Last weekend, nine Trojans found themselves on a red-eye flight to Anchorage, Alaska for an amazing experience. Interestingly, four of the members were freshmen.
ASCE’s WSCL, or Workshop for Student Chapter Leaders, is an annual conference geared towards improving student chapters and creating better student officers. This conference is held alongside the Workshop for Section and Branch Leaders (WSBL) and the Younger Member Council Meeting (YMC). In addition to presenting better ways to run a student chapter of ASCE with useful tips and workshops, the conference also provided many opportunities to network with Younger Members and Section and Branch Leaders within the civil engineering field.
After arriving early Friday morning, we tried to get what sleep we could before the busy day ahead of us began. The day started “bright and early” at 9:00 AM (it was still dark) with a warm welcome from Shane Binder from the Committee of Student Members. After spending a few hours listening to speakers upstairs in the chart room , it was time for us ourselves to speak. Up next was the first round of breakout sessions. These open discussions included topics like community outreach, financial management, and member recruitment. The sessions were particularly helpful because it provided the opportunity for other schools to give insight and solutions to a problem that your chapter may be having and vice versa.
Following the breakout sessions came lunch where we had section and branch leaders sprinkled throughout the ballroom. I had quite an engaging conversation with a recently retired transportation engineer who did plenty of work in Orange County and even contributed to the Hyperloop project. During the second half of lunch, we were entertained by a special speaker: Norma Jean Mattei, the future president of ASCE and current president-elect. In addition, for the first time in ASCE’s 164 year history, the two upcoming official 2017 president-elect nominees for ASCE will be women.
Once lunch was over, we separated into specific region breakout sessions where we addressed possible solutions to various civil engineering and sustainability problems. Since the session was region and section specific, this portion of the conference also gave us the chance to meet some of our Younger Members and other students from the Los Angeles area. Something that was introduced in this meeting was ASCE’s new movie Dream Big, coming to theaters in 2017. It is a movie designed to bring awareness to the world of engineering.
Next came another set of student breakout sessions, this time geared toward problems student chapters faced. We concluded the evening with a Q&A segment from ASCE heads, and finally ended with conversations with Alaskan job recruiters. Once the evening session was adjourned, we were free to seek out Alaskan cuisine.
Later that night, we attempted to find dinner, and we ended up pretty much exploring downtown Anchorage. Spencer and I stumbled upon Town Square Park which happened to have a plethora of unique ice sculptures. We ended up eating at Fat Ptarmigan, a restaurant that served wood oven fired pizza with countless toppings. The most interesting of them all was the one that included reindeer sausage. That was a first, and it was quite delicious.
The following morning, we had breakfast with a presentation from Blaine Leonard, the 2010 ASCE president, who presented his Generational Differences slide show. I found it interesting that we live in a time where the workforce is comprised of four different generations with varying values and ideals. WSCL concluded back in the chart room with discussion about upcoming conferences and the location of next year’s WSCL, which will be located right here in Los Angeles.
Despite the six hours of daily sunlight, we definitely made the most of the trip. After the conference was officially over, we did the classic tourist thing: we searched for the perfect picture spots and explored Alaska’s gift shops. Probably the most exciting (and terrifying) thing for a few of us was the 7.1 magnitude earthquake that shook Alaska the day half of us left. Those that remained were safe, and the experience was a reminder that demonstrated just what civil engineers set out to achieve.