UT Tyler’s ASCE Student Chapter wins the 2021 Distinguished Chapter Award for the second year in a row
Written by Luisa Cardona Suarez | UT Tyler 2020 ASCE Student Chapter President; Civil Engineering May 2021 Graduate
Edited by Tasha Hux EIT | Secretary/Treasurer Elect ASCE Northeast Texas Branch, UT Tyler Graduate, 2019 UT Tyler ASCE Student Chapter Officer
Despite the pandemic, the University of Texas at Tyler’s ASCE Student Chapter was recognized with the 2021 ASCE Distinguished Chapter Award for Region 6. The Committee on Student Members awards this distinction to the best chapter of each region based on the activities and involvement reported on the university’s annual report.
This is the eighth time since 2009 and a second year in a row that the university’s ASCE chapter earns this distinction. Chapter activities included technical speakers, field trips, participation in the annual student symposium, resume workshops, co-hosting chapter meetings with the ASCE Northeast Texas Branch, networking socials with industry professionals, as well as fun social events and outreach activities. After the spring break of 2020, the chapter had to cancel a full semester of planned events due to the outbreak of COVID-19 that put them behind their normal schedule. Because the group quickly adjusted its original goals and transitioned to a hybrid meeting environment with both in-person and online activities, they were able to create a high level of student engagement.
Garnering this recognition was the chapter’s ability to quickly transition to a hybrid format that allowed the chapter to be one of the, if not the most, active student organization in the UT Tyler College of Engineering. “All of this was achieved while still trying to adapt to the new online learning environment,” says the 2020 ASCE student chapter president Luisa M. Cardona Suarez. The team of student officers achieved this transition by focusing on four main components: what events can still be held safely following university COVID-19 protocols, how can we maintain strong communication with students that are now primarily off campus, how can we motivate the students to keep participating, and determine which of the original goals that were established at the beginning of 2020 are still attainable?
“I cannot stress how much I learned by leading our team of officers during the pandemic,” said Cardona Suarez. “This achievement means a lot to me because it shows that perseverance combined with hard work and true desire to excel does pay off. I’m very proud of the team for never giving up.”
The student chapter worked alongside the faculty and practitioner advisors to make the transition happen and to preserve the chapter’s mission to create a well-balanced organization fostering professional development, community building, and academic advancement.
“I am so proud of our ASCE student chapter” said Dr. Michael Gangone, chapter co-adviser and UT Tyler’s associate professor of civil engineering. “They worked extremely hard last year – and during an unprecedented pandemic – to create the same student experience that continues to benefit our civil engineering community here at UT Tyler. Our ASCE student chapter is the truly the heartbeat of our student experience.”
Additionally, the outstanding performance of UT Tyler’s students in the 2020 ASCE Texas-Mexico Student Symposium significantly contributed to the chapter’s excellence. Year after year, UT Tyler’s Civil Engineering Department has showcased the caliber of its program and has constantly demonstrated their ability to compete against the best universities in Texas and Mexico. This recognition is yet another strong statement of UT Tyler’s Civil Engineering program.
The ASCE Student Chapter at UT Tyler keeps working to remain one of the best in Texas with the a goal of bridging the gap between students and professionals. Over the past several years, the student chapter at UT Tyler had a strong focus on concrete canoe and has strived to increase engagement, in part, from this activity. Additionally, the chapter has put efforts into high school outreach and connecting its membership to working professionals. During the 2020-2021 period, the chapter focused on adapting to overcome the new and unique challenges brought about from the pandemic. As a civil engineering organization, it’s imperative to learn and adapt to the present challenges. In addition, UT Tyler’s faculty have been recognized with teaching excellence at the national, UT System, university, college and department levels. In fact, both of the ASCE advisors have received the ASCE ExCEEd New Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award. Tyler’s concrete canoe advisor has been recognized on multiple occasions as the top ASCE advisor in Region 6. The high levels of recognition of the advisors and other faculty in the department related to students show how dedicated the civil engineering faculty are to the success of its future engineers.
The 2020 iteration (calendar year 2020 – during COVID-19) of the Chapter was 64 national members, which constitutes 99% of our junior and senior classes, held eight professional meetings (six of them online), organized an in person resume workshop (held prior to COVID restrictions), organized two field trips, hosted a virtual local branch meeting, held multiple social events virtually and in person and completed two major volunteering projects, with one involving the protection, maintenance, and sustainability of natural resources.