In an effort to “Pay It Forward,” SE University is happy to announce our “SEU Speaker Inspires” program in which our speakers can designate a charity/organization of their choice for SE University to make a donation to help improve our world.


Ian McFarlane, PE, SE
Magnusson Klemencic Associates

In May 2015, Ian McFarlane, PE, SE, from Magnusson Klemencic Associates gave a talk on Mat Foundations and Soil Structure Interaction for SE University. He chose University of Washington Department of Civil Engineering (, for the donation of the month.

Ian said this about his choice, “UW CEE not only gave me a fantastic technical background and got me involved in exciting research topics, but they also provided an excellent balance by frequently involving practicing engineers in the curriculum. This frequent exposure to practicing engineers was very beneficial to me and ultimately led to my position at MKA which makes me extremely grateful!”

Thank you, Ian, for helping structural engineers with your SE University session, and for your designation of University of Washington Department of Civil Engineering as our SEU Speaker Inspires Organization of the Month!

We were slow to get responses from last month’s article soliciting what characteristics of your best supervisors or colleagues inspired you to always improve and become better.  So, for this month I wanted to provide my own reflection.  My story comes from when I was a co-op student at Purdue living with my aunt & uncle in Indianapolis for a combined 5 semesters.  They are wonderful people and I learned a lot by living there.

I would say the trait they had that was most inspiring was a positive attitude.  Despite the many challenges of life, I can’t remember them ever having a negative response to anything.  They focus on the positive side of things and seem to always respond in a helpful way, even in difficult situations.   I always felt better after being around them and inspired to work hard for a positive outcome.

Have you ever noticed anything similar with people you know – where you always feel better after a conversation with them and feel inspired to accomplish more and have a more positive impact on others?  What if we all could work on this trait each and every day?  Any time you sense having a negative response to a situation, think about it before you react and either don’t say anything negative, or come up with a positive response.

We look forward to hearing your feedback and ideas.  Have a wonderful and safe July!

In an effort to “Pay It Forward,” SE University is happy to announce our “SEU Speaker Inspires” program in which our speakers can designate a charity/organization of their choice for SE University to make a donation to help improve our world.

Cathleen Jacinto, SE, PE

Cathleen Jacinto, SE, PE

In April 2015, Cathleen Jacinto, PE, SE, gave a talk on Checklists to Assist the Structural Engineer During Construction Administration for SE University. She chose Cancer Research Institute (, for the donation of the month.

Cathleen said this about her choice, “Cancer Research Institute is a great organization advancing research in several types of cancer immunology, a disease affecting millions of people.”

Thank you, Cathleen, for helping structural engineers with your SE University session, and for your designation of Cancer Research Institute as our SEU Speaker Inspires Organization of the Month!


Have you ever heard the comment that one of the ways to constantly improve is to “hang around successful people” who inspire you?  Jeffrey Gitomer, in his book “Little Gold Book of Yes! Attitude”, says: “If you want to achieve positive, you have to surround yourself with it and live it.” (page 59)

We would like your feedback to learn what are the characteristics of your best supervisors or colleagues that inspire you to always improve and become better?

We will report the results (anonymously – your name will not be used) in a future article, for all to benefit.  To provide your feedback, simply e-mail  We look forward to hearing from you!

by Cathleen Jacinto, SE, PE

Springtime tends to yield several project deadlines as construction season comes into full swing. In the midst of a busy season, QA/QC and project checking may perhaps fall to a lower priority to meet critical deliverables.

During these times, one of the most basic organizational tools – the simple checklist – can improve the proficiency of teams and individuals performing complex tasks. Effective checklists can form the backbone for a project’s success, a team’s communication, and an engineering office’s QA/QC standards. Checklists establish a higher standard of baseline performance, while protecting against or minimizing failures.

