Strengthening Your Local Section

Are you involved in your local section of AIChE? Do you meet with fellow chemical engineers the other 360 days of the year you aren't at the Annual Meeting? If so--congratulations, and keep up the good work!

LSC luncheon participants hard at work discussing hypothetical section scenarios.

For anyone interested in getting involved with his or her local section (LS), or for those currently leading or interested in leading a LS, the AIChE Local Sections Committee (LSC) is for you! The LSC provides resources and support to sections across AIChE borders and serves as a clearinghouse for information and contacts. The LSC meets at every Annual Meeting to provide updates on LS activity and promote networking across sections. The LSC also offers leadership development opportunities that help AIChE members sharpen their personal organizational and management skills.

Problem-solving scenarios

This year, the LSC meeting--traditionally held as a luncheon with a workshop format--provided an interactive session designed to engage leaders in questions related to various LS scenarios. Each table at the luncheon was assigned a particular scenario for which the group had to develop an answer. At the end of the brainstorming period, each group reported its ideas, which were recorded for reference. The scenarios were developed and the workshop facilitated by Brian Daly, Featured YP of October.

If time and money were no issue, how would you resolve the following two scenarios of the multiple scenarios Brian developed?

Sample of ideas in response to the LSC interactive workshop on problems commonly faced by local sections.

1. This section was founded when a fuel additive, Chemical X, was in high demand and Chemical X plants dominated the area economy, employing many chemical engineers. However, as time went on, the demand for Chemical X waned and eventually was phased out as a fuel additive altogether. Practically all of the plants in the section either closed or now operate with greatly reduced staff. Meanwhile, the local community (city hall and chamber of commerce) has desperately been reaching out to the surviving industries in the area to retain them and their professionals. Unfortunately, the membership in the section has dwindled over that time and they've struggled with attendance at their meetings, with only one or two showing up with any regularity outside of the officers.

2. Several years ago, a charismatic engineer took over as chair of a section in a relatively large city. Before the engineer showed up, activity at the section was inconsistent, making it difficult to gain new members even though there was a decent number of engineering companies in the city. Immediately, the engineer was able to motivate the existing leadership and single-handedly recruited a number of new members into the group. The engineer had ambitions of expanding the activities of the section, so the engineer aggressively pursued the companies in the city to sponsor or support activities in the section. Unfortunately, the engineer was transferred to a new office across the country and the existing leadership in the section struggled to maintain the activities organized by the engineer.

Eventually, the membership dropped again and corporate contacts soured because the existing leadership didn't have the charisma or motivation to execute the ambitious projects originally organized by the engineer. The section has limped along as they try to find another person to fill the role of the engineer and save their section.

What are your solutions to these scenarios?