GEOSTRATA, 2016, September/October, 8-9

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When I was a little boy, I dreamed about growing up to do great things — climbing mountains, hitting home runs, conquering uncharted territories… being a hero. Maybe we are all a bit like that when we are little.

Growing up, I put my silly hopes aside, went off to college, and, somehow, with great luck, discovered geotechnical engineering. And perhaps like you, I fell in love with the earth and its mechanics. I discovered a whole new world of geo-heroes that I idolized and wished to be like — Mitchell, Handy, Duncan, O’Rourke, Seed, Clough, Wright… the list goes on and on. But I learned quickly that I would never be what they were: those early pioneers and masters of the geo-universe. My hopes and dreams of achieving great things diminished.

With time, I have learned that truly great things in life and profession are not achieved by solely the works of geniuses, but more often by the result of the collective labor of groups of collaborative, “normal” people, each pulling the wagon along toward a common goal. Even in this age of exploding technology, it is people that are important, each and every one in their own way a geo-hero to me.

I believe that never before in the history of our profession have we been beset by more powerful headwinds — nor greater opportunities:

  • Our practitioners have never before experienced such commoditization; pressures that threaten to reduce our great profession to a shadow of what it once was.
  • Our academics have never before experienced such competition for research funding; with institutional output measured by external funding and peer-reviewed papers, leaving little time for contemplation and sometimes even teaching.
  • We remain a non-diverse industry, ill-positioned to take advantage of the strengths and talents offered by many people.
  • Yet our infrastructure, so poorly funded recently, will require major upgrades in ways that will be fundamentally different than in the past as our populations experience a new urban migration.
  • We have climate change (when have we not, geologically speaking?) that brings new chal-lenges as we seek to adapt to revised weather patterns, water supplies, and sea changes. oo And we are on the cusp of a metamorphosis into digital mapping, imagery, data amalga-mation, and probability-based predictions that will completely change the way we deliver
    our value to our clients and customers.

I believe that to achieve our unrealized potential, our profession has never before had a greater need for robust interactions between the groups that comprise our profession – academia and practitioners alike. We can no longer work without each other. I am proud to report to you some of the accomplishments from our colleagues within the G-I:

We now have 41 local Chapters formed to bring the great value of the G-I directly to those of us who implement it in the field.

With much thanks to the Technical Coordination Council, our technical committees are now pivoting toward packag-ing our state-of-the-emerging practice in a way that is easily brought to our practitioners at regional conferences.

  • We sponsor more than 40 students each year to attend our GeoCongress.
  • We have reached an accord with the SEI to support each other in areas of licensure conflicts.
  • We have achieved collaborative agreements with many indus-try affiliates (GBA, DFI, ADSC, and SME) to seamlessly bring value directly to you, and we are working with the FHWA to create an evaluation group to vet geo developments.
  • Our flagship, GEOSTRATA, has never before provided you with so much connectivity to your profession.

A great profession requires the coordinated efforts of great people, and that’s where you come in. We need you.

Come and walk with today’s Terzaghis; spend some of your great energies with wonderful people who remain in love with the earth’s mysterious mechanics and who are making a difference. Lastly, as I think about our profession, I look back over the path that we have come, and I wish to thank you all, my friends, and colleagues, for providing me with the honor and privilege of serving as your G-I president this past year. You have given me a return beyond measure. On the eve of my last president’s letter, I ask that you please join me in welcoming the new G-I President Dr. Garry Gregory, who will start his term in mid-October. I look forward to his wise counsel, and I wish you all the best as you go forth toward your spectacular future.

 

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Kord Wissmann, PhD, PE, D.GE, M.ASCE Geo-Institute President kwissmann@geopier.com