UCA Chair Column; Two years have come and gone

June 1, 2023

And … WHAM! … all of a sudden, it’s time for my last column as our association’s Chair. The term has flown by and so, per the adage, I must’ve been having fun (most of that is thanks to being able to spend time with all of you). I’m also feeling a strong sense of accomplishment at everything this administration has been able to progress. And thank you all for your belief in me, your support, stepping up to volunteer, providing feedback, participating in conferences and moving the industry forward.

It's traditional that this edition of the column looks back - to establish the benchmark for going forward yet again - and I’m choosing to highlight items from the most recent first rather than chronologically.

In recognition that, from lessons learned, we need to begin impressing the importance of and opportunities with our industry to potential entrants before they hit their final years of college, when decisions may already have been made, we’ve just established a task force to focus on making an impact with the Kindergarten – Grade 12 cohort. This is brand new and will be led by Sarah Wilson, of Delve Underground, and she is looking for motivated volunteers.

This will operate in parallel with and hopefully emulate the flourishing of Down for That. The Student Outreach Committee just supported its first tunneling workshop, complementing a plethora of tunnel tours that have been held in the last half-year.

The Owner’s Forum, once only active during conferences, recently completed its first “in-between” web-based meeting. We recognize that it can be challenging for owners to participate in UCA as other members do, due to the constraints of the responsibility of their positions, and I am appreciative that this important group is growing and becoming more active.

The government & public affairs committee (GPAC) is growing, and members participated with ASCE in the recent Legislative Fly-In to Washington, D.C. While the committee is in its early days, I believe that this will be a very important initiative in addressing our strategic ambitions with Stakeholder Awareness. We simply need to be more structured and persistent with educating decision makers in the wisdom of underground investment.

The newly expanded UCA Awards program at NAT received a tremendous amount of positive feedback. It highlighted our industry’s achievements and, with its structure, also positioned our winners to compete for recognition on the global stage with the ITA Awards. More expansion is planned, so please stay tuned.

We held a record-setting George Fox Conference this January. That was hot-on-the-heels of a record-setting Cutting Edge Conference in November. This is very reinforcing of our strategic goal of Industry Education.

Sandwiched in between, we closed 2022 with the highest ever level of membership in UCA. This is important as one of our strategic goals is Industry & Association growth and the hard numbers tell a story. Additionally, it contributes to a virtuous cycle: more members -> more volunteers -> more contributions -> more value creation -> more members.

The 2022 World Tunneling Congress and ITA General Assembly saw our member nation organization candidate, Sanja Zlatanic, elected to the Executive Council. Exemplified with her efforts, the USA continues to be recognized as a very strong contributor on the international industry scene.

We got back last year to a post-COVID, in-person NAT which was very successful, by all accounts. Of note, during that conference, we also held the inaugural Past-Chairs meeting, whereby a forum was established to garner feedback and receive experienced counsel from those past leaders still active in the industry.

The first Project Watch List was published a year and a half ago, with the intent of highlighting for society’s stakeholders the importance of projects needing to be approved, funded and built.

RETC was our first conference back in-person, going all the way back to June 2021. At that meeting, we began our Mentoring program for scholarship winners. That program continues at all NAT, RETC and Cutting Edge conferences now, and the efforts of motivated mentors now continue those relationships in between conference events.

Volunteer leaders continue to foster relationships with liaison organizations across the industry, leveraging our association’s efforts with those of other stakeholders, with the intent of maximizing exposure and progress with stakeholders.

Finally, I’d like to recognize that the “as yet unreferenced in this column” groups in our Workforce Sustainability category – Women in Tunneling, Young Members, Teach the Professors – continue to get stronger, more active, and make differences for the industry.

I thank my employer, Strata Worldwide, for the unconditional support of my work time spent as UCA Chair. The next column will come from incoming Chair, Erika Moonin, and I look forward to continuing to serve our association as Past-Chair. I have great gratitude for Bob Goodfellow, as he steps down from the rank of officers, for all that he has done and the support he has given me. Thanks also to the stalwart SME staff who do a lot of heavy lifting and support all us volunteers in our support of our association.

Tunnel on!


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