SDSU engineering students repeat top chapter award

Courtesy photo: More than 500 pounds of food fills and surrounds the concrete canoe built by the SDSU chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers. The late October food drive was one of several projects the club was able to maintain despite the pandemic. Such activities helped make the SDSU club the top ASCE chapter in the region for 2020. Officers pictured include, front left, Anastasia Norris, past vice president; front right, Rachel Zook, current vice president. Behind Norris is Spencer Gilk, current president. Behind Zook is Paris Marcy, past president.

BROOKINGS –  For the second year in a row, the student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers at South Dakota State University was named the region’s top chapter.

There are 23 chapters in the region, which stretches from Colorado to Missouri and South Dakota to Kansas, according to Zach Gutzmer, a faculty member in the Jerome J. Lohr College of Engineering and club adviser for the past 10 years. There are nine regions within the United States. Chapters are judged based on annual reports, which are submitted to the national ASCE office. The reports covered spring and fall semesters 2020.

Paris Marcy, of Minnetonka, Minnesota, who served as chapter president in 2020, said, “I think the determination of our officers to keep providing opportunities for the chapter (during a year impacted by COVID-19) and the eagerness of the members to participate was really what helped drive our chapter’s success.”

She notes in a normal year a chapter meeting would mean pizza for the students, signing via pen and paper and an audience of 50 people in one room.

Marcy said, “None of this was an option with COVID, so we stopped providing pizza at the meetings, switched our sign-in sheets to Google forms and changed the location of our meeting to provide the maximum possible seating while still adhering to social distancing requirements.

“We were constantly working on a balance between trying to provide the same opportunities with minimal changes, to thinking completely outside the box and trying something new. The officer team was relentless in the pursuit to give members opportunities to participate and the hard work really paid off, “Marcy said.

“We tried to keep our business meetings as normal as possible while still complying with university guidelines. Utilizing the Google forms, Zoom links and additional space for physical meetings allowed us to do this,” Marcy said

“Fortunately, many of our traditional fall events are outdoor activities, like the fall kickoff and the Hobo Day 5K, so that worked in our favor. One really successful change we made was with our annual food drive. We advertised a contactless pickup in our target neighborhoods ahead of time. Volunteers went back to these neighborhoods for the pickup, and we ended up collecting more than 500 pounds of food, Marcy said.

“One of the new things we tried was virtual trivia, which was successful in helping us connect with other ASCE student and professional members from across the state.”

Marcy added that another factor in the chapter’s success is officer continuity. For 2021, she serves as past president with Anastasia Norris, of Firestone, Colorado, as past vice president. Spencer Gilk, of Redwood Falls, Minnesota, sophomore representative in 2020, is now the president while Rachel Zook, of Omaha, Nebraska, community service chair in 2020, is now the vice president.

Gutzmer said, “This is a student-led group and our strength is our students. We have had strong student officers and very active student members that push the student chapter to achieve its goals. This award belongs to the students. As adviser, I am happy to see all of their hard work recognized and rewarded.”

With 120 members, ASCE is one of the largest in the college.

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