Cal Poly’s Society of Civil Engineers Named Best in California; Student-Run Club Helps with Mentoring, Career Connections

Members of Cal Poly's SCE gathered for a photo at last year's Pacific Southwest Regional Conference.

Cal Poly’s Society of Civil Engineers, known for forging career connections, fostering mentoring relationships and winning competitions, was recently presented with the Distinguished Chapter Award for its region.

The award, presented by the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Committee on Student Members, is based on activities recorded in the chapter’s annual report.

“We keep hearing from employers how Cal Poly civil engineering students excel in the industry, and clubs like SCE is the big reason behind that,” said Jerry Ding, a Cal Poly SCE member and project manager of the concrete canoe team, which is a part of the SCE. “We feel accomplished knowing that our work didn’t go unnoticed, and it motivates us to keep doing what we do.”

Faculty member Dan Jansen, who is the SCE advisor, praised the club for being self-run by students.

“The students are motivated, committed, and independent,” he said. “The most important thing is they have an established process to transition knowledge and experience from one year to the next.”

The annual report documents that – plus the club’s many activities. Some club events include a career fair every January in collaboration with the Society of Environmental Engineers; a peer-mentoring program, where freshmen are matched with upper classmate mentors; volunteer work and community outreach; jobsite tours; intramural sports and more.

Rebecca Maloney, president of the Cal Poly SCE, said she has personally benefitted from the opportunities the club has offered.

Volunteers from Cal Poly’s SCE pose for a photo prior to the shelter-at-home orders.

“Cal Poly SCE has become my family on campus, and I am incredibly proud to be a part of an organization that consistently strives to improve and have a positive impact on our community,” she said.

The club’s biggest event is the Pacific Southwest Regional Conference, held annually at the beginning of the spring quarter.

Cal Poly SCE typically sends around 100 students to this 4-day conference, Jansen said, where about 20 schools from Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii, and Southern California meet and compete in some 20 events. Those events range from concrete canoe and steel bridge to technical competitions in transportation, sustainability, environmental, surveying, design build, and geotechhical. Meanwhile, athletic competitions include soccer, ultimate Frisbee, basketball, and beach volleyball.

Cal Poly won the overall 2019 regional competition, which it also hosted.

Jose Chalapa Diaz, who is project manager of the steel bridge team, said he is proud of the recognition, which reflects all the work students do.

“All students, regardless of the clubs under ASCE, put in hours of work into their club goals,” he said.

The Cal Poly SCE, he added, also prides itself on connections it establishes between students and industry. The 2020 career fair, a major component of that, featured 334 students and 80 companies seeking to hire interns and full-time employees, according to the annual report.

“Everyone I’ve met in the club has been very welcoming and friendly,” said Meagan Chan, a recording officer for Cal Poly SCE. “I’ve had the pleasure of meeting a lot of students who have been really helpful in guiding me through my college career, from choosing classes to navigating through career fair.”

While Chalapa Diaz thinks the student autonomy makes Cal Poly SCE stand out, Ding said the range of activities also makes it unique.

2019 Concrete Canoe: Civil engineering students Derek Fromm, Lauren Tigue, Eleni Korogianos, and Mason Breipohl paddle in Lake Naciemento. Cal Poly won the ASCE Pacific Southwest Conference.

“You can learn about civil engineering materials with concrete canoe and steel bridge by literally getting your hands dirty, find internships and jobs at the career fair, make friends in a stress-free environment in the mentorship program, etc.,” he said “We provide a variety of opportunities that benefit every student one way or another.”

While the COVID-19 pandemic forced the club to shift – and resulted in the cancellation of this year’s regional conference – the club has continued virtually, Jansen said.

“They have been having weekly meeting alternating between officers’ meetings  and general meetings, even with a speaker or two, hosted on Zoom,” he said. “They hosted a virtual banquet. Most importantly, they held officers’ elections in May and managed to fill all 19 officers’ positions.”

Like the mentoring, the leadership shift is an important aspect of knowledge transfer.

“Transferring all pertinent knowledge each year is incredibly important for the continued growth of the chapter,” Maloney said. “Being able to build off of and learn from past experiences is how we have been able to continue our success and improve as a student chapter.”

Cal Poly’s SCE is in Region 9, which encompasses the entire state of California.

The Cal Poly College of Engineering understands there has been an enormous amount of turmoil and transition due to Coronavirus (COVID-19). As we continue offering support to our students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends, we also continue providing critical updates as well as college highlights. Ours is a college full of creative and bright engineers and staff. For more information on COVID-19 visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website. For more information on how Cal Poly is responding to COVID-19, visit the Cal Poly Coronavirus website Coronavirus website.

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