Article courtesy of the
Water Environment Federation
Being a part of the Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria Va.) is important to many members on both a professional and personal level. The relationship between WEF and its members is mutually beneficial; services and benefits available to members often inspire a sense of dedication and desire to be regularly involved in the federation, which in turn enables WEF to be a successful organization.
Members’ dedication is apparent in both WEF’s long-term members and newcomers to the organization.
WEF life member Dan Smith. Photo courtesy of Smith.
WEF life member status is given to those who have been active members for at least 35 years and have reached the age of 65, but life member Dan Smith’s dedication to WEF goes beyond even this remarkable achievement. Smith’s relationship with WEF began when he joined as a student member in 1967. During his 43 years of membership, Smith has attended 30 annual conferences, participated in various committees, and, as a professor, sent many of his graduate students to WEF’s annual conferences.
“I’ve developed a lot of friends, colleagues, and contacts all over the world from people I’ve met at the conferences,” Smith said. While he was pursuing a master’s degree in sanitary engineering at San Jose (Calif.) State University, Smith’s advisor sent him to his first annual conference in New York in 1967. “It was a real eye-opener to me in terms of the depth of the field of wastewater engineering,” he said. “Developing rules to not only protect public health but also the environment, that was all very appealing, and seeing it all exposed at the conference had a tremendous impact on me at that time.”
Smith continued his education as a Ph.D. student at the University of Kansas (Lawrence) and attended another WEF conference in Chicago. In 1971, he became a full WEF member through the Alaska Water Management Association (Anchorage). Currently, he is a professor emeritus at the University of Alberta (Edmonton).
Educating students in the field is one of Smith’s proudest accomplishments, and encouraging them to attend at least one WEF annual conference is a large part of their education, Smith explained. He hopes that the experience will expand their horizons as it did for him. “I think it’s really important for the students to put a human face on this [wastewater engineering] work that they’re working on,” he said. “It’s all made a tremendous impact on their vision of the field and understanding, in a real
hands-on way, the scope of wastewater engineering.”
“For me, the journal and the literature review in particular are extremely valuable in learning about new things that are happening,” Smith said. He uses WEF’s annual
literature review as a teaching tool, asking graduate students to use what has been identified in the review as a base to start their research, he said. Also, he compiles all issues of Water Environment Research and makes them available for student research and will have students critique journal papers as an assignment.
Through the years, Smith has participated in WEF’s Public Relations Committee, Program Committee, and Literature Review Committee; participated in specialty workshops for his local association; attended various WEF specialty conferences; and presented papers at WEF annual conferences.
SYPC Community Service Project Chair Haley Falconer at the committee’s 2009 community service project. Photo courtesy of Frank Crilley.
Student and Young Professional Membership
WEF’s young professionals (YPs) may be newer to the water quality field than life members, but their desire to be widely and consistently involved in WEF is no less apparent. Take, for instance, YP member Haley Falconer, who joined WEF as a student member in May 2006 and hasn’t missed attending an annual conference yet. As an undergraduate at North Dakota State University (Fargo) pursuing civil engineering, she was approached by a fellow student to compete in WEF’s student design competition. Since then, her involvement in WEF has grown.
At Falconer’s second conference, she sat in on the Students and Young Professionals Committee (SYPC) meeting and became interested in helping organize a proposed annual service project. After expressing interest to the SYPC, she soon became co-chair and now is chair of the project. “The nice thing about the Students and Young Professionals Committee is that if you show any interest in anything, you’re given the responsibility to be a subcommittee lead or to help with a particular task,” she said. “So you get to slowly get more and more involved and learn a lot about the organization.”
Falconer received a master’s degree in environmental engineering from Washington State University (Pullman) and started working at HDR (Omaha, Neb.) as water/wastewater project engineer in January. “Professionally, just being able to meet so many people has really opened up so many doors,” she said. Contacts she made through WEF helped her get her current job, she added.
As a part of the SYPC, Falconer gets to meet people with similar interests at a similar point in their lives and gets the ability to influence the way the group grows, she said. “I like being a part of the organization, being a part of the decision-making process and the direction that something’s going to head,” she said.
Falconer believes in the SYPC and loves that being involved keeps her motivated. “It’s a way to keep things fresh,” she said. “It’s a way to know I really am giving back.” She also has attended one YP Summit and WEFMAX meeting, and two regional WEF Member Association conferences, she said. For the future she wants to expand her involvement in WEF by looking for more technical ways to participate. She expects to continue as an active WEF member for the foreseeable future. “I don’t see myself not being involved,” she said.