Building Success

Former member of the Civil Engineering Advisory Council shares his passion about keeping involved with the school

By the end of my eighth-grade year, I knew I wanted to be a civil engineer. I wasn't exactly sure what that entailed, but fast forward several years through Purdue and beyond, and I can say, quite confidently, that I made the right career choice. Given the opportunity to serve on the Civil Engineering Advisory Council, I jumped at the chance. My hope was to not only give something back, but perhaps help shape the future of my old school.

I believe it was the perspective of Vince Drnevich, the school's head at the time, that the advisory board be not just a download to alumni or a means of engaging alumni for financial purposes. Rather, the goal was to bring civil engineering faculty into contact with civil engineering practitioners, while making us (the practitioners) more aware of academic issues at Purdue.

It was within this setting that the lines of communication opened to where the advisory council members participated in interviews that led to new faculty hires, discussed the need for a campus research facility like Bowen Lab, and addressed declining enrollment concerns. About four years ago, several of us on the board first began discussing the idea of a specialization in the field of architectural engineering.

Both faculty and board members reported, anecdotally, that there were Purdue engineering students looking for something our school did not offer. That was a course of engineering study and practice that would involve greater interface with elements of architecture and a more holistic civil engineering process related to the design and construction of buildings. So began the push for the new emphasis area.

In February 2005, I had the pleasure of giving a presentation to the council on the benefits of an architectural engineering emphasis. Something I observed early on—and concurred with 100 percent—was the faculty's concerns that the new area must not be the easy way through the civil curriculum. The strength and rigor of Purdue civil engineering is important to maintain and even enhance. We have incredible currency in our program in terms of its quality and worldwide rankings, and we would not want to impact that in any negative way.

With the 2009 introduction of the architectural engineering emphasis area, however, I truly believe the school is enhancing its educational product. There's a demand in the marketplace for these types of graduates, and Purdue can take the lead in helping produce them. Four new faculty hires, along with the continued resurgence in enrollment numbers, point to a promising future.

Having gone through my available terms, I have since retired from the advisory council. Anyone involved on the board fully understands the importance of his or her role and the ability to positively impact the Purdue reputation. I would encourage civil engineering practitioners, wherever they are, to keep an active role. By staying involved in a particular area of interest and keeping in contact with current faculty, you can help make our great school even greater.

-Harold Force