“Everyone wants to leave some sort of legacy and there is little better than making sure tomorrow’s civil engineers can be even more successful than today’s engineers,” Mike Biscotte (‘80) noted as his motivation to give back to the department. “While there is certainly personal satisfaction from giving back, the real value is the fact that, as alumni, we are able to help students succeed as they start their careers, and support them throughout their lives.”
Biscotte has remained involved with the department since his graduation both through his monetary donations and his service. He is a frequent guest speaker to CEE classes, helps review ABET materials, and supports a scholarship that is given out on an annual basis.
While Biscotte lives locally and has continued to be engaged, many of our alumni don’t live in Virginia. In fact, Bruce Bates (‘79, ‘81) lives in California which kept him from being connected to the university for many years. Encouragement from a fellow alumnus allowed him to join the advisory board, getting his foot back in the door with the CEE department. Now, he gives back philanthropically and also donates materials from his structural engineering software firm, RISA Technologies, for classes to utilize.
For Young Ho Chang (‘87), his motivation is to help both Virginia Tech civil engineering, but also the civil engineering profession as a whole. “If you look at the number of students nationally in civil engineering, there has been a drop in the last ten years,” he noted. “With all of the growing infrastructure needs in this country, it is very important for us to produce more civil engineers. I know Virginia Tech produces excellent civil engineers and I want to support the department to continue to do that.”
Among those excellent civil engineers is Chang’s son, Justin, who graduated last year with a B.S. in civil engineering. This has now allowed Chang to interact with the department as an alumni board member, parent, and an employer that frequently hires Hokies. He has seen all sides of the impact that giving back to the department can provide.
The main reason that many alumni choose to give back to their alma mater is to return what the university and department gave to them. Those include good memories with friends, life lessons learned, or just a love for the place where so many experiences happened and can continue to happen as an alumni. “Graduates of Virginia Tech all seem to have the same response. There is something very special about the Blacksburg and Hokie community and those four years were so memorable for me.” said Jessie Berg (‘08).
Biscotte agreed. “My educational experience from Virginia Tech civil engineering and my relationships with fellow alumni since graduation have been instrumental to my career success,” he said. “The strong academic technical background prepared me for my early consulting experiences as a design engineer and my later alumni interactions helped build my career and professional capabilities. The Hokie network is truly unique and powerful!”
With that alumni network spanning the globe, one way the CEE department encourages alumni to stay in touch is through social media. The department LinkedIn page has almost 2,000 members that post jobs and ask career advice to other CEE alumni. The department Facebook page, which shares news and updates, has 2,473 followers and Twitter has 1,203 followers.
This year, Virginia Tech held the inaugural Giving Day to engage and encourage the community to help advance the mission of the university by raising critical funding to ensure that students can continue to be provided the best opportunities. The CEE community responded in a big way, raising almost $26,000 for the department. The College of Engineering had 801 gifts given for a total over $260,000.
So where do all of these donations go? Donations to the department strengthen our academic programs, support new research, and enrich the overall educational experience for our students. The donations are distributed in many different ways including scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students, funding student travel to conferences, lab equipment, research, and supporting student organizations, just to name a few.
“I genuinely care about the development and future of the CEE department that helped me navigate four critical years of my life and positioned me to have a successful and fulfilling career,” said Berg. “Financial support helps the department secure new and improve existing resources. My service to the department enables me, as an alumna, to stay engaged with world class students and faculty that are key components in making the department a top ten program in the nation.”
For young alumni like Berg, her involvement with the department has allowed her to be surrounded by other accomplished CEE alumni and learn from the experiences they share. She used to think that her donations of time and money weren’t enough to make a difference until she joined the board and learned how much of the faculty needs, program improvements and facility requirements are paid for by private donations. “I used to think that a small amount of money wouldn’t make a difference,” she said. “I wasn’t sure if my donation was going to be used in a way that I intended. However, it has never been easier to make donations to the CEE department specifically, or even directly to a certain program or initiative.”
Chang added in, “I used to think I didn’t have the time or the means to give back to the department. I thought it had to be a significant amount to make a difference, but the fact is, there are many ways to give and the best way is to start now.”
Alumnus Mike Biscotte (‘80) stays involved with the department as an American Society of Civil Engineers advisor.
If you would like to give back to CEE, visit our website at www.cee.vt.edu/giving-to-cee/. You can designate money to go specifically to our department, or even to a specific project. All donations to the Virginia Tech Foundation are tax deductible.
Find other ways to get involved with the department at www.cee.vt.edu/alumni for information on our annual golf tournament, how to become an E-Mentor to ASCE members, and how to connect with fellow alumni on social media.