Susan K. Sprague, PE, CCS
Susan K. Sprague, PE, CCS

Susan K. Sprague, P.E., CCS
PSPE President 2013-2014

Fellow Engineers,

At this time of year, most of us look forward to being outside, maybe golfing or boating, picnicking or camping. April and May tend to be the months of finals for various competitions for students in grades 6-12. I am very familiar with two of these competitions. The MATHCOUNTS® National Competition is in Orlando on May 8-11, 2014. Four mathletes from Pennsylvania will join over 200 mathletes from 50 states and 6 U.S. territories in competition and be treated like stars.

The International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) is May 11-16, 2014 in Los Angeles, CA. (ISEF will be in Pittsburgh May 10-15, 2015). I have helped to judge projects at the York County Science and Engineering Fair and select the two best projects to advance to the ISEF. The ISEF requires its judges to be Ph.D’s at least, and many are Nobel Prize winners. I have heard that it is an amazing experience for the 1,500 student scientists and engineers that enter their projects. Good luck to our PA students at the ISEF and MATHCOUNTS national finals. 

Of course May is the month to remember our mothers. It is also the start of the Triple Crown horse racing series, beginning with the Kentucky Derby on May 3, and is the month of the NFL draft and the Indy 500 auto race – a good month for sports fans. But it’s typically a slow time for PSPE and a good time to recharge and refocus on our priorities.

In January, the PSPE Membership committee was asked to develop specific priorities and implementation plans to realistically attack and start solving our membership retention and recruitment problem. We have been trying to look at the issue from all perspectives, even asking ourselves “who would protect the PE license and promote professionalism if NSPE did not exist? What do members value the most? Why do some of our highly respected members and Fellows value their membership?”

I joined NSPE in 1986, a few months after I graduated from college. My supervisor invited me to some Chapter dinner meetings, probably plant tours. As the new face at meetings, I was asked to join a committee and help with MATHCOUNTS. I enjoyed talking to my colleagues from various industries and disciplines and learned to be comfortable socializing with older and more experienced engineers. I also learned how to plan dinner meetings and tours, how to run Board meetings, how to advertise the meetings, how to assemble a newsletter (that was still printed on paper and mailed to all members), and, how to be disciplined enough to write and fax my presidents message to the editor each month. We are quite spoiled in these days of emails and digital magazines. Everyone I met at our chapter meetings was professional and dedicated to ethical practice. I remember having lively discussions on the pros and cons of mandatory continuing education for maintaining our PE licenses, why we did not like the industrial exemption, and how to report people that were practicing without a license. Meeting topics varied and plant tours were everyone’s favorite and well-attended since there was something for every discipline to see and learn about.

In comparison, I have attended a number of technical society meetings and find them to be enjoyable as well. In my experience, the meetings tend to focus on topics related to a specific engineering discipline. No problem, except that sometimes it felt like I was still at work and would still be talking about work with my co-workers at the meeting. The meeting topics often would give me ideas for solving a related problem on a project, which was a good thing, or covered the latest issues in our discipline. I chaired an audit committee for 10 years and learned the ins and outs of our finances. I also joined the Order of the Engineer at a technical society meeting. Overall, good experiences, but, in my opinion, not inspiring enough and not focused on making the engineering profession better.

I am a member of many organizations and I find value in all of them – personal relationships, member newsletter, activities, opportunities for leadership, or the discount I get on publications related to what I do. Learning how to be a professional, well-rounded engineer came from NSPE and knowing that NSPE is protecting my interests and livelihood as a PE is what I refer to daily and what I value the most. This is what I think differentiates NSPE from technical societies.

Speaking of protecting the PE license, remember to contact your reps and tell them why they should support the passage of HB1447! (Visit PSPE’s Legislative Action Center.) In addition to updating several definitions and modernizing the Act, the legislation is targeting the removal of PA’s industrial exemption.We are still waiting for the public hearing to be scheduled.

Back to membership – what do you value the most from being an NSPE member? Are we communicating to you effectively? Is our message clear enough? Have you visited lately? Is there a committee that interests you? These questions and more are being evaluated to determine how we can better demonstrate value and consistently promote our mission to all members. We want you to find your membership valuable enough to renew.

The NSPE Annual Conference is July 1-6, 2014 in Washington D.C. and PSPE past President Harve Hnatiuk, PE, F.NSPE will be inducted as President of NSPE on July 5. Hope to see some of you in Washington!

Susan K Sprague, PE is a Project Manager for Johnson, Mirmiran and Thompson. She received a B.S. in Civil Engineering from Lehigh University in 1986.