This is a guest post from Danielle Schroeder. Opinions expressed by Engineering our Future contributors are their own.
When I started college, I will be the first to admit that I thought joining student organizations at my university was going to be similar to high school clubs. I could not be more wrong! More often than not, the student organizations on campus are associated with either national or global organizations that can positively impact your collegiate experience as well as after graduation!
I highly recommend getting involved with student organizations at your school as soon as possible and below are just four examples of the many reasons why!
- Building community over shared interests
Joining a student organization on campus will give you a community of people with shared interests! I did this through SWE or Society of Women Engineers as by joining this organization, I met some amazing people who all believe in the mission of “Empower women to achieve full potential in careers as engineers and leaders, expand the image of the engineering and technology professions as a positive force in improving the quality of life, and demonstrate the value of diversity and inclusion.” Also through this organization, I was able to connect with upperclass students in my engineering field who helped me when it came to choosing classes, co-op, and general advice through my collegiate experience. (Remember that you do not need to identify as a woman to become a member of SWE!)
- Leadership Skill Development
After getting involved with a student organization or two, I highly recommend that you apply for a leadership position within that organization. Leadership positions enable you to work on professional development skills like teamwork and communication and can also give you great experiences to talk about on your resume and in internship interviews! I personally have enjoyed my leadership experiences as I have learned how to foster an inclusive environment and figure out my leadership style.
- Opportunities beyond your school.
Getting involved in professional organizations locally at your school can actually lead to awesome opportunities beyond your school. While in College, I was involved in ASCE or the American Society of Civil Engineers, first as a member, then as Webmaster, and eventually as Vice President. In 2016, so my junior year of college, I found out about the ASCE CI Student Days which is a four day program to create a complete bid package consisting of a cost estimate, schedule, and proposal. So I applied and of course for the question “What has your involvement been in ASCE, so far?” I had plenty that I could write about for my application. I applied and was one of the 36 students accepted that year. As part of the programm the Construction Institute of ASCE subsidized my cost to travel to Boston, Massachusetts and stay for the event which is awesome!
ASCE CI Student Days is an annual event featuring a variety of professional and technical presentations, a site tour, team-building and speed networking. As a student attending, you take part in the Heavy Civil Engineering Team Challenge, in which students work in teams to create a bid package for a real-world construction job and present their proposal to construction professionals. The bid package that was used in 2016 when I attended was based on a portion of a real project – a pedestrian bridge that was currently being built at the time. The full project was a $250 million bridge rehabilitation project of the Longfellow Bridge which connects Boston to Cambridge across the Charles River.
This competition was an incredible experience where I was able to network with professionals who work for internationally known companies in the construction field and learned so much in only four short days. It also reminded that the real-world is not as clean cut as a textbook homework problem or a laboratory experiment would be.
If you are interested in applying for the 2021 program, you can learn more at
https://www.ascestudentdays.org/about. Application deadline is early April!
- Grow Your Network
Networking is so important and has been mentioned on many Engineering Our Future Podcast episodes and student organizations are an excellent way to start to grow that network! In terms of my involvement with ASCE while I was in college, there was a local Professional section of ASCE called ASCE Philly YMF. I frequently attended their events as a college student and at those events, I had the opportunity to network with dozens of civil engineers in a variety of fields. This networking and building relationships through these events, I was able to secure multiple co-op interviews throughout college.
I hope that these four examples show you how awesome getting involved in professional organization as a college student can be!
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