Below are a few tips to implementing engineering design or construction checklists:

  • Prioritize the completion of checklist items by deadlines – Schematic Design, Design Development, Permit, Construction Documents, etc. Add internal dates for completion of tasks
  • Assign team members to address specific checklist items
  • Use checklists as a teaching tool – A way to transfer knowledge from experienced engineers to a junior team of engineers
  • Set a recurring appointment on your calendar to commit perhaps an hour biweekly to review your or your office’s checklists
  • After you experience any ‘lesson learned’ on a project, add this to your checklist to avoid repeating the same mistake
  • Set a good example – If a project manager uses checklists, it is more likely his/her team will practice the habit of using checklists

However, the challenge is committing time to develop and implement checklists within aggressive project schedules. There are checklists available as part of our SE University subscription (and part of the SEU Resource Center) that will hopefully reduce your time in developing standards. We encourage the use of our checklists as a template to fit your office and project priorities. A few checklists released thus far include a Coordination Checklist for Elevator Design, Structural / Architectural Coordination Checklist, and a Steel Shop Drawing Review Checklist. Please see this link to a full summary of SEU Resource Center Documents available when you log into the SEU Resource Center.

The first 25 people to e-mail will be given a checklist of their choice.  Simply let Brian know which one you would like.

We hope you will find the tips above and the resources we offer helpful for you and your office!

In an effort to “Pay It Forward,” SE University is happy to announce our “SEU Speaker Inspires” program in which our speakers can designate a charity/organization of their choice for SE University to make a donation to help improve our world.

Otto Schwarz, PE, SE Ryan Biggs Clark Davis

Otto Schwarz, PE, SE
Ryan Biggs Clark Davis

In March 2015, Otto Schwarz, PE, SE, from Ryan Biggs Clark Davis, gave a talk on Concrete Slabs on Grade for SE University. He chose his alma mater, Tennessee Technological University, for the donation of the month.

Otto said this about his choice, “Tennessee Tech gave me a firm base of knowledge for all I have done since and I am very grateful for the professors who dedicated their efforts toward the engineering student body.”

Thank you, Otto, for helping structural engineers with your SE University session, and for your designation of Tennessee Technological University as our SEU Speaker Inspires Organization of the Month!


by Cathleen Jacinto, SE, PE

“Always do something that makes you uncomfortable, or puts you in a position to meet new people or do things that you wouldn’t do otherwise. And you’ll be surprised what kind of result comes out of it… that kind of experience is going to create overall growth.”

One might say that these words by Avery Bang, CEO of Bridges to Prosperity, may fall in the ‘easy-to-say, harder-to-do’ category. However, Avery has shown how she has put these words into action through her work in Bridges to Prosperity, a non-profit organization that focuses on building bridges in underdeveloped communities.

On the Bridges to Prosperity website, Avery Bang is described as one of ENR’s Top 25 Newsmakers of 2012. Avery was also honored on ENR Mountain Region’s Top 20 Under 40 list in 2013, and was selected as one of American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Fresh Faces in 2011, recognizing the top ten Civil Engineers under 30.  Avery is a Distinguished Young Alumni of The University of Iowa, recipient of the Recent Alumni Award from The University of Colorado at Boulder, and received an honorary doctorate degree from Clarkson University in 2014.

I had the opportunity to hear Avery speak at the SEAOI Midwest Bridge Conference in Chicago, IL. A motivating speaker, Avery inspired her structural engineering audience with a fresh perspective of how her decision to study abroad in college as well as her desire to build led her to discover her passion to build bridges and make a positive impact. “I returned a different person. For the first time, I realized the privilege I’d been given. I appreciated the opportunity, and I really wouldn’t settle for anything less than profound.”

We invite you to invest 14 minutes to watch this 2012 inspiring talk by Avery Bang.

by Cathleen Jacinto, SE, PE

Don’t trust your memory. If you listen to something valuable, write it down. If you come across something important, write it down. And here’s what’s important about your journal. It’s all the ideas you took the meticulous time to gather. It’s one of the greatest proofs that you’re a serious student.”

The above quote by Jim Rohn refers to the importance of documentation – the accumulation of our knowledge and experience. As engineers, practicing good documentation will not only build your own efficiency, but also minimize future errors.

Below are a few tips to document your work:

• After a project deadline – but before clearing your desk of the project – add one more helpful task. Create a new document and summarize the various structural elements you designed (i.e. deep grade beams, seismic loads with R>3, end-plate connections, etc) and include tips to remember next time you design these elements. (you might also want to create this document during the course of the project and add information as you progress through the project.)

• Start a document of lessons learned – Write down the cause of RFIs or field issues that resulted in a good deal of rework. Why repeat?

• Start a library of sample calculations – it can be organized by design element and material.

