#FemaleFriday

Robin Kemper, PE, LEED AP, F.SEI, F.ASCE

Robin A. Kemper, PE, LEED AP, F.SEI, F.ASCE and ASCE President-elect has over thirty-five years of diverse and extensive structural engineering experience in design, analysis, and forensics, focused mainly on buildings. Robin currently is a Risk Engineer with Zurich North America. She works for both the Professional Liability and Construction Properties Risk Engineering Groups providing technical support to construction project policies, developing best practices, and investigating losses on construction projects. Robin has a passion for Engineering Ethics and since 2011, Robin has given over 20 presentations to various engineering groups on this topic in her spare time.

Robin is a licensed Professional Engineer in six jurisdictions, and a Fellow of both ASCE and the ASCE Structural Engineering Institute. She has been active in ASCE since college, was President of both the Central Jersey Branch and the New Jersey Section of ASCE, and was District 1/Region 1 Director on the Society Board of Directors. Robin lso served on the Board of Direction of Engineers Without Borders, and the Civil Engineering Industrial Advisory Board of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, her alma mater. She is currently a member of the Civil Engineering Industrial Advisory Boards for Rutgers University and the College of New Jersey.

Robin has been recognized a multitude of times for her service to ASCE throughout her career. Her most recent ecognitions are the 2013 William H. Wisely American Civil Engineer Award (a National award), and the 2015 ASCE New Jersey Section Civil Engineer of the Year.

Robin loves to travel, seaside vacations, and her family. She and her husband Chris have been married for 37 years; they have two wonderful daughters and two great son-in-laws, and Robin loves playing with the newest member of the family, grandson Jonah.

When did you realize you wanted to be a civil engineer? Why did you first study engineering?

I started my college career as an architectural major. During our sophomore year, we were introduced to structural engineering through a course given in the Department of Architecture. At the same time, the economy was not good and we heard stories that it may be difficult to get a job in architecture. So my friends got together, and we brainstormed ways we could make ourselves more employable after college. I decided I wanted to be a double major, and study civil engineering with an emphasis on structural engineering, building design. I started studying engineering my junior year of college.

How do you balance work, a family, and professional society leadership?

Ever since I was a younger member I have always compared my life to an equilateral triangle. At each point of the triangle, is one of the three most important things in my life: my family, my career, and ASCE. The triangle is always rotating and whatever is at the apex is what I am currently concentrating on. Right now, ASCE is at the apex. As Jacqueline Hinman, CEO of CH2MHill said, “You can do it all, just not at the same time.”

Who is your role model?

My first role model for civil engineering was Larry Feeser, Ph.D., PE, Dist.M.ASCE, and Chair of the Civil Engineering Department at my college, RPI (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute). Larry crafted a program for me to get my B.S.C.E. with only taking courses in my junior and senior years while still pursing my degree from the Department of Architecture. It is Larry who introduced me to ASCE. I consider Larry to be one of my key mentors to this day.

What are some of your favorite projects completed in your career and why?

One of the projects I had the most fun with was a feasibility study to convert the Bethlehem Steel Plant in Bethlehem, PA to a repurposed multi-use project. There were three teams, one structural engineer with one architectural firm. Each team was assigned different structures on the site. I worked with the local architectural firm, one co-worker worked with the historic architect, and the other co-worker worked with the architectural firm in-charge. We had access to drawings on microfiche dating to the 1800’s, and we researched the history of the site. We used lifts throughout the site (in the dead of winter which was extremely cold) to take a closer look of the exterior of the structures. Based on the final report, a few of the buildings and programs on-site today are: the Sands Casino and Hotel, the Artsquest Center, and Muskifest. Future development is still being planned.

As President-Elect of ASCE, what advice can you give for someone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

For those who would like to be President of ASCE I offer the following advice. Get involved in as many different aspects of ASCE as possible. For example, be active in an Institute, local activities, and committees. Set goals as to where you want to serve when. Then determine a path to each of those goals.

And most importantly, ask for what you want, whether it is from your family, your employer, or ASCE. You probably won’t get everything you ask for but you certainly will get less if you don’t ask at all. I knew I needed my company’s support to be President of ASCE. When I was looking to run, my employer at that time was unable to support me. So I started to look for a new company. I was speaking to my current manager at Zurich North America before the job was even posted. It was then that I told him of my aspiration to be President of ASCE, and shared with him a business plan (that my husband helped me put together) as to why Zurich should support me. When the job was finally posted and I was called in for an interview, I asked whether Zurich would support me. I was told yes! Therefore, running for ASCE President-elect was essentially a condition of my employment.