2024 Annual Conference Recordings Available Now

Relive all your favorite, most inspiring moments from GBA’s 2024 Annual Conference as you prepare to CHAMPION EXCELLENCE in the geoprofessions.

Watch, listen to, and learn from our lineup of speakers on your own schedule as they discuss engagement strategies, inspiring students to join the profession, driving innovation, curiosity as the ultimate competitive advantage, overcoming challenges, and more.

These videos are available for all GBA members on-demand at your convenience.

WATCH CONFERENCE RECORDINGS

Here’s a brief look at what you’ll get when you login with your GBA membership:

Why Curiosity is the Ultimate Competitive Advantage
Best-selling author Diana Kander delivers a keynote on how to institutionalize curiosity by asking better questions to stay competitive and relevant to customers; how to determine blind spots within your organization; and how to create a more innovative culture that leads to results and drives growth.

What’s in it for Them? Engagement Strategies in Changing Times
GBA President Guy Marcozzi, P.E., D.GE, LEED AP BD+C, F.ASCE (Verdantas) raises your awareness and understanding by championing new interaction strategies to experiment with that will enhance success and overall fulfillment by providing new takes on empathy and effective engagement.

GBA Meets Reality TV – Emerging Leaders Class 5
You have heard of “Shark Tank” – now get ready for a special presentation from Emerging Leaders Class 5 as they put on their entrepreneur hats and make their pitch in the “Tiger Cage.”

Business Snapshot Summary
Geocomp Inc. Executive Vice President and COO Gary Torosian shares the results of the most recent GBA survey on the state of the economy and the greater geoprofessional industry and reviews important trends to help you assess how your firm is performing.

ADAPT: Overcoming Adversity to Become a Champion and Role Model
Former Major League Baseball pitcher Jim Abbott shows how you must be willing to adapt, change, and mold yourself to meet challenges in your own unique way as you continue toward your goals.

Becoming a Champion of Our Profession for Future Geoprofessionals
Hear from GBA Board Member Carrie Foulk, P.E., G.E. (BSK Associates) about how you can help increase the pipeline of students interested in the geoprofessions and be a part of the solution to staffing shortages and record project backlog.

Into the Unknown: How Leadership, Ingenuity, and Perseverance Put a Rover on Mars
Aspiring rock star turned rocket scientist Adam Steltzner – chief engineer of the Mars 2020 Project – shares his innovation challenges, leadership struggles, and flawless execution to show you how to overcome daunting obstacles in times of uncertainty.

These session recordings are available free to all GBA members.

How Large Language Models Work: In a Nutshell

GBA Business Technology Committee

In the ever-evolving landscape of the geoprofessional industry, artificial intelligence (AI) continues to drive innovation, efficiency, and curiosity. GBA’s Business Technology Committee is producing a six-part series to educate GBA members on the implications of AI on the geoprofessions. The articles, written by Enrique Farfan, Ph.D., P.E. ENV SP (HDR), explore how this technology works and its potential uses.

The second article focuses on large language models (LLMs) – what they are, how they work/generate content, and examples of their use and “understanding” of the geoprofessions. Chat Generative Pre-Trained Transformer (ChatGPT) is one of the most popular and powerful LLMs, but there is an extraordinary technology race taking place. ERNIE 4.0 and Gemini from Google have emerged as ChatGPT competitors.

As AI continues to evolve, its integration into specialized fields like the geoprofessions not only enhances current methodologies but also opens avenues for unprecedented solutions, making the mastery of AI communication an indispensable skill for the future.

READ “HOW LLM WORKS” NOW

See the previous article in the series: AI Unveiled: The Wizardry Behind Chatbots and Intelligent Systems

GBA Awards Outstanding Geoprofessionals and Firms

Almost all the resources GBA produces for our members, our contributions to the geoprofessional community, and our events are primarily driven by volunteer leaders.

Each year at our Annual Conference, we recognize those who have contributed to GBA in a significant way. During the 2024 Annual Conference in Anaheim, California, awards were given to firms and individuals who exhibited extraordinary support and meritorious performance during our 2023-2024 Fiscal Year. Those recognized during the annual Recognition and Awards Banquet were:

CERTIFICATES OF APPRECIATION
Each year, we ask our Committees and Councils to provide us with the names of people who have contributed to our Association during the past year. Based on this year’s list, we have more people contributing to GBA at a level higher than ever before.

