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Glenn Bell on Serving as SEI President FY20

Monday, September 16, 2019

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Structural Engineering is the greatest profession on the planet. The work is challenging and meaningful, we serve society in critically important ways, our members are of outstanding caliber and integrity, and we have fantastic professional organizations like ASCE/SEI to propel us forward.

My career to date has encompassed 45 years at Simpson Gumpertz & Heger Inc., 24 of them as its CEO and/or Board Chair. The work has been fascinating, has stretched me in directions I never expected, and has offered a secure and comfortable means of living.  My colleagues are exceptional individuals.

While I have long been involved in ASCE and SEI, some years ago I decided that when I gave up my CEO hat and had more time as I transitioned toward retirement, I would give back to this great profession by stepping up my professional leadership. A pivotal event for me was a closing keynote address I delivered at Structures Congress 2012 entitled "Developing the Next Generation of Structural Engineers." The theme resonated with many in the audience, and opportunities started to flow over the transom. Within a few years I found myself on the board of the SEI Futures Fund, was a founding ExCom member of the new SEI Global Activities Division, and joined the SEI Board of Governors. I also was drawn into the Institution of Structural Engineers in the UK, where I currently serve as a Board Trustee. SEI and IStructE have formed a great collaboration; we will hold our first international structural engineering conference in Dubai at the end of September. An unexpected bonus of these commitments is that I've developed a network of close professional friends around the globe. When the invitation came to stand for the position of SEI President I didn't hesitate.

My goal as SEI President will be to help continue our work to prepare structural engineers and the structural engineering profession for a vibrant and sustainable future. Collectively we have done great work since publication of the "SEI Vision" document in 2013. Most notably we have made great advances in adoption of performance-based design, globalization, and collaboration with like-minded professional organizations. But there is so much more to be done. We live and work in turbulent times where the pace of change brought on by technological, societal, political, and economic influences is staggering. While we may find these changes unsettling, I think we live in the most exciting time ever for the future of structural engineering because society will need highly qualified and creative structural engineers to meet its future challenges. To secure this opportunity we must simultaneously develop a new breed of structural engineers while elevating our profession to play more impactful roles.

In advancing structural engineers and structural engineering these are particular topics I am passionate about:

  • Young Professionals: I am tremendously inspired by the creativity, energy, and brilliance of our youth. The role of we "more mature" of the SEI leaders should be to unleash and enable that youthful talent and ambition.
  • Reform of Structural Engineering Education: We have long recognized that to excel in the future we need a need structural engineering leaders that are more creative, communicative, and collaborative. This requires a revolution in SE education.
  • Bringing Together Practice, Education, and Research: If we are to have a truly innovative, dynamic, and responsive profession where new materials, structural systems, and processes are brought to practice more quickly we need an integrated relationship between practitioners, teachers, and researchers.
  • Collaboration with Like-Minded Organizations: We in SEI cannot accomplish what we need to in a vacuum. The AEC industry is huge and siloed.  There is a whole world out there that we must embrace.

I am grateful for the opportunity to serve as your President. In the next year I am committed to engaging with as many of our members as possible through travel and physical meetings as well as though all virtual channels available. Please get involved in an SEI Chapter or Committee effort. There is much work to be done and many opportunities.