This past week was truly a special honor for me receiving the ASCE Excellence in Journalism Award. When the American Society of Civil Engineers bestowed so much such praise on me for my work in civil engineering, I was humbled for many reasons. While the Black-Tie OPAL (Outstanding Projects and Leaders) Gala was amazing, as my husband and three grown children were able to attend to share in the festivities, along with other friends and family, the message that resonated the most is that we all need to continue to look to our future; and that means our next generation of innovators.

I am talking about the next problem solvers who are going to create and build our future. As I looked out to the very enthusiastic crowd from podium during the awards ceremony, I decided to toss away my scripted speech and invited the audience to chime in with me to encourage our next generation to create and innovate.

Even though the speech I had originally crafted would have been just fine, after meeting so many impressive engineers—who looked simply fabulous in their tuxedos and gowns—I felt compelled to encourage the awesome crowd to stop thinking about the problems we face in infrastructure and look at all the opportunities to innovate. Yes! All the opportunities that we have to create, innovate, and build. With a packed house of hundreds of powerful leaders and believers, I realized this crowd would be up for the challenge. Thus, I encouraged them to look at what we are able to create in this new emerging world of positive disruption for intelligent compaction, infrared sensors on pavers, and high-tech plants.

The 2019 Winners are:

Outstanding Projects and Leaders (OPAL), 150 North Riverside, Magnusson Klemencic Associates, Ron Klemencic, project’s engineer of record project.

In Construction, Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, P.E., M.ASCE, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – for innovation and excellence in construction of civil engineering projects and programs.

In Design, Ron Klemencic, P.E., S.E., F.SEI, F.ASCE, chairman and CEO, Seattle-based Magnusson Klemencic Associates – for innovation and excellence in civil engineering design.

In Education, Ross B. Corotis, Ph.D., P.E., S.E., F.EMI, Dist.M.ASCE, NAE, professor of engineering, University of Colorado, Boulder – for demonstrated excellence in furthering civil engineering education.

In Government, Paul D. Kovacs, P.E., M.ASCE, chief engineering officer, Illinois State Toll Highway Authority – for demonstrated leadership of public sector projects and programs.

In Management, Ewa Z. Bauer-Furbush, P.E., M.ASCE, NAC, chief engineering officer, Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District – for exceptional management skills in her professional career.

The Autodesk Build Space Technology in Boston won the Charles Pankow Award for Innovation. Distinguished Member Richard L. Tucker won the Henry L. Michel Award for Industry Advancement of Research.

ASCE Excellence in Journalism Award, Peggy Smedley.

Building a Better Place

We all have to be part of the solution. It really doesn’t matter about your political affiliation. It’s about building and leaving the world a better place than it is now. It’s all about paying it forward. A cultural shift in thinking requires lots of people to think, act, and to react differently. It’s not an impossible task, if we all want to create—if we really want to innovate.

Later that evening, I was talking with my 24-year-old son, who is a very talented software programmer and I mentioned I had an idea. He chuckled and said, “Mom, when don’t you.” I described the idea and he then replied. “Flesh it out and let’s see if we can build it.” That’s what you all need to be doing—nurturing within your companies. Give them the opportunity to innovate, explore, and run with it. Whether it’s your idea or theirs. It’s about being open to everyone’s contribution.

Creating a future of skilled workers requires collaboration, discussion, debate, openness, failures, and a lot of success. Be open to building a new way to solve ideas and building, creating, and innovating. If we all think differently, but collaborate together, that’s how we are going to invite the next generation to be excited about what this industry is doing in infrastructure and so much more.

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Peggy Smedley
Peggy Smedleyeditorial director