Recipients of Certificates of Appreciation for 2023-2024 are:

• Donald Blackburn (Blackburn Consulting)
• Michaela Brewster, CPG (Terracon)
• Elizabeth Brown, P.E. (Atlas Technical Consultants)
• Rick Bruce, P.G., CHMM (S&ME)
• Abi Corbett (SME)
• Enrique Farfan, Ph.D., P.E. (HDR)
• Salvator “Sal” Fiorentino, P.E. (ECS Group of Companies)
• Kurt Fraese, L.G., F.GBA (Fraese and Associates)
• Brent Hay, M.Sc., P.Eng (Trek Geotechnical)
• Craig Hill (Kleinfelder)
• June Jewell, CPA (AEC Business Solutions, LLC)
• Alfred “Al” Jones, P.E. (Nobis Group)
• Aaron Mann, Esq. (Terracon)
• Tony Martin, P.G. (BSK Associates)
• Andrew Michaud (S.W. Cole Engineering)
• Keith Mobley, P.E., G.E. (Northern Geotechnical Engineering – Terra Firma Testing)
• Helen Pappas, CHMM ENV SP (BEM Systems)
• Dori Ross, P.E. (Sanborn, Head, & Associates Inc.)
• Emil Rudolph, P.E., G.E. (Fenagh Engineering & Testing)
• Jerry Samford, P.E., F.GBA – (Troutman Pepper)
• Jennifer Sanborn, P.E. (Sanborn, Head, & Associates Inc.)
• Ji Shin, Esq. (Earth Systems)
• Diego Torres (Atlas Technical Consultants)

AWARDS OF APPRECIATION
Special awards of appreciation were given to two volunteers who contributed to GBA in extraordinary and unique ways during the year. Those award winners were:

• Tiffany Vorhies, NACE CIP-2, PMP (SME)
• Ryan White, P.E., G.E., F.ASCE (PBS Engineering and Environmental Inc.)

Tiffany and Ryan show exceptional vision, leadership, and delivery of the GBA Podcasts. They regularly come up with new ideas for series, reach out to industry leaders, and monitor and report podcast metrics.

PEER-REVIEWED FIRMS
One of the most valuable programs GBA offers its members is Peer Review. The following firms were recognized for being peer reviewed in the past 12 months:

• ALLWEST
• Blackburn Consulting
• GeoProfessional Innovation Corp
• Geotechnical Consultants, Inc.
• GRI

MEMBER FIRM ENGAGEMENT AWARDS
For several years, GBA has been tracking the engagement of member firms through five measurements we found to be the most important indicators of the value members were receiving from GBA membership. Ultimately, engagement also indicates the value of membership to your employees, which we feel is paramount to delivering on the GBA mission.

The following firms were found to have the highest measured engagement in GBA during the last fiscal year (one from each category based on firm size):

• PBS Engineering and Environmental Inc.
• STRATA
• GeoEngineers
• Terracon

WOODWARD L. VOGT OUTSTANDING PROJECT AWARD
The Woodward L. Vogt Outstanding Project Award was named for a GBA Past-President to recognize the contributions made by a life-long advocate of high-quality geoprofessional services. The award celebrates the greatness of our members as they use GBA’s best practices to manage risk and optimize performance on notable projects. The winner of this prestigious award in 2024 was:

S&ME – Great Falls-Dearborn Diversion Dam Bypasses, Great Falls, South Carolina

COMMITTEE LEADERSHIP
Victor Barchers, P.E. (Kleinfelder)
Environmental Business Committee Chair, 2018-2023

Grace Blackburn (Blackburn Consulting)
Peer Review Committee Vice-Chair, 2021-2024

Veronica De Freitas, P.E. (U.S. Department of State)
Inclusion Advancement Committee Chair, 2020-2024

BOARD OF DIRECTORS SERVICE AWARD
Board of Directors Service Awards are bestowed on Directors who have completed their terms of service.

Bradley Melocik, P.E., P.H. (DOWL)
2021-2024

PRESIDENT’S AWARD

Mark Kramer, P.E., F.GBA (SME)

Each year, the current GBA President selects one person to recognize for the contributions they made to our Association during the year of his or her presidency. Immediate Past-President Matt Moler, P.E., awarded the 2023-2034 President’s Award to Mark in recognition of his servant’s heart, making newcomers to GBA feel welcome, and his general support of GBA and the geoprofessions.

PRESIDENT’S SERVICE GAVEL AWARD

Matt Moler, P.E. (S&ME)

This award is bestowed on the immediate Past-President after completing their term of service. During the awards ceremony, the Association recognized Mr. Moler for his years of service to the Board and for his leadership during his presidency.

“GBA is a wonderful association with nearly 55 years of making the geoprofessions better,” Moler said. “I am so honored to have served as President, and I hope my involvement has left the association and our industry just a little bit better. Time flies when you are having fun, and this past year has been no exception.”

On behalf of the GBA Board of Directors, all member firms, and staff, we congratulate all the award winners for Fiscal Year 2023-2024.

GBA Announces 2024-2025 Leadership

GBA Nominating Committee

Guy Marcozzi, P.E., LEED AP BD+C (Verdantas) is the new President of the Geoprofessional Business Association. Mr. Marcozzi took office during ceremonies at GBA’s annual meeting held on April 19, 2024 in Anaheim, California.

Mr. Marcozzi will serve as GBA’s President and Chair of the Association’s Board of Directors.

