Kathy J. Caldwell, P.E.
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About Me

My favorite thing to do is to travel with my husband, Ron, and we have visited many lands on almost every continent.  One of the fun things about being Civil Engineers is having a special appreciation for the many wonders of our natural and built environment.  Those that travel with us roll their eyes and laugh when we point out and photograph special bridges and buildings and even check out resort water treatment systems!  Where ever we travel, domestic or international, we are enriched by immersing ourselves in the local culture, sampling new foods and making a connection with the people. 

Gainesville is a great place to come home to and we enjoy the natural surroundings of Florida, including Payne's Prairie (see below).


Here are the questions asked by ASCE of the candidates for ASCE’s President-Elect. The responses will be published in the June issue of ASCE News.  Both candidates responses can be reviewed on ASCE's web page.

1.      ASCE’s Board of Direction is focusing special attention on—and allocating resources to—four major professional issues: improving America’s infrastructure, raising the educational bar for entry into the profession, helping shape the civil engineer’s role in the 21st century, and raising public awareness that civil engineers are significant contributors to a sustainable world. Should these four issues be given equal weight and why or why not?


ASCE’s Radar Screen of Professional Issues is routinely evaluated and America’s infrastructure renewal and expansion always surfaces as our top priority.  That is appropriate as civil engineers are the stewards of the nation’s infrastructure.  Next in priority is the future of the profession, as addressed in the Vision for Civil Engineering in 2025.  The raise the bar initiative ranks next as it can be thought of as the primary educational component of Vision 2025.  Finally, there is sustainability.  We must actively promote good practice to create a more sustainable world.  While all of these issues are important, public awareness of our contributions to sustainability will increase as we meet our other objectives.                                                                                      


2.      What do you believe should be ASCE’s primary focus in the year ahead?


Many of our members are suffering from the impacts of the current recession, which impacts ASCE as an organization.  Consequently, our members rightfully expect ASCE to make similar tough financial, operating, and management decisions.  We must systematically review every element of the Society, going beyond the work of the Program Committee, which looks at only 10% of our overall budget.  A benefit-versus-cost analysis must be performed to identify areas of the Society that are underperforming or unproductive and, therefore, should be corrected or suspended.  We need to trim the trees and weed the garden, without destroying the landscape.                          


3.      What do you see as ASCE’s primary challenges in the year ahead?


Our members are our most valuable asset and their advancement is the reason for our being.  Membership retention is critical to future organizational and individual member success.  Right now our members are making very personal budget decisions, including decisions regarding multiple professional and technical society memberships.  ASCE’s primary challenge in the year ahead (and, in fact, at all times) is the delivery of value for every single dues dollar.  That means we must take a fresh look at expanding individualized member benefits and services such as ASCE's online jobs database, member-to-member network systems, insurance programs, and locally relevant technical information sources.                                                                                                         


4.      What do you hope to accomplish in the year ahead?


In the next year, and throughout my term, I will seek much broader engagement of our members in ASCE’s governance. Just as our most active members get the greatest value from the Society, the Society, in turn, would be enhanced by greater member engagement.    I will also promote widespread understanding and excitement regarding The Vision for Civil Engineering in 2025.  Foundations will also be laid with respect to re-engineering our Annual Conference.  These goals are in addition to addressing the impacts of current economic conditions on ASCE and our members as previously discussed.                                                                                                       


5.      How can ASCE’s strengths be further optimized?


ASCE’s greatest strength is our members.  The quality programs being delivered by our geographic units, our younger members, and our students are tremendous.  Their culture is based on member and community service and their strength can be further optimized by facilitating collaboration among local leaders, committees, and the Board of Direction.


Another great strength is the technical expertise of our members.  Our Institutes house an amazing breadth and depth of cutting edge knowledge.  Our members have told us they value and seek access to technical knowledge.  One way we can optimize this strength is to significantly increase the number of local Institute chapters.                            


6.      How can ASCE strengthen its ties to members?


We must build bridges between our many operating units to span the gap between ASCE “Local”, ASCE “National”, and ASCE Institute in order to move toward more local control of the Society.   We will do this by reaching out through our geographic entities and the Institutes through which our members relate.  We can span the gap through continued development and definition of the role of the Regions, strengthening connectivity with Branches and Sections, and the establishment of more local Institute chapters.  We must recognize the value these organizations deliver to our members and facilitate and celebrate their successes.                                                             


7.      What can ASCE do to help draw more people into the profession, especially more women and more members of minority groups?


ASCE must communicate and celebrate the people-serving nature of our profession, an aspect which resonates with young people.  Teamwork, social consciousness, connectivity, and advanced technology also appeal to this group.  ASCE’s methods of marketing and social networking must be relevant to effectively communicate these aspects of our profession.  The ASCE publication “Diversity by Design” points the way.  The National Academy of Engineering publication “Changing the Conversation” is another great tool for reaching out to young people, women, and underrepresented minorities.  These tools should be actively promoted and provided to our members.  I also propose strengthening our partnerships with other organizations such as the Society of Women Engineers.                                                                                                       


8.      What, if anything, can ASCE do differently to serve the 21st-century engineer?


ASCE must expand its services to members and radically improve its capabilities in the instantaneous electronic delivery of those services.  The engineers of the future will have never known a world without the Internet.  ASCE must provide a more virtual and more vital online presence, accessible by all manner of mobile devices as well as computers.  To a degree, we need to embrace the culture of FaceBook, Twitter, and other emerging service delivery and networking technologies.  The new ASCE website will be a significant step in that direction.                                                                            


9.      What do you believe is the single most important objective the civil engineering profession must achieve within the next five years?


Civil engineers are problem solvers, but we need to broaden the scope of our services to include problem definition.  Civil engineers must go beyond thinking in terms of project specific limits and scopes of work and become involved in system-wide, program-related decisions and policy making to achieve long-term, sustainable solutions.  We must be facilitators of collaboration among multiple agencies/owners and across jurisdictional boundaries.  We must also take a leadership role in developing acceptable and sustainable methods of funding infrastructure development and asset management.  ASCE’s new Industry Leaders Council can help move this objective forward.                        


10.  What do you believe is the single most important objective ASCE must achieve within the next five years?


ASCE must act now to achieve the Vision for Civil Engineering in 2025.  Reaching this objective will require long-term efforts by many and must include entities outside ASCE and beyond our country’s borders.  ASCE has developed an implementation Roadmap and should continue in a leadership role.  In the next five years ASCE must generate excitement for the plan and deliver the Roadmap to the appropriate action planning and implementation teams. Then we should establish procedures to oversee and evaluate progress and adjust the plan as needed.  This objective can be accomplished by merging the Strategic Planning Committee and the Roadmap to Achieve Vision 2025.    


11.   What should ASCE’s role be in influencing public policy?


ASCE has an obligation to positively influence public policy as it relates to public health, safety, and welfare.  We must maximize our opportunities to play a key role in not only influencing, but also developing public policy.  We must actively support legislation that will improve public health, safety and welfare and oppose legislation that will not.  In order to maintain our credibility, we must refrain from advocating for or against issues that do not reasonably fall within the expertise and responsibility of the civil engineering profession.  As a professional society, we must also refrain from supporting or opposing individual politicians.                                                                                                   


12.   In specific terms, how can ASCE strengthen its commitment to sustainability/sustainable development?


ASCE has recently taken very specific actions which illustrate our commitment to sustainability and sustainable development.  Our Committee on Sustainability developed a Sustainability Action Plan in May 2008 and the Strategic Planning Committee worked with leaders of this group to move that plan forward.  In January, the Board of Direction subsequently moved sustainability from the “radar screen” to a full Society strategic initiative, including establishment of the Task Committee on Sustainable Design.  This task committee has a well defined five-part charge, to be completed this fall.  Concurrently, the Strategic Planning Committee is coordinating and managing Society-wide sustainability activities, engaging our subject experts.                       


13.   How can civil engineers work toward mitigating the effects of climate change during the 21st century?


Civil engineers must become recognized champions of both the natural and built environments.  This includes becoming leaders in adapting our existing infrastructure and designing future projects for the probable impact of climate change.  In doing so, sustainability must become central to the practice of civil engineering, not just in design, but in education, planning, construction, operation, and maintenance.  Climate change is a “hot topic” societal issue and is of importance to the current governmental administration.  It is appropriate that civil engineers take our place in the discussions and in the evaluation of future impacts to the natural and built environment.                    


I began my college education as a mis-guided youth in the Architecture program at the University of Tennessee.  That lasted all of 4 quarters, after which I re-entered the workplace as an engineering drafter and field technician.  I was mentored by a structural engineer and after nine years returned to UT to earn a Bachelors of Science in Civil Engineering.  I believe my practical experience before University enhanced my educational experience and has served me well as I continue in the practice of Civil Engineering. 

My current endeavors include pursuit of the opportunity to serve the American Society of Civil Engineers as President-Elect. 

In my spare time I enjoy cooking, walking my dogs, reading and traveling.

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