By Maria C. Lehman, P.E., ENV SP, F.ASCE

woman smiling at camera
Maria C. Lehman

What are you waiting for? It’s time to go! Civil engineers are the cornerstone of our modern economy, and we hold the keys to our collective future. You can’t have a healthy and equitable economy built on a crumbling infrastructure!

Events of the past couple of years have catapulted ASCE and our members front and center as advocates and leaders of one of the top initiatives on the national public policy stage: the revitalization of our nation’s infrastructure. This is the beginning of a very exciting journey to lead the renewal and enhancement of complex systems of infrastructure that everyone relies on each minute of every day, whether or not they realize it.

A few months ago, in a conversation with ASCE Executive Director Tom Smith, I stated that I wanted to be the cheerleader in chief as well as the disruptor in chief for ASCE. Everything has changed drastically in our home, work, and volunteer lives in the last several years. We need to use the best practices learned in the survival mode of the past several years and apply them now that we are in thrive mode.

Something that has changed in our ASCE lives is how we can meet remotely with our Society colleagues. These meetings have the benefit of allowing members separated by major distances to participate, ensuring that they do not feel isolated. You can listen to a great speaker from another section or branch or even from another country for a small fee and no travel costs while reducing your personal carbon footprint. This also applies to your professional job.

That doesn’t mean we should replace in-person meetings with virtual meetings. We lost members and connectivity during the pandemic, and it will take time to rebuild. We are human beings, and we still need human contact.

So, I see a hybrid model as being the new status quo. We are seeing this model in many businesses and government entities. Entities that we once thought would never make the changes to work remotely are now thriving. We have had a collective business “reboot.”

We literally have a blank sheet of paper to start crafting the civil engineering story of the future. And based on the preparatory work ASCE has been investing in, we are starting from a good place. I believe that what we do in the next five years or so will set the professional trajectory for the next 20-30 years.

Thank you for being an ASCE member and for all you do for the profession. ASCE is an awesome organization because of you. Now I challenge you, step it up! Bring your expertise to make the planet a better place. Volunteer for a committee or at your branch, section, institute, student chapter, or even at the Society level. If you don’t have Future World Vision on your laptop, why not? If you are not an ASCE Key Contact, why not? Run for ASCE office or maybe even public office. The world is run by those who show up and never quit!

I have one specific request for each of you. Please ask one student or young professional to join ASCE and keep in touch with them to help them see how much we can help them in their personal and professional future. ASCE provides technical excellence, builds their power skills, and helps drive important public policy. If we were to deliver on that commitment, all our organizational challenges would be solved.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to lead ASCE for the next year. When I enter a room, I do not see strangers. I see new friends that I have not yet made. I look forward to reconnecting with all my ASCE friends.

I recently heard a wonderful quote from Audrey Hepburn that nails it: “Nothing is impossible; the word itself says I’m possible.”

Please join me on the journey.

This article first appeared in the November/December 2022 issue of Civil Engineering as “Ready, Set, Go!”