NSPE Today: Outlook
Feelin’ Stronger Every Day
BY TRICIA HATLEY, P.E., F.NSPE, PRESIDENT 2020–21
What a difference a couple of months makes! I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling much more optimistic about the vaccine distribution and our path forward than I was at the beginning of the year. I’m feeling a strong sense of hope for the future, and I’m so relieved knowing that we are in a much better position in regard to public health and safety. The fear and frustration of 2020 are finally dissipating, and it is a great feeling!
I am also feeling excitement about NSPE and the future of our profession. Our new executive director, Monika Schultz, is on the job and hard at work bringing her leadership and expertise to bear. She’s been meeting virtually with NSPE members and leaders across the country as well as interacting with the heads of our fellow engineering organizations. It’s been fun to watch her immerse herself in all things engineering, and I’m really enjoying the ideas she’s bringing to the table. Between Monika’s leadership on the staff side and our outstanding board of directors on the volunteer side, I am very confident that we are in good hands for the year ahead.
Speaking of the future, have you seen our most recent class of emerging leaders? Their faces have been all over our social media outlets this spring, and I’ve enjoyed learning more about each and every one of them. They are an impressive group! As the seven-month program wrapped up in February, the participants presented their team projects to the NSPE Board of Directors. Their group projects were linked to our strategic plan goals, and they brought us ideas and concepts that were innovative and implementable. We were also very impressed with their presentation skills, which was a focus of one of the learning modules. I fully expect to see these emerging leaders making a positive impact on our profession for many years to come.
Engineers Week was different this year. We missed out on the opportunity to proctor a local MATHCOUNTS competition or host students in our office for the day. But across the country, I saw our members make the most out of the situation and celebrate in style! NSPE had an outstanding presence on social media throughout the week, thanks to all your likes, shares, and retweets. Since NSPE’s founding in 1935, an important goal of our organization has been to improve the public perception of the profession. The visibility we had during Engineers Week certainly helped to further our mission.
Along with Monika and Vice President Britt Smith, I had the opportunity to be a judge for the NSPE Award at the Future City Competition, which was held virtually. For a full Saturday, we listened to teams talk about the role of engineers and the importance of public health and safety in the design of their future city. In all, we visited with 22 teams. Nearly a third were all girl teams, and most of the others were co-ed.
It was great to see so many young girls engaged in the competition and learning about how engineers make the world a better place and help people thrive. When asked about the qualities and qualifications they would look for in the engineers hired to design their city, one team told us that they’d look for a diverse team. Stating that diversity would bring different points of view that would help them design a city that would attract people and be a place where all would want to live. Exactly! Those middle school students understand that it’s not about numbers or representation; it’s about the creativity and innovation that people of different backgrounds bring to the table. I was expecting to enjoy the day with the students, but in the end, I was astounded and blessed by their insight.
As we pass by the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 shutdowns and the anniversary of the many terrible incidents of racial and social injustice that we witnessed in 2020, I am nervous about the tension that still exists and am concerned that one awful event or situation could push us in a direction we don’t want to go. Yet I’m still hopeful—hopeful that as a country, a profession, and an association, we are collectively able to move forward and create a better world for those young middle schoolers who will follow in our footsteps.
Over the last year, I have had the opportunity to visit with hundreds of NSPE members via virtual conferences, board meetings, chapter events, webinars, and committee meetings. President-Elect Rick Guerra and I have had the privilege of conducting several sessions on best practices for improving diversity in your organization and our profession. NSPE-CA jointly led a panel discussion on diversity in engineering, and NSPE-SC recently devoted a portion of their state board meeting to discuss the topic. It truly feels like we are in a better place one year later and the conversations we are having are transforming us into better people, better state societies, and a better NSPE. Better together! We’ve got this!