• Start ‘cheat sheets’ on a variety of design topics (or contribute to already established lists). For example, document software model settings, what to include in Specifications, shop drawing review checklists, takeaways from webinars, etc. It does not need to be comprehensive. It can be one bullet point long until your next lesson learned.

There may come a day when you need to refer to your ‘professional journal’ when a colleague asks a question, or even for a resume. This is an accumulation of your experiences. Consider how valuable this documentation will be after 20+ years.

The checklists recently released as part of our SE University subscription (and part of the SEU Resource Center) is an accumulation of experiences from structural engineers. We invite you to utilize these checklists to build your own ‘professional journal.’ (See the SE University Blog for more information on these checklists.) Feel free to share any of your own lessons learned with us by emailing

We hope this will help you and your office grow your accumulation of experiences. Jim Rohn tells us to ‘Be a collector of good ideas for your business, for your relationships, for your future.’

by Cathleen Jacinto, SE, PE

We are accustomed to describing work/life balance as the act of balancing time spent at work and time spent away from the office. Perhaps we can also consider a work/life balance as the act of balancing and merging professional and personal goals.

I find it easy in an engineering office to be swept into deadline after deadline without sincerely ‘checking in’ to ensure that one is setting and meeting both personal and professional goals. Professional goals are easier to set as they are tangible – obtaining degrees, licensures, promotions, etc. Personal goals, however, can be overlooked but are as important or perhaps more important than professional goals.

“The real purpose of a goal is what it makes of you as a human being while you pursue it. Who you become as a person is the ultimate reward.” – Anthony Robbins

Is the path you are on and those you are surrounded by align with the person you strive to be? Do you want your goals to have a more positive impact to those around you? It can be as simple as taking time to show more appreciation to others in the office to larger goals of being a mentor or contributing to community or professional organizations.

Jorge Borgoglio states “Do not bury your talents! Set your stakes on great ideals, the ideals that enlarge the heart, the ideals of service that make your talents fruitful.”

by Julian Gonsalves and Susan Khalifah, SE, PE

The CHICAGOLAND PROFESSIONAL CHAPTER (CPC), founded in 2005, is one of the largest Engineers Without Borders (EWB) chapters in the United States with five active programs in four countries around the world (Honduras, Guatemala, Burkino Faso, and Kenya); each program requiring a minimum 5 year commitment with a community. In our nine year history we have completed four programs (in Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala) and adopted five additional communities directly impacting approximately 16,000 people and indirectly affecting over 36,000 in the communities’ surrounding areas. Our projects include building community wells, flood mitigation, constructing pedestrian and vehicle bridges, energy management systems, sanitation and latrine systems, water storage and distribution systems and other infrastructure needs that the communities identify.

Here’s a lookback at what EWC-CPC accomplished in 2014:

For a school in Ak’Tenamit, Guatemala: we implemented a new sanitation system complete with 14 flush toilets, 4 waterless urinals, a hand washing system, and a anaerobic baffled reactor for treating the wastewater. We also installed a solar pump for the school’s water supply saving them $5,000 a year in diesel fuel.

For the community of Armenta, Honduras: we constructed a new storage tank, new sedimentation tank and trained and assisted community members on how to install pipelines and pipe bridges; working together with the community, the residents will have access to water everyday instead of once a week.

For the community of Candelaria, Honduras: we constructed a river training structure to help with the local economy, made improvements to their Waste Management site, demonstrated disposal methods for their medical waste, and helped the community with their environmental stewardship.

For the community of Mayanja-Kibuke, Kenya: we worked with community members on building spring boxes to protect their water sources from contamination. The team built 5 spring boxes and they trained the community on how to construct additional spring boxes as well as how to repair damaged ones.

For the community of Napenkara, Burkino Faso: in the village of Napenkara, the NGO Future for Faso Children (FFC) and Evanston Lighthouse Rotary implemented a water well in 2013. We are working with FFC to implement a second water well for the village.

All of these projects happened because of CPC’s hard work and the generosity of our donors. Our Chapter’s success is a direct result of our 120+ members and our 200+ network of volunteers. The CPC 2014 Year-End Campaign continues until January 10, 2015 and with your help we can have an even larger impact in 2015.

To learn more about our work, get involved or donate, please visit:

To contact EWB Chicagoland Professionals, please e-mail



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