NSPE Today: Outlook
Unite and Focus
BY TOM ROBERTS, P.E., F.NSPE, 2017–18 PRESIDENT
We have an opportunity! However, to quote a famous cartoon character Pogo Possum, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” In the 1970 Earth Day poster, Pogo was referring to polluting the environment and how humans have contributed to it.
I’m writing about a different environment—about civility—about collaboration between NSPE national and the state societies, about collaboration within the PE community, about David Steinman’s founding objectives for NSPE, which included the following:
- To organize, coordinate, unite, and extend the activities of state societies of professional engineers and their county chapters; and
- To promote cooperative and fraternal relations within the profession.
The need for NSPE is as strong as ever! Recent examples make this clear. State legislators often question the need for licensure, local officials and the public confuse qualifications-based selection with “bidding the lowest price,” and federal agencies use the term “professional engineering” to describe positions that are not.
Although it’s easy to oppose obvious threats to the PE license, our Society faces other issues that are more challenging. For example, a proposed membership model aims to strengthen membership, create efficiencies, and ensure the long-term health of NSPE. Members and state society leaders have strong opinions and major differences about the proposed model, but engaging in vigorous debate and having a critical eye for details is good; it’s part of our profession’s DNA.
We all should keep in mind the motto of the FIRST robotics competition: “Gracious Professionalism.” By balancing collaboration with competition in the arena and following the ideal of gracious professionalism, we can build a stronger organization for the licensed professional engineer.
In the big scheme, our 30,000 NSPE members are a very small part of the total US population, but we play a very important role in the profession. If we are going to promote and protect that profession, while growing and improving member services, we must unite.
Now for the opportunity: Your NSPE Board of Directors and the headquarters staff are absolutely committed to unity and connecting like-minded professionals at all stages of their careers.
In addition to the goals of NSPE’s Race for Relevance initiative and the NSPE Strategic Plan, the more recent business plan approved by the board and being implemented by staff is providing focus and driving actions related to our core objectives.
What is the business plan all about?
- Increase the number of dues-paying members;
- Simplify the three-tier dues-paying structure across and among the NSPE state societies in a manner that is easy to understand for all members; offer a compelling value proposition for integrated membership; and support the revenue needs of NSPE and its state societies;
- Provide collaboration groups (communities) for NSPE members, whereby they can communicate easily with other NSPE members regarding topics of interest and importance to the PE or EI;
- Increase member awareness and appreciation of the value of membership and level of commitment to membership;
- Increase operating revenues available for investment in NSPE programs;
- Improve ease of customer access and overall service levels for all NICET customers;
- Develop and maintain the NSPE headquarters building as the core financial asset for NSPE; and
- Evaluate net profitability of administrative services arrangements.
Don’t procrastinate. Help us unite, focus, and build a stronger NSPE!
About 2017–18 President Tom Roberts
Why I became an engineer: Six classmates and I took challenging high school courses (math, chemistry, and physics). My senior year, the high school counselor recommended a new program in nuclear engineering at Kansas State University. I know I wasn’t the brightest bulb in the tree on campus—just took it one semester at a time and worked hard. The rest is history.
Worst professional advice: The worst advice my college advisor ever gave me was “Tom, you don’t need to take the FE exam.” Mind you, we were close and Dean was an outstanding advisor—as an undergraduate, in graduate school, and later in life. Dean was my friend, he mentored and advised me for over 40 years. However, he missed on this one. Seven years after grad school, after military service, after starting a family, and while working at Black & Veatch, management said that we would not advance in our career unless we were licensed. I found study materials and worked to pass both the FE and PE exams.
The engineering achievement that amazes me: Rocket science is exciting but the fundamental impact of clean water and reliable energy is what amazes me. As I travel, the profound and positive impact of engineering on society and our quality of life not only amazes but inspires. I guess that is why I am so passionate about NSPE and the importance of what we do.
Favorite pastime: Music! Whether it’s playing a trombone solo at the New York World’s Fair or singing with the K-State alumni choir at Carnegie Hall, music stirs the soul. My instruments aren’t as sharp as they used to be, but I still enjoy listening to the community band in city park or singing in a barbershop quartet.