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Aaron Alpert - Spring 2010

Aaron Alpert

This semester, we expanded our connection to the engineering community - faculty and students. With the implementation of several new programs and ideas,TBP expanded the good works we do on campus and off.

Spring 2010 represented another windfall semester for Tau Beta Pi! The officers worked extremely hard to keep up CA-A's tradition of excellence and promote the continued growth of the chapter. As President, I came in with three distinct and specific goals:

First,I wanted to sort out some remaining questions about our financial status. I researched several options for our future IRS tax status, including becoming a sponsored ASUC organization, channeling money through ESC, channeling money through the college, remaining 501(c)(7), or pursuing 501(c)(3) on our own. External issues were explored - most notably, how this would change our relationship with TBP Nationals, the CoE, and ESC; in what ways we would need to amend our bylaws; and how our financial records and reporting structure would change. Careful consideration by the officers of these options and the implied responsibilities led to the decision to pursue incorporation in California and apply to become a 501(c)(3) organization. By the end of the semester, we had started contacting some of our connections in the legal community to begin this process.

Second, Tau Beta Pi, by its very nature, includes the brightest and most talented engineers. At UC Berkeley, we are proud to have a faculty made up of the brightest and most talented in their field. It seems only natural to try to put those two together and increase faculty-TBP student interaction. We began one event, called Life with Dennis, where participants can ask anything of our sponsor, Professor D.K. Lieu. Later, we elected Professor Ronald Gronsky of the Materials Science and Engineering department as our first (re-launched) Outstanding Faculty Member of the Year. (In fact, we initiated him as a Sigma Tau convert.) Aside from recognizing a very deserving professor, we hope that Professor Gronsky, now more aware of Tau Beta Pi, will choose to participate in the chapter's events. In a larger sense, I hope we will continue to develop relationships with our all-star faculty, in order to better connect our members with research and professional opportunities.

Third, one of TBP's greatest commitments is to serving the community. As previous presidents have commented, E98 has been slipping away from us, and we no longer do class schedule advising. I challenged officers to come up with a new service to the UC Berkeley engineering student body, and the response was the TBP Helpdesk. The idea was that students could email questions to TBP, and a member who had experience in that area could answer the question. Homework-style questions were excluded, focusing on how to succeed at Cal, land a great engineering job, and explore all of the other opportunities available to young engineers. Of course, this fledgling idea required a lot of care to make it work: heavy advertising, a clear and easy system for users, and a system for developing cogent answers to the questions. Although in the Spring 2010 semester the start was modest, only a few dozen questions, I hope that as the program becomes better know, it will be a recognized and accepted service.

I worried that officer meetings over the past several semesters had become too, well, meeting-like. Since the officer corps is a volunteer organization, there is a need for the work of TBP to be fun as well as fulfilling. Thus, I decided to do away with the Bentleys of the last 3 semesters in lieu of something a bit more entertaining. (Of course, I still brought plenty of delicious snacks!) We tried "officer tidbits," which were an opportunity for one officer per week to share something funny, exciting, or entertaining. This ranged from amusing YouTube videos to live musical performances. I believe that not only did this break up the pace of the meetings, but this also allowed officers a chance to showcase another side of their personalities. With this little bit of old-fashioned fun, we were able to do some professional development through the implementation of several "workshops" (where one officer would present an important topic, such as planning a successful event or public speaking techniques). I also reintroduced a feature of Kevin Davis's officer meetings - guest leaders, who would take over my usual role for the week. The purpose here, of course, was to introduce a diversity of styles and opinions into OMs as well as train future leaders of the officer corps.

As always, there were the normal issues. Minor problems, such as continued problems with securing drivers for off-campus events, were dealt with. After the rapid deployment of the not-quite-ready website and server last semester, IT worked incredibly hard to quash the remaining bugs and bring the TBP website up to full functionality. There was some drinking at retreat, and although 2/3 of officers said in the post-retreat survey that it did not bother them, in consideration of the 33% who were uncomfortable, we decided that for future retreats, there would be a no alcohol policy. A larger problem was the loss of our office in Evans Hall. After the student organization office debacle of 2006 (I refer you the words of President Eric Lew), we managed to secure an office in Evans Hall. While this was never supposed to be a long term solution, the idea was that it would bridge us over until something better could be found. To our disappointment, the school administration suddenly told us that we would have to vacate the office, and they did not provide another location immediately. After much discussion, they did offer us 412F O'Brien Hall, which we gladly accepted. During the second annual Pioneers in Engineering competition, difficulties with the wireless network prevented the day of the competition from running smoothly. Due to the plethora of traffic, we were unable to hold matches. This was a big wake-up call for us, our first "failure" with PiE. However, TBP and the PiE staff learned valuable lessons going forward, and ultimately, it strengthened the PiE program.

That being said, it was a wonderful semester. Thank you to all of the officers for your tremendous efforts. And one final thought...


Important Contributions and New Traditions

  • Decision to move forward with 501(c)(3) application and incorporation
  • Faculty-TBP student collaboration initiative, beginning with Outstanding Faculty Member of the Year award
  • Implementation of Helpdesk program
  • Officer tidbits and mini workshops at OMs
  • New office in 412F O'Brien Hall
  • Second annual Pioneers in Engineering competition