President's Message

So, do you think that Chi Epsilon is just another organization that you can join and put on your resume?

We’ve got a vision of an exciting organization that works differently, and it will take your help to move us forward.

For nearly 100 years, Chi Epsilon has concentrated on recognizing outstanding undergraduate and graduate civil engineering students, along with professional engineers in our communities. While initial consideration is based on scholarship, each chapter also considers character, practicality, and sociability in selecting members. We challenge our members to be guided by these characteristics throughout their personal and professional lives and through the application of our vision statement, “fostering excellence, connectivity, and engagement among those in the civil engineering community to improve our world.” Over the years, the civil engineering community has broadened to include environmental engineering, architectural engineering, construction engineering, naval architecture and marine engineering, and similar programs. With the addition of five new chapters over the past couple of years (South Dakota School of Mines, University of South Alabama, Morgan State University, Boise State University, and the College of New Jersey), Chi Epsilon has grown to 143 chapters, and, in the next year, we are installing our first international chapter (American University of Sharjah).

Goals for the Biennium

I have gained an understanding of how Chi Epsilon works since I was elected to the National Council in 2014 (Southwest District), and, with the assistance of the national office, have developed goals to guide Chi Epsilon into the future.

Goal 1. Continue the growth of Chi Epsilon through the creation of new chapters and reanimation of our current chapters. The pursuit of this goal does not mean lowering our standards. Many of our chapters have shown a declining number of new members over the last several years. We need to encourage our current chapters to increase their activities to give potential members a reason to join.

But Chi Epsilon is more than a collection of people with high GPAs. Our members do not want to just sit on the sidelines; they want to be part of the solution. One of our primary opportunities is in cooperation with ASCE. Because of everything that ASCE does for our civil engineering profession, all Chi Epsilon members should be active members of ASCE. This unique synergy provides more leadership opportunities in carrying out the mission of both organizations. One way that you can increase membership and provide more for the CE students is to honor prominent engineers in your area by elevating them to chapter honor members. This will honor them and reflect renown back on your chapter.

We have many opportunities to form new chapters at US universities; there are more than 100 schools with civil engineering in the US without chapters. We will continue to apply our strenuous requirements in establishing new chapters. A civil engineering department in the US has to be ABET-accredited to qualify for a Chi Epsilon chapter; however, ABET-accredited programs are much less common outside the US. Accrediting agencies exist in most countries, and we can require that the applying program is accredited in its home country.

Goal 2. Expand our joint activities with ASCE. In order to further our cooperation with ASCE, we are gradually re-districting Chi Epsilon to match the ASCE Student Conferences. This provides us with an opportunity to combine our district conferences with the ASCE student conference meetings, which are typically held in late March or April. The idea is for your Chi Epsilon chapter to work with your ASCE student chapter to plan and carry out the meeting jointly in the years when your school hosts it. There would be some Chi Epsilon events and some ASCE events at these meetings. ASCE is still the primary host for the meeting, and Chi Epsilon members will volunteer and actively assist in hosting the meeting. This all sounds idealistic, but we feel that Chi Epsilon was formed with this in mind.

Goal 3. Increase our focus on ethics. Chi Epsilon members need to exhibit professional ethics at all times. Becoming licensed is critical for most civils. Inherent in the requirements to join Chi Epsilon is a dedication to ethical behavior. Chi Epsilon can also emphasize ethics by hosting and promoting "Order of the Engineer" ceremonies at initiations. That ceremony instills an understanding of our responsibility to stand against those forces which compromise the safety and welfare of the public and our integrity as engineers.

Goal 4. Maintain a relationship with members after they graduate. Individual chapters can identify members of the community they would like to work with by selecting them as Chapter Honor Members. At the society level, we are creating a series of committees whose focus is to provide specific benefits to Chi Epsilon and to provide opportunities for our members who have graduated. And, most importantly, a chance for personal growth through their interactions with other committees, Chi Epsilon, ASCE, and the world at large. These committees are:

  • Conference and Convention Planning Committee - this committee will guide the planning of Chi Epsilon district conferences as they assist ASCE, and, importantly, the planning of our biennial Conventions.
  • Publications and Communication Committee - do not think of printed newsletters or the old Transit here. We will use the products of this committee to show people who we are. So, we’ve taken lots of photos, but this will be more than taking pictures and doing Photoshop. And watch for the new “Transit” (“Total Station”?), it will be a document that will take full advantage of the web environment.
  • Scholarships, Fellowships, and Awards Committee - in keeping with our plan to encourage giving back, the scholarship and fellowship winners from one year will be selecting the winners from the next year using the established criteria. We could publish “how-to” stories telling members how to apply for these awards. Some of our members are quite good at this and may be able to offer tips.
  • Global Relations Committee - this committee will be at the forefront of finding schools that would like to have new chapters. This will focus internationally, and we have already made inroads in the UAE, Mexico, and China. While this will probably involve visits to these schools, initial contact can be made at meetings in the US. For example, Chinese schools bring members to the Pacific District Conference, and students from Mexico attend the Texas-Mexico ASCE Student Conference.
  • Philanthropy Committee - as discussed in conjunction with goal 6, below, we hope to introduce members to the benefits of philanthropy, especially the younger members. If you would like to be considered for one of these committees, play an active part in planning and carrying out a conference that is hosted by your school, or if your school does not host one when you are a student there, attend your student conference, and actively volunteer to assist in its success.

Goal 5. Increase funding for Chi Epsilon. Historically, we have been funded by student (new member) fees and alumni donations in response to our mailings, usually done once a year. While it would be nice to reduce new member fees, the lack of general (non-scholarship) funds has become critical. In an effort to raise much-needed funds, we are asking engineering firms to become sponsors of Chi Epsilon.

At the same time, we have created the XE Hub, which includes the member database. The XE Hub was rolled out this semester. The chapters who are initiating members this fall are having the first experience with the XE Hub.

In an effort to better provide member benefits, you are asked to submit a resume that will be given to our global sponsors. This same opportunity is available to all members of Chi Epsilon, not just those still in school. Chi Epsilon is not marketing your information; rather, your résumés will be provided to the sponsors for them to contact those in whom they are interested in potential job opportunities.

Goal 6. Develop a community of philanthropy. The desire to promote the welfare of others expressed, especially by the generous donation of money to good causes. I can hear you now. You think I’m coming for your money. Actually, I am a little. More about this in a minute. Our goal in diversifying the sources of Chi Epsilon’s income is to attract corporate sponsorships. We have spent the better part of the past year getting Chi Epsilon ready for this move.

Now, back to you. Members of Chi Epsilon represent the top academics in civil engineering programs. As such, you are likely to see that reflected in a somewhat higher salary. Of course, what you bring to bear on your career will have a huge impact down the road. We believe that this reflects the other three pillars (character, practicality, and sociability).

Philanthropy is crucial in a democratic society. It provides opportunities by supporting endeavors that support the happiness and well-being of civil society. While philanthropy can be directly translated into dollars (indeed, this is our goal in finding sponsors), philanthropy can also represent a donation of time. The Younger Member Group of the Dallas Branch of ASCE sponsors a civil engineering high school class at one of the high schools in Dallas. They teach this class once a week, and there are 30 to 40 students in the class. This requires a steady, consistent effort all year long to provide lessons each week during the entire school year. They invite others to do some of the presenting in the class. ASCE students from my school, the University of Texas at Arlington, are typically asked once or twice a year to lead the class. They have recently expanded the program to two high schools. Of course, there are a lot of high schools in the Dallas area, but they recognize their limitations. This certainly satisfies the definition of philanthropy.

Philanthropy is not charity. Charity is more of short-term activity, often focused on rescue. An example would be the general public’s response to Hurricane Harvey in southeast Texas two years ago. Philanthropy, on the other hand, is more strategic in nature, concentrating on rebuilding. Clearly, the work of civil engineers can be considered a sort of philanthropy. But, this type of work is what we are paid for, and we are provided resources for accomplishing it.

So, what does this mean to you? Chi Epsilon members, in general, represent the potentially most talented civil engineers, at least, if they take advantage of their gifts. The possession of these gifts implies power in our profession. And with great power comes great responsibility. Now you are thinking, “I know that quote. It's from Spider-Man!!!” Well, yes, not that there is anything wrong with that, but this quote pre-dates Spider-Man. It can be traced back to Winston Churchill, and before that, to William Lamb, an early seventeenth-century Member of Parliament, and before that, to the French Revolution. I will not write that out here since French is not one of my gifts.

So, to go back to my previous question: What does this mean to you? Yes, you have worked very hard to achieve academic success (just as you will have to work hard for professional success), but you did not do it by yourself. You were helped by your family, your friends, your teachers in high school. We all stand on the shoulders of our predecessors. While certainly an honor, we must accept membership in Chi Epsilon with a sense of humility and a willingness to pay it forward.

So, as you move forward in life, look for ways to help others, to help students master concepts of civil engineering. After you graduate, go back and be a professional resource for your old chapter. If you have moved away from your school, look around, there is bound to be a closeby chapter. If there is not one, contact headquarters, and we can put you to work in getting a new chapter started.