

By Jeremy Chrzan, PE, PTOE, LEED-AP, M.ASCE

When speaking with college students and recent graduates, I’ve often stressed the need to get involved with ASCE. Inevitably, I receive the same general response: “Why should I participate in a Student Chapter or Younger Member Group?  Will it actually benefit my career?”  As I begin my final years as a Younger Member, I’ve been returning to this question for guidance.  How has ASCE actually helped me throughout my 14-years in the profession?
ASCE’s national, regional, local, and student conferences, have allowed me to meet and develop relationships with hundreds of engineers from throughout the country.  These engineering friends and colleagues represent a diverse background of engineering disciplines, and academic and real-world experiences allowing me to build a network of people whom I can rely on for personal, project-related, and career development guidance. These same ASCE members are frequently my partners on engineering projects, allowing us to communicate well and work effectively as a design team. This benefit alone has made ASCE involvement worthwhile, but is that all that ASCE has provided?
Philly YMF Outdoor WEBThrough local involvement with the Philadelphia Younger Member Forum, I’ve had opportunities to plan and attend outreach events for students in third-grade through college.  These events have not only helped to spread the word about ‘What Civil Engineers Do,” but they have also provided me with a comfortable venue to practice public speaking, opportunities to improve time management and task delegation, and an opportunity to understand the mindset of our future engineers.  These are tasks that benefit me both on the YMF board and in my daily professional life.  I encourage you to consider participating in the Future City Competition, or starting a Civil Engineering Club at a local high school, as the Philadelphia YMF has done.  You’ll find that the students are genuinely excited about civil engineering, which will reinvigorate your appreciation of the industry and push you to learn more.  

Philly YMF Outreach WEBI’ve also participated as a judge at the ASCE Mid-Atlantic Concrete Canoe Competition for the last three-years.  Through this participation, I’ve observed student members committing a significant amount of time and energy to a voluntary engineering activity.  It’s through this participation that I’m reassured that our industry will have some of the most intelligent, innovative, and hard-working young engineers rising through our ranks.  The competition allows me to identify talented students before they’ve left school, and to begin to build a relationship with them.  I’ve also begun to notice a trend with the active student members; they’re more frequently attending YMF events and are asking about leadership positions on the YMF board.  Perhaps it’s a sign of the times, but these students have identified that they must do something beyond their school work to set themselves apart from their classmates.  Employers like to see that you’re active in the world of Civil Engineering world, and ASCE can provide that opportunity.
ASCE does a great job of recognizing its members for hard work and dedication, and provides new opportunities to market yourself and your employer.  For example, the website that I designed for the Philadelphia YMF has twice been recognized by ASCE with the “Younger Member Group Website of the Year Award" in the large group category.  The ASCE Philadelphia Section presented me with the 2012 Young Civil Engineer of the Year award, which allowed me to expand my engineering network and has opened doors to new student outreach events.  To thank and acknowledge my employer for their support of ASCE involvement, I was able to submit an Employer Recognition Award application, which was accepted and was presented to Pennoni Associates Inc. in 2011.  

Now as a member of the awards selection committee, I have the opportunity to work with members to review applications for the Daniel W. Mead Prize, the Collingwood Prize, Younger Member Group Awards, and the Edmund Friedman Young Engineer Award (to name a few.)  The winners of these awards are recognized at National and Regional conferences, increasing their prominence throughout the country.  These awardees inspire me to work harder, develop new younger member events, and work to build a more sustainable organization.    

Most importantly, participating in the Younger Member Forum is a lot of fun. From community service to social events and happy hours, we enjoy getting together, talking about our work and home-lives, and learning from each other.  It’s this balance of professional development, community service, organizational management and leadership skills, and good old-fashion fun that makes ASCE appealing to me.  So, in returning to the question of “How will being an active student or YMF member benefit your career,” I contend that ASCE can help with nearly every aspects of your career, while providing an enjoyable format to meet new people and grow as a person.  

 Jeremy Chrzan WEB Jeremy Chrzan is a transportation project engineer for Pennoni Associates Inc. and currently serves as the Philadelphia YMF Past-President, the Philadelphia Section Webmaster, and is beginning a three-year term as the Eastern Geographic Member for the Committee on Younger Members.