Other directors who will serve during GBA’s 2024-2025 fiscal year are:

President-Elect: Teresa Peterson, P.E., C.M.E., LEED AP O&M, ENV SP (Gannett Fleming)
Secretary/Treasurer: Dan Schaefer, P.E. (Froehling & Roberston)

Directors-at-Large are:

• Kent Bannister, P.Eng. (TREK Geotechnical)
• Elizabeth Clarke (Structure Groups)
• Vic Donald, P.E. (Terracon)
• Carrie Foulk, P.E., G.E. (BSK Associates)
• Jeff Jaros (NTH Consultants)
• Stu Thompson (CTL|Thompson)

GBA is grateful for the service of outgoing board members: Immediate past-President Matt Moler, P.E. (S&ME) and Brad Melocik, P.E., P.H. (DOWL).

The GBA Fiscal Year is May 1, 2024 through April 30, 2025.

Learn more about President Marcozzi’s geoprofessional journey in this director spotlight.

Learn more about each GBA Director.


Left to right: Jeff Jaros, Kent Bannister, Stu Thompson, Vic Donald, Dan Schaefer, Elizabeth Clarke, Carrie Foulk, Teresa Peterson, Guy Marcozzi.

Announcing the 2025 Annual Conference Theme and Call for Abstracts

GBA Conference Committee

GBA invites dynamic and engaging speakers to submit an abstract for our 2025 Annual Conference – where the geoprofessional industry comes together.

Speakers can contribute to the elevation of the geoprofessional industry and form powerful partnerships while sharing best practices for risk management.

As a presenter, you will gain visibility and credibility; create new relationships; and generate awareness of your expertise in our industry.

GBA is seeking speakers on presentation topics such as:
• Setting high standards
• Promoting environmental responsibility
• Prioritizing health and safety
• Setting industry standards
• Empowering employees to be guardians of the earth.

The abstract submission deadline is Friday, August 2, 2024.

2025 Annual Conference Theme: Guardians of the Earth

The 2025 Annual Conference theme underscores the critical role of geoprofessionals in protecting human health and safety through their expertise in understanding and managing Earth’s resources, hazards, and environmental conditions. It highlights geoprofessionals’ dedication to identifying and mitigating risks, ensuring the resilience of infrastructure, and promoting sustainable development practices.

While gathered in Savannah, Georgia, we will highlight the vital contributions of geoprofessionals to innovation, progress, and sustainability across all aspects of society underscoring the importance of recognizing the ethical responsibility of geoprofessionals as they tackle complex challenges and pave the way for a brighter, more resilient future for all.

ABSTRACT SUBMISSION FORM

LEARN MORE

New GBA Technology Brief: Improve Your Drone Strategy

GBA Business Technology Committee

Drones offer geoprofessionals a means to enhance their reconnaissance or basemap quality. While free aerial photos are widely accessible online, there are instances where a higher resolution or improved shadows are necessary for specific presentations or gaining a different perspective of a site. Drones provide a cost-effective solution for achieving these requirements. They not only capture aerial photography of customized areas and viewpoints but also offer thermal imaging and laser mapping capabilities, revealing details otherwise concealed, even from a bird’s eye view. However, understanding key tips can give you a strategic edge when acquiring such imagery.

In the context of working on an eroding bluff, the accompanying photos illustrate a geologist mapping geological units to aid engineers in repair selection and assist contractors in bidding for the installation of anchor systems. Detailed oblique aerial photos describing the geological terrain prove valuable for contractors in comprehending the work area’s limitations. In this specific scenario, the geologist redirected city crews engaged in thermal drone imagery for analyzing the unhoused population to also collect oblique photography of the eroding bluff from multiple angles.

A comparison between public domain imagery and drone imagery underscores the advantages of the geologist’s choice of drone imagery as the optimal representation of the erosional feature. Drones also give the geologist the flexibility to choose lighting direction, altitude, and pitch for the photos. Therefore, consider the optimal time of day for desired shadows, maintaining a consistent altitude, ensuring photo overlap, and consider the benefits of thermal or laser capabilities when selecting drones. Cloud-based applications provide additional processing options, enhancing the overall efficiency of data utilization.

GBA’s Business Technology Committee is dedicated to disseminating the technology of the geoprofessional industry. Learn about GBA committees and how to join one HERE.

AI Unveiled: The Wizardry Behind Chatbots and Intelligent Systems

GBA Business Technology Committee

In the ever-evolving landscape of the geoprofessional industry, artificial intelligence (AI) continues to drive innovation, efficiency, and curiosity. GBA’s Business Technology Committee is producing a six-part series to educate GBA members on the implications of AI on the geoprofessions. The articles, written by Enrique Farfan, Ph.D., P.E. ENV SP (HDR), explore how this technology works and its potential uses.

The first article focuses on chatbots and intelligent systems. AI-generated content, especially large language models like ChatGPT, heralds a novel approach in geotechnical engineering, promising innovative solutