Last week, 147 ASCE Section and Branch presidents, Region governors, Society directors, board members and institute leaders attended the annual Presidents and Governors Forum, held virtually this year, Sept. 10-12. This event, sponsored by the Leader Training Committee, provided opportunities for attendees to learn about ASCE resources, network with other ASCE leaders and develop skills that will benefit their Sections/Branches, Regions and Institutes.
Because we were all meeting virtually this year, the PGF planning committee of myself (Greg Kuklinski, P.E., M.ASCE) Tony Akel, P.E., M.ASCE, and Lauren Swett, P.E., M.ASCE, combined concurrent sessions of previous years into one session that included orientation information for each ASCE category of leaders. And by having the PGF virtually, it was open for more members to attend, many of whom would not have normally been able to travel to ASCE HQ in Reston, Virginia.
“Planning an event like this was definitely a challenge, as we try to make these conferences interactive and provide opportunities for networking,” Swett said. “We had to get creative to make sure this part of the experience was still somehow in there. I think we had the benefit of the past six months of getting used to the virtual environment for work, so we had some ideas of what could work, and what might not be the best for a large virtual group of attendees. One of the most popular parts of the event is always the roundtable discussion, and based on feedback I’ve seen, that still seemed to work well with virtual breakout rooms.”
The program began on Thursday with welcomes from ASCE ASCE President Kancheepuram Gunalan, Ph.D., P.E., D.GE, F.ASCE, Executive Director Tom Smith, CAE, ENV SP, F.ASCE, and ASCE President-Elect Jean-Louis Briaud, P.E., Ph.D., D.GE, Dist.M.ASCE. Briaud also led a session on fostering relationships among Institutes, Regions, Sections and Branches. After the sessions were complete, Region 8 Governor Matt Roblez, P.E., M.ASCE, organized a networking session which included a game of virtual Scattergories.
On Friday, LTC members spoke to the new and existing governors after the new governors were sworn in. I was excited myself to be sworn in as a Region 2 governor, starting a three-year term. Concurrently, the Institutes Leaders Orientation was moderated by Technical Region Director David Odeh, P.E., S.E., SEBC, F.SEI, F.ASCE, and Jim Rossberg, P.E., F.SEI, M.ASCE, managing director of engineering programs. At the end of both sessions, both groups met together to speak about future collaboration and working together to set goals.
The Presidents and Governors Orientation began Friday afternoon with many of the topics that the committee felt were the most important from years past, including an “Introduction to Your Presidency” by LTC’s Lauren Swett and Aaron Frits, P.E., M.ASCE. We then heard our keynote speaker of the day Blaine Leonard, P.E., D.GE, Pres.10.ASCE, speak about generational differences in the workforce. The afternoon concluded with breakout discussions into 12 groups to speak about Section/Branch Challenges and creating a Presidential Plan.
“While I hope that we can return to in-person events at some point, because there is a tangible value of building excitement by meeting your fellow presidents, getting to see ASCE Headquarters, and meeting staff in person, I think there are opportunities to incorporate more virtual trainings in the future,” Swett said.
On Saturday afternoon the PGF resumed with the program including five “Best Practices” breakout sessions discussing membership during COVID-19, the Infrastructure Report Card, using virtual platforms, student transition strategies and helping struggling Sections/Branches/Institute Chapters; as well as closing remarks by 2021 President-Elect Dennis Truax, Ph.D., P.E., DEE, D.WRE, F.NSPE, F.ASCE.
I was honored and humbled to have the opportunity to plan the PGF for the past 10 years along with a great LTC team. This will be the most memorable due to the pandemic and going virtual. Ultimately, we were able to provide the same great content to even more members than usual, showcasing that the Society is here to help Sections/Branches, Regions and Institutes to better run their local units.
For more information about the PGF, please visit LTC’s website at: http://regions.asce.org/leader-training-committee/pgf.