This past weekend, me and two other juniors on the ASCE executive board at Lehigh traveled to Indianapolis for a conference on developing a better student chapter. There were about 40 schools there from Maine to Miami, all students studying civil engineering. Since the conference began around noon on Friday, we had to leave campus really early…like 4am. Our senior president dropped us off down at the Philadelphia airport so we could catch our first flight to Detroit at 7:30. Then, we immediately flew from Detroit to Indy, a short 45 minute flight, and took a bus to the hotel downtown. We were greeted upon entering the lobby and after checking into our room, we went to the ballroom floor where the conference was just beginning. None of us knew anyone there, so naturally we stuck together, but we were assigned different tables to sit at. My table had some fairly outgoing people (unusual for engineers) so conversation was smooth. There were other juniors from NJIT, UMass Lowell, Maine, and Florida State and a freshman from Cincinnati State.
The opening presentation involved a student representing each school to come forward and give a brief one minute introduction on the student chapter. This happened to be me; I went up and mentioned where Lehigh was located and talked about the service projects we have been involved in, particularly Bridges to Prosperity. Most of the other schools were extremely serious about the steel bridge and concrete canoe competitions and their chapters only focused on those. During our break, I had a student come up to me and ask about Bridges to Prosperity because we were the only chapter to mention it. In the meeting after that, the schools broke out into regions. Lehigh is in region 2, with all the schools and professional sections from Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, and Washington DC. There, I networked a little bit and got the business card of a regional executive that was interested in being more involved with the Engineers without Borders programs run at all of the schools. I explained to him what Lehigh was doing with Bridges to Prosperity and he asked to keep in touch with him, possibly for funding.
The next morning, we were served breakfast and lunch, and I attended an info session on public service and community outreach. Since joining ASCE, I have always been most driven by the service aspects of it. I did a lot of community service going to a Catholic high school but missed out on it when I went away to college. This session was great, all the students discussed what their chapter was doing and asking for advice. I was writing ideas down every minute for service activities, most that I never even thought of.
There were a few closing presentations before the three of us left to catch our flights home. We had issues trying to print our tickets for the flights home but when we arrived at the gate, the attendants just handed us them before boarding. There were some delays in Chicago since it snowing but we got home by midnight on Saturday. While the entire trip and conference was an experience, I felt that the biggest thing I got out of it was travelling on my own. I had to organize nearly everything to make the trip possible. With travelling being so difficult, it was incredible how smooth everything went. Not only did we have to catch four flights in two days, but also take a cab to and from the Indy airport and get a ride to and from the Philly airport. We were never rushed nor waiting long, which made the whole trip very much enjoyable. Actually the most stressful part of the weekend was digging out the car that drove us to Philly which was completely frozen into a parking spot on the side of the road off campus.