Amanda Hanaway-Corrente, PE, MBA, is a member of the Vermont section. She works at the University of Vermont (UVM) Transportation Research Center (TRC) as the New England Transportation Consortium (NETC) Coordinator. She also represents the UVM TRC as the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTRANS) Research Advisory Committee (RAC) Liaison, ensuring strong communication between UVM and VAOT on various research initiatives. Amanda chaired the committee that produced the 2014 Report Card for Vermont’s Infrastructure, which was released October 16. She also chairs the Vermont Raise the Bar Committee.
Amanda has a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from UVM, a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Rhode Island, and a Professional Engineering License in the State of Vermont. Her professional engineering license is in the field of transportation engineering as she has designed many roads, roundabouts, and parking lots prior to becoming involved in transportation research.
If you are interested in becoming involved with ASCE’s Key Contact Program and promoting the profession through advocacy, learn more information and sign up at asce.org.
How did you become interested in and get involved in advocacy for your profession?
My first employer out of college was Stantec. I worked out of their South Burlington office and was strongly encouraged to get involved with engineering societies in Vermont. I started with ASCE, but have also held positions on the Board of Directors for the Vermont Society of Professional Engineers. I have attended several meetings for the Society of Women Engineers, Vermont Society of Engineers, and American Council of Engineering Companies as well.
What issues have you highlighted/focused on when communicating with your legislators?
Lately, my two major focal points have been the 2014 update to the Report Card for Vermont’s Infrastructure and the Raise the Bar initiative, since I am the chair of both committees in Vermont. Earlier this year I attended the annual ASCE Fly-In event on Capitol Hill, which had us focusing on the surface transportation reauthorization and the Water Resources Reform and Development Act.
What levels of government have you focused your efforts on?
I am currently trying to expand my network at the local, state, and federal levels. Opportunities that I use to accomplish this goal include:
- Attending various conferences on behalf of the UVM, TRC and ASCE, taking each as an opportunity to meet people who affect change on a national level. For example, I attended the Annual ASCE Fly-In Event earlier this year.
- Acting as a research liaison for my office with the Vermont Agency of Transportation, which provides the opportunity to make connections on the state level.
- Staying involved with several engineering societies in Vermont in an effort to stay on top of local and state issues.
- Attending events such as “The Day Under the Dome “at the Vermont Statehouse, which provides an opportunity to network with our legislators.
Most of my government relations activities are focused on State and Federal employees and appointees that do work in the field of transportation. The Vermont Section of ASCE just added the Government Relations Representative position to their Board of Directors last year. At this point, I am trying to learn who the various players are before crafting a specific plan or focus with respect to outreach and advocacy. One thing I have done to learn more is to reach out to several people with experience in advocacy to serve on committees with me. These folks have been instrumental in helping develop advocacy plans and mentoring me as a Government Relations Representative. I was recently interviewed by Vermont Public Radio for the release of the 2014 Report Card for Vermont’s Infrastructure on October 16th.
How do you gather information and prepare to do your advocacy work?
The ASCE website is an excellent tool. I can always find PowerPoint presentations, guidelines, and other documents that help me get up to speed with the issues and how to advocate on their behalf. ASCE National has support staff for both the Raise the Bar Initiative and the State Infrastructure Report Cards. This staff is always very responsive to requests, and they have a lot of tools that might not even be on the website. I also use the Vermont Section Board of Directors and Regional Governors as a resource for a lot of issues.
What have you learned through your activities as an ASCE advocate and citizen lobbyist?
Prior to volunteering as the Vermont Section Government Relations Representative, I had limited knowledge about how the Legislature and Congress worked on a local, state or national level. I worked almost entirely in my silo of transportation engineering, design, and research. I am now much more familiar with the schedule, players, and processes associated with the Legislature and Congress. I am currently working with a committee to pass new legislation in the State of Vermont with respect to the Raise the Bar Initiative, and that committee includes a member of the Vermont House of Representatives. I have learned that having a member of the Legislature on your team is tremendously helpful for being an ASCE advocate and citizen lobbyist; their insight is invaluable.
Has the experience helped you improve skills you utilize personally or professionally?
Absolutely! Chairing two committees at once really sharpens my communication skills and efficiency. We try to accomplish the most amount of work with the least amount of effort, especially since we are all volunteering our time. The volunteers come from all over Vermont, so communication has to be done in a way that keeps everyone in the loop at all times and does not exclude anyone. With every ASCE Event I attend I expand my network to include more professionals in my industry. Since my job is focused on linking needs with available resources, having a diverse network is essential.
What has been challenging about being an advocate? And how did you overcome them?
My biggest challenge is trying not to push people too much. You have to remember that your fellow Section Board of Directors and committee members are all volunteering their time too. Sometimes personal matters come up and a Board Member has to back down from a committee, so the rest of the committee binds together to absorb the work. It is important to balance workloads among the committee members and push the goals of the committee forward, without burning people out. I try to be reasonable about expectations and not over commit the committee to unfeasible tasks and deadlines. At times where setting high effort, quick turnaround goals are necessary, it is important that the entire committee agree to the necessity before setting tasks and deadlines.
What have you found rewarding about your efforts? Is there a particularly memorable experience you can share?
The most rewarding aspect of being involved with ASCE is a sense of confidence in my abilities. I was very young when I was President of the Vermont Section, which provided me experience on how to manage a team before I was ever offered a role in management at my job. When I was finally offered a job in management, I had developed the experience to accept and fulfill my new management role confidently.
The most rewarding moment of my career was being named Vermont’s 2011 Young Engineer of the Year. I am fairly certain that my work with ASCE set me apart from the other nominees. The very next year, the Vermont Section won the Outstanding Section & Branch 2012 Award for small sections. I remember the exact moment I found out that we had won: For the last few years, the Vermont Section has been hosting a Toys for Tots drive as our December Event. I was standing by the bar during the social hour of the event when one of our ASCE Regional Governors came up and told me the news. I immediately raised my fist in the air and jumped with delight, bumping into the man standing behind me and spilling most of his drink. I was so excited because I had worked really hard on filling out the application, a responsibility the Board of Directors had entrusted me with. Our section deserved the award and I found it so rewarding to be able to facilitate the effort to obtain it. In 2013, we won the Outstanding Section & Branch Award again, using the 2012 application as a template. Since then, my most recent memorable moment is being selected as a member to profile in ASCE’s new Advocacy Profile Spotlight! Moments like those remind me why I work so hard.
Have you felt that your efforts have made a difference? How?
I am sure that my efforts have made a difference in various ways, but the one example that stands out to me is being able to mentor young engineers. I am constantly offering help to college students and young engineers move forward in the professional world. There are so many career options for civil engineers and it can be scary when you are first starting out. The myriad of connections I have made in the engineering world through ASCE make me a valuable resource to these young engineers. I help them with resumes, mock interviews, which engineering companies exist, what the companies do, what would be the best fit based on the individual student, what certifications they should be working towards, etc. I have even helped students make regional and national connections.
What advice would you give to someone interested in getting involved in advocacy?
First, I would tell them that getting involved with ASCE was the most valuable thing I have done for my career. Then I would ask some pointed questions to help them determine what type of advocacy work would be best suited for them. I would also recommend them to get support from their employer. The value of being involved with ASCE is completely transferable to the work environment. If you can align your contributions to ASCE with work for your employer, the work’s value is increased significantly.