Elected Technical Region Director

Portrait of Karen C. Kabbes

Vision statement

I have been fortunate to be involved with ASCE since my student days and with ASCE’s Institutes since the inception of EWRI, building on my activities in ASCE at both the local and national level. I understand how both ASCE and Institutes work and know how to accomplish movement in a positive, participatory fashion throughout the organization. I have great respect for the volunteers that make up ASCE and the Institutes, and the staff, and would like to work to continue to make ASCE and its Institutes recognized world professional leaders in environmentally sound, social just, and sustainable solutions for our communities’ infrastructure and natural resources, now and in the future.

My vision for ASCE is based on two primary goals: One, the desire to see our highly technical profession continue to move ahead in exchanging and advancing technical information to serve our world and the increasing complex challenges of the future; and, two, continuing to improve our ability to connect with people and professionals inside and outside of ASCE, to communicate on issues of importance to their daily lives, their families and their future.

Every day the technical demands of our profession seem to become more complex. Even if not required by licensing boards, many civil engineers recognize the need to continue their education through advanced degrees and continuing education coursework. Explaining the issues surrounding advanced technical concepts that directly affect our clients and the public is one of our primary responsibilities, but is often very challenging. The success of the ASCE Report Card highlights the importance of ASCE in helping its members and civil engineers in communicating to both policy makers and the public on technical issues of importance.

For me, ASCE has always been a place to exchange technical information, find other engineers to work collaboratively on technical issues, and develop lifelong friendships.

One of the best ways of reaching practicing civil engineers across the United States are through the ASCE Section and Branch structure. However, ASCE also plays an important role in the academic world for academic professionals, students and future students. The organization must continue to embrace both communities. In the past, the Institutes and the Sections have existed in almost two different worlds that seldom interacted. Today, the Institutes create much of ASCE’s technical information. While ASCE has evolved, there is still a significant need to help translate the advances of ASCE’s research focused membership to the civil engineering practitioners, for the benefit of all. ASCE’s future depends on continuing to strengthen the relationships between the Institutes and the Sections. Recent moves at the ASCE Board of Direction to advance those relationship is important for all of us.

ASCE is an organization of volunteers, working together for the best of the profession, using their skills and talents to make a better world. I look forward to continue to serve the group with my talents and skills on that path.

Biographical statement


  • B.S., Civil Engineering, University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana
  • M.A.S., Public Policy Analysis, University of Illinois, Chicago

Work experience

  • President, Kabbes Engineering, Inc., 1997-present
  • Executive Director, Fox Waterway Agency, 1992-1997
  • Chief Engineer, Lake County Stormwater Management Commission, 1991-1992
  • Civil Engineer Head, Northeastern Illinois Floodplain Regulatory Unit, Illinois Department of Transportation-Division of Water Resources (now known as Illinois Department of Natural Resources-Office of Water Resources), 1981-1991

ASCE involvement


  • Local Arrangements Chair, ASCE 2021 Convention
  • Co-Chair, EWRI 2021 Congress
  • Civil Engineering Certification, Inc., 2021-present
  • Member, Energy, Environment and Water Policy Committee, 2018-present
  • Corresponding Member, Committee on Preparing the Future Engineer, 2019-present
  • Committee on Sustainability, Task Committee on Sustainability Standard, Executive Committee, 2018-2021
  • Member, Task Committee on Credentialing, 2018-2021
  • Member, Task Committee on Institute Operating Procedures, 2016
  • Member, Committee on Sustainability, 2010-2016
  • Member, Task Committee on Sustainability, Sustainable Infrastructure Rating System, 2009-2011
  • ASCE Representative, Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure, 2012-2014
  • Member, Raise the Bar Review Task Committee, 2016
  • EWRI Governing Board, 2012-2015; President, 2014
  • Technical Region Board of Governors, 2013-2014
  • Chair, EWRI Strategic Plan Committee, 2012-2013
  • Various EWRI Technical and Planning Committees, 1992-present


  • IL Section Treasurer
  • IL Section Board Member
  • IL Section Environmental and Water Resources Technical Group Chair

Other volunteer activities

  • Sunny Beijing Improv Troup, 2018-present
  • Family Services of Lake County, Barrington Chapter President, 2013-2018
  • Village of Barrington, Village Center Redevelopment Committee Chair, 1999-2002
  • St. Anne’s Catholic Church, Teacher, 2005-2013


  • Chi Epsilon, Chapter Honor Member, University of Illinois, 2020
  • American Society of Civil Engineers, Cleveland Section, G. Brooks Earnest Technical Lecture Award, 2018
  • American Society of Civil Engineers, Margaret Peterson Award, 2017
  • American Society of Civil Engineers / Environmental and Water Resources Institute, Lifetime Achievement Award, 2017
  • Fellow, American Society of Civil Engineers, 2016
  • US Minority Contractors Association, Professional Engineer of the Year, 2014
  • American Academy of Water Resources Engineers, Board Certified Water Resources Engineer, 2005
  • Alumni Award of Excellence, Downers Grove North High School, 2003
  • Illinois Society of Professional Engineers Lake County Chapter, Distinguished Service Award, 1996
  • Illinois Association for Floodplain and Stormwater Management, Distinguished Service Award, 1994
  • American Society of Civil Engineers, Illinois Section, Young Government Civil Engineer of the Year Award, 1987