ASCE Texas Section Branches Adapting with the Times
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a wrench into the works of almost every aspect of our daily lives, and the monthly happenings of local ASCE Branches are no exception to these changes. With gatherings of almost any size banned in most of the major metropolitan areas of Texas, local Branches have had to scramble to cancel and/or postpone all in-person gatherings – whether it be Board meetings and luncheons or happy hours and volunteer events.
However, some Branches are finding unique ways to provide value and benefit to their members while still protecting the health and welfare of their leaders, volunteers, and members. The Texas Section would like to highlight a couple of Branches that are doing everything they can to adapt to this unprecedented world situation.
ASCE Dallas Branch
Things moved quickly in Dallas. First, any gatherings larger than 500 were banned on March 13th. Then, on March 16th, dining inside of restaurants was banned, bars were ordered closed, and gatherings of any kind over 50 people were banned. This put the Dallas Branch’s monthly meetings that pull in anywhere from 180-220 attendees well out of compliance. Then on Sunday, March 22nd, Dallas County executed a shelter-in-place order, effectively forcing the Dallas Branch to cancel all in-person meetings of any size for the month of April and possibly into the month of May.
ASCE Dallas President Julie Jones scheduled a conference call with the rest of the Dallas Branch leadership to discuss their options. Within the first ten minutes on the call, they all decided unanimously that, even though their monthly in-person Branch luncheon would be cancelled, they would work as hard as possible to put together an alternative solution to offer their membership. The conversation quickly transitioned from IF they would hold a virtual Branch meeting to HOW they would hold a virtual Branch meeting. Members of the Dallas Branch Board of Directors shared ideas such as Facebook Live and YouTube Live, broadcasting platforms being used by local churches and organizations for their virtual meetings, as well as pre-recorded meetings and live chats. Eventually, they deemed a pre-recorded presentation that would be uploaded to the Dallas Branch’s YouTube channel the best option given the resources and skills of the Branch leadership.
“I think it is important in the ever-changing pattern of our lives now to have some normality to it,” said Julie Jones PE, ASCE Dallas Branch President. “While we have had to adjust methods and cannot meet in in person, the ASCE meeting is part of many of our normal monthly patterns. We still wanted to give our members an opportunity to learn about a great project and earn a PDH.”
The Dallas Branch’s virtual meeting was “held” yesterday at noon. A link to the virtual meeting was be emailed out to the Dallas Branch membership and posted on all ASCE Dallas social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) yesterday morning. The Dallas Branch invited all members of the Texas Section to join in on this FREE virtual meeting and earn a PDH as well.
The presentation featured Gary Thomas of DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit) speaking on the topic of the “DART Silver Line and D2 Updates”. The video had a “live premier” on YouTube at noon for all to join in and watch for free. After the virtual meeting concluded, a link was sent out to a survey for viewers to complete and receive their PDH certificate. You can read Julie’s message to the Dallas Branch membership about this virtual meeting here.
The Dallas Branch is hoping to use this virtual meeting as an experiment for possibly expanding their Branch impact to some of the outlying counties and small towns within the Dallas Branch footprint. There are several small communities of civil engineers that the Dallas Branch serves, but travel distances make attending the monthly Branch meetings unreasonable. The Dallas Branch leadership hopes to gather viewership data from this virtual meeting to determine what outlying regions of their Branch geographic area could benefit from more virtual meetings in the future.
“In the past we have brought up the idea about having satellite branch locations and this gives us the opportunity to work with the technology. It made all of our Board and Committee chairs think outside of our normal, and see what benefit we can still give to our members in a virtual way. This has also gotten us to brainstorm ideas on how to do other remote initiatives, such as YM events or promoting STEM to local groups. I want to thank all of those on the Dallas Board and Committee chairs that I could not do this on my own, it is a team effort.” – Julie Jones PE
ASCE Corpus Christi Branch
The Corpus Christi Branch continues to celebrate their 75-year Branch history, and while this branch knows civil engineering happens in society and in person, doing the right thing and practicing social distancing is important. While many members are learning how to work from home to follow social distancing requirements, remote collaboration has been in practice at the Corpus Christi Branch for several years now and is the only way Branch executive board members routinely meet to develop plans and make decisions for Corpus Christi Branch members.
Branch meetings have been postponed for now; however, the Corpus Christi leadership encourages its membership to seek continuing education opportunities on the ASCE website, volunteer on an ASCE board or work on a self-directed study.
Here are some links to resources from ASCE Headquarters:
- https://www.asce.org/covid-19/ (For updates on ASCE events)
How is your Branch handling COVID-19 shutdowns? Feel free to share with the Texas Section’s Editorial Committee by emailing [email protected], and we’ll update this article with your information.
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