ASCE Advocacy and Public Policy Activities: ASCE State Advocacy Captain, ASCE Region 9 Transportation Committee Member, ASCE OC Government Relations Committee Member, ASCE Legislative Fly-In Attendee, ASCE Region 9 Fly-In Attendee, CE4I PAC Member and have coordinated/attended “Back Home” Visits
1. How did you become interested in and get involved in advocacy as an ASCE Key Contact?
I plan to pursue a career in politics, so I was interested in getting involved with the ASCE Orange County Government Relations Committee (ASCE OC GRC) from the very beginning. The ASCE OC GRC is a joint committee and includes a good mixture of younger and more experienced members, making it less intimidating for those of us with less experience to join. Similarly, it serves as a great mentoring opportunity for the more knowledgeable members who want to share their passion for advocacy with others.
At committee meetings, we are all encouraged to become ASCE key contacts, attend fly-ins, and schedule “back home” visits. CNC Engineering, where I work as a design engineer, is very supportive of my involvement, which has motivated me to become an active ASCE key contact. I am extremely grateful for all of the support, opportunities and encouragement that my supervisors provide.
2. Has your advocacy experience as a Key Contact helped you improve skills you utilize personally or professional?
Definitely! I am much more aware of state and federal issues. I am also more fluent in the technical language necessary to describe these issues and comfortable speaking about them to elected officials, ASCE members, and the general public. These activities have also helped improve my public speaking, interpersonal, and strategic planning skills. Similarly, attending fly-ins has caused me to think about issues on a much larger scale and from different perspectives, while also taking into consideration the needs of various communities.
3. Has being a New Face of Civil Engineering shaped your passion for advocacy? What inspired you to become State Advocacy Captain?
Being a New Face of Civil Engineering honoree allowed me to attend the OPAL Awards Gala, which resulted in me attending the legislative fly-In as well, since it took place earlier that week. During the younger member program portion of the event, we learned about the ASCE Congressional Fellows Program. Kristina Swallow and Rachel Radell, past congressional fellows, described their positive experiences, which ultimately added to my already deep-rooted passion for advocacy.
Although not very knowledgeable or experienced in the realm of politics, engineering taught us how to be great problem solvers, which is a skill that is useful in any setting. I want to help solve these infrastructure problems that negatively affect families across the United States. I figured that becoming a state advocacy captain would put me one step closer towards achieving that goal. It also helped that Amber Shah, a federal advocacy captain, and Ravi Shah, a state advocacy captain, are two of my role models whom I met through ASCE OC YMF.
4. What have you found rewarding about your Key Contact efforts? Is there a particular memorable experience you can share?
Passion is contagious and I love that this platform allows all of our voices to be heard, no matter how young or inexperienced we may be. Similarly, I find it very rewarding to think that our stories have the potential to influence the actions of those who are in a position of power.
The most memorable experience that I would like to share isn’t one of mine, but that of an ASCE San Bernardino/Riverside YMF member named Julianna Gonzalez, who I happened to be sharing a room with during the legislative fly-in. Although excited, she wasn’t sure what to expect from her first fly-in. While discussing the need for infrastructure spending, she learned that Representative Mark Takano is very passionate about public safety, precisely at rail crossings. This too is of great concern to Julianna because that very item recently caused devastation in her life. “On Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013, at around 6 p.m., Serafin ‘Angel’ Gonzalez, my nephew, was waiting to cross the dual tracks on Madison Street near Indiana in the City of Riverside. After a freight train passed, he rode his bike across the tracks and was hit and killed by a Metrolink train coming from the opposite direction. Serafin was launched 170 feet. Serafin owns a piece of my heart, and when I heard the news it instantly broke. I’ve never felt so much pain in my life,” she explained. Julianna has offered to share her story not only in the hope that it will support future rail safety funding requests, but also to serve as a resource for others facing a similar circumstance.
5. What advice would you give to someone interested in getting involved in advocacy at ASCE?
Do it, we need you and your story! We can’t expect the political system to work unless we do.
BECOME A KEY CONTACT!