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President’s Column

Volunteerism in SPE

Egbert Imomoh, 2013 SPE President

This is the last column I will write before the end of my tenure, and I could not think of a better subject to discuss than volunteerism in our global society. As I visited sections and student chapters in different parts of the world, I have been amazed at the number of our members who give valuable time and talent for the good and growth of SPE. I have also been more acute in my observation of volunteerism in our daily lives. For example, early one morning I noticed an elderly lady at a pedestrian crossing helping young children cross a busy road on their way to school. Instead of being cuddled in bed, she was giving her time selflessly to her community.

There are of course many heroic examples, but in most cases volunteers do not go that far. Typically, volunteers give part of themselves for the good and growth of the group they belong to.

The issue of volunteerism was brought to sharp focus when I had the pleasure of a 7-hour drive with a regional director whilst traveling between sections. Our discussion was about why people volunteer. We spent quite some time discussing what drives people to give up their valuable time for activities that don’t result in overt rewards. I have routinely asked members, “Why do you volunteer?”

As to be expected, the responses are varied. Some have joined this corps of volunteers because someone invited them to do so; others have done so to be able to give back some of the benefits they derived from the work of other volunteers; some see the need to ensure that future leaders are exposed to the vast knowledge that SPE has gathered over the years; and others were grateful for the social interaction across the various strata of SPE members and the opportunities to occupy a leadership role outside their work environment. Whatever the reasons are, the fact remains that a sacrifice has to be made, ranging from adding extra-long hours in the work day to giving up time with family in order to carve out time for SPE activities.

In a recent article in the Havard Business Review, Adam Grant (Grant, A. 2013) drew attention to work that was done studying organizations where the practice of giving is well entrenched. It has been established that a willingness to help others achieve their goals is the heart of effective collaboration, innovation, quality improvement, and service excellence. In workplaces where such behavior becomes the norm, the benefits multiply quickly. Grant discussed a landmark meta-analysis led by Nathan Podsakoff of the University of Arizona. Podsakoff and his team examined 38 studies of organizational behavior, representing more than 3,500 business units and many different industries. They found a link between employee giving and desirable business outcomes. When employees serve as givers outside their organization, their organization also benefits—they facilitate efficient problem solving and coordination, and build cohesive, supportive cultures that appeal to customers, suppliers, and top talent alike.

Over the years, SPE’s programs have expanded at an extraordinary pace. If it wasn’t for the fact that so many of our members participate in these activities, from local levels right up to the Board, we would not be where we are today. I firmly believe that the practice of giving by our volunteers has contributed to the tremendous growth of SPE and the respect it now attracts from industry.

Having said that, we recognize that there are challenges to keeping volunteerism vigorous in SPE. In our Strategic Plan (www.spe.org/about/strategicplan.php), the Board acknowledged that the changing demographics of SPE’s membership could mean that more members may come from areas that do not have a strong tradition of volunteerism. Coupled with the pending retirement of many of SPE’s long-time active volunteers, SPE could face a significant challenge to following its traditional, volunteer-driven path to programming that must be addressed. The Board will continue its discussions on that initiative.

Updates From June Board Meeting

In June, the SPE Board of Directors met for the second time this year. To follow on the theme of strategic intents I outlined in my June column, the Board held a plenary session to discuss two of our strategic pursuits. One was SPE’s commitment to maintain and enhance strong technical quality in our programs. A work group presentation included action items to develop training programs for event program committees, a common definition for technical quality for application across events, and better guides and resources for technical paper authors and reviewers. Another strategic intent discussed at the plenary session was faculty development and retention. Initial actions include a forum scheduled this month that will investigate the competencies required for entry-level engineers in 2020; a faculty task force to create two pilot programs to address local needs in eastern North America and Nigeria; and the faculty awards approved in 2011 that give monetary awards for excellence, encouraging academic careers, and funding for research.

Other noteworthy Board actions include a reorganization of the Board committees to make them more efficient. The three new Board committees are

  • Member Programs Committee, which includes education and professional activities
  • Technical Programs and Meetings Committee, which includes meetings, conferences, and training
  • Communications and Knowledge Sharing Committee, which includes print and electronic publications, SPE.org, and outreach communications (like Energy4me)

SPE continues to expand, and that is evident in the recent growth in our sections and chapters. We currently have 193 sections and 283 chapters, adding a new section and 12 chapters since the March Board meeting. A new section was approved for Astana (capital of Kazakhstan) and the following chapters were approved at

  • Iraq Baghdad University
  • Polytechnic University of Tirana in Albania
  • Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) in Malaysia
  • China University of Petroleum (Huadong)
  • University of Technology, Baghdad
  • Universidade do Estado de Santa Catarina
  • Universidade Federal de Campina Grande
  • Universidade Federal do Amazonas (UFAM)
  • University of Toronto
  • Oklahoma State University

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