American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Student Chapter Recognized for Phenomenal Growth

May 18,2020

In less than two years, the student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) more than tripled its membership, (from 11 registered members to 57) taking the group to a higher level of engagement and professionalism than ever before. Not surprisingly, ASCE’s exponential evolution was recognized this year with the Student Organization of the Year Award with 50 + Members.

According to the annual report the organization submitted, ASCE’s goals for their group were to enhance professional development, academics, competitions and community involvement. By every measure, ASCE has blown through its goals, increasing membership 518 % and launching an academic tutoring program that helped 140 students in its first year.  ASCE hosted numerous civil engineering companies for professional networking, and sent students to professional conferences in Washington, DC, Orlando, Florida and Los Angeles.

Current ASCE president Benjamin Emery, credited the burgeoning of the group to the enthusiasm and effort of officers to take the organization to the next level. “We earned this award because relative to other groups, we have come immensely farther the quickest,” said Ben.

“Just a couple years ago, we had a loose group that only attended a couple regional competitions and a social here or there,” he said. “Now we have a different professional speaker every month, offer external networking, academic tutoring services, socials, community service and outreach events. We have a program and vision for what we wanted ASCE to be, and we’ve just exploded,” said Ben.

His involvement in the group was minimal as an underclassmen, but in Ben’s senior year he used his past experience in fundraising for his fraternity to help ASCE raise money for conferences and regional competitions. “What the group has given me is leadership capacity, the opportunity to lead and dictate programming, and having my hands involved in any and all facets of an organization,” he said.

“As new 2020-2021 president, I will be at the forefront and responsible for every other chair’s success and the organization’s success. That’s something I’ve never experienced and I’m excited by that challenge,” he said.

That leadership development has been instrumental in preparing Ben and other ASCE members for the work world. “For a graduating senior like me, it has been unbelievably important to tether my connections to the professional world.”

For Ben, who will continue at Speed School this year pursuing his master’s degree, those connections have paid off with a full-time post graduate job as a water resources intern at Black and Veatch, a global engineering and construction company.

“I encourage underclassmen to get involved with a major student society,” said Ben. “It will absolutely change your life.”

A life change is what Sophie Lipomanis had in mind when she transferred from Rutgers University as a senior bioengineering student to Speed School and changed her major to civil engineering. Now a rising junior, Sophie said she “had no idea what ASCE was, and I ended up falling in love with it wholeheartedly. It’s my dream job.”

Sophie’s experiences with ASCE conferences paved the way for her accomplishments in the field and set her career path. ”Last year was a big year for ASCE because as individuals and as a chapter, we started participating in local and national conferences.  In her first year as an ASCE officer, she attended a national workshop for student leaders in Orlando. “What makes ASCE so unique is we are the only major with a club totally devoted to us on a national level,” said Sophie. “ASCE is involved in infrastructure, promoting legislation to Washington, setting standards for construction and design projects.”

At the Construction Institute’s Student Days competition in Washington, DC in July 2019, Sophie and two other Speed School Students participated in a rigorous five-day competition where student teams worked day and night to produce a 75-page construction proposal to a panel of professional engineers. Sophie’s team came in second place, losing the top prize by .03 points.  Sophie and another student, Alex Beebe, won Best Speakers at the event.

That conference led to Sophie’s selection as Outstanding Student of the Year, a national award presented in front of 400 professional engineers at the Construction Institute Summit in Los Angeles. Sophie was later named a National Ambassador for ASCE, a title she will hold through her graduation in 2022.

Sophie plans to be a naval officer in the civil engineering corps after graduation, and wants to work for ASCE in Washington after completing military service.

“ASCE has given me my life. It created a sense of community and camaraderie I’ve never experienced before. I’m passionate about promoting STEM outreach and infrastructure, sustainability and public policy. ASCE has given me that career direction and track. It feels like I have a parent that just really wants me to succeed.”

Immediate past president of ASCE, Alex Delgado Beebe, said he and other officers worked hard with other members on a grassroots campaign to create a feeling of ownership and pride in the organization. ”This is our school, our civil school and our organization. This is our resource and it is only here to help us. The faculty and professional societies; it’s not a product of them, it’s a completely student-run organization,” he said.

Alex said it is beneficial for civil engineering underclassmen to get involved in ASCE early. “If they are holding a leadership position in the group by the time they interview for their first co-op, that is impressive,” he said. “Civil companies are going to know about ASCE, and remember when they were in the chapter.”

His career plans reflect the benefits of the leadership development he brought to the table from ASCE. “I am lucky with Coronavirus to still have a job path. Many students I know had something lined up, but it went away with Covid-19,” he said.

To get his current job in the management leadership development program with Schneider Electric, he had a total of eight interviews. “Any point along the way I could have been cut out, but what they look for in interviews is completely focused on leadership skills and experience,” said Alex. “Because of ASCE, I was able to give example after example of all our projects and events, and talk about how we got through all our challenges.”

Alex said that when you look at the Student Award ASCE received as a chapter, what jumps out on paper is the growth, but it goes beyond the numbers. “There’s been a big change in culture from ‘Let’s hang out’ to meetings, speakers, academic services, conferences and events,” said Alex. “From the beginning, we wanted to run our chapter for what our students would get value from.”

He said the individual talents and commitment of last year’s officers were critical to the organization’s booming success. “I want to give a shout out to Ryn Kalbfleisch, Sophie Lipomanis and new president Ben Emery,” he said. “None of this would have happened without them. We recently donated money to a Coronavirus relief fund for a local food bank. It feels really good to have enough in the bank account to make a difference in an effort like that.”