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Wanted! More Dam Engineers

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Innovations in Civil Engineering Education III

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.1353.1 - 15.1353.14



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Paper Authors


Sarah McCubbin-Cain University of Kentucky

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Sarah McCubbin-Cain has been the Information Specialist for the Association of State Dam Safety Officials (ASDSO) since 1998. She provides research and reference services for ASDSO, contributes and edits articles in ASDSO's quarterly Journal of Dam Safety and monthly newsletter, and coordinates the activities of ASDSO's Committee on Education Outreach.

Ms. McCubbin-Cain holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in Psychology and Elementary Education from the University of Kentucky and a Masters in Elementary Education from Georgetown College. She has taught in elementary and middle schools in Kentucky and at the Instituto Guatemalteco-Americano in Guatemala City.

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Bruce Tschantz University of Tennessee - Knoxville

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

WANTED! More Dam Engineers


This paper will discuss the student outreach initiatives of the Association of State Dam Safety Officials (ASDSO), a national non-profit association of over 2,800 members representing state and federal agencies, consulting firms, dam and levee owners, manufacturers and suppliers, researchers, college faculty, students and others dedicated to ensuring the safety of our nation’s dams.

While new dam construction peaked several decades ago, the nation’s existing dams require ongoing maintenance, many need extensive rehabilitation, and others will be removed. The American Society of Civil Engineers has consistently assigned dams a grade of ‘D’ on its Report Card for America's Infrastructure, noting that the number of dams identified as “unsafe” is increasing at a faster rate than those being repaired.

The disastrous levee failures resulting from Hurricane Katrina and a recent report by the National Committee on Levee Safety3 that cited a need for “creating a cadre of national levee experts” also underscore the need to recruit students into careers dedicated to dam and levee safety. In addition to the nearly 90,000 dams listed in the National Inventory of Dams, the U.S. is home to an estimated 114,000 miles of federal and non-federal levees, many of uncertain condition.

According to surveys of association members conducted by the authors in 2004 and 2009, there is an inadequate supply of qualified candidates for jobs relating to dam and levee safety, and the shortage will likely increase as “boomer-era” experts retire. Accordingly, ASDSO is providing incentives to attract students to the field through a Speakers Bureau, a Student Employment Opportunities Clearinghouse, a Student Paper Competition, scholarship awards, and free student admission to the group’s national and regional conferences.

Additionally, ASDSO seeks to increase collaboration between its members and universities in the areas of specialized training, research, and development of capstone courses.

This paper will:

Look at current hiring needs within government and private sector communities; Outline how ASDSO’s projects are helping to attract students to professions in dam and levee safety; and Challenge the engineering education community to foster greater collaboration between universities and practicing engineers who specialize in dam engineering.

A Shortage of Engineers: Perceptions and Solutions

Over the past two decades, an apparent decline in the percentage of college students studying engineering led to speculation about its potential effects on the nation’s future. According to a 2003 American College Testing (ACT) report2, fewer than six percent of seniors who took the ACT examination in 2002 planned to study engineering; a decade earlier, the figure was nearly

McCubbin-Cain, S., & Tschantz, B. (2010, June), Wanted! More Dam Engineers Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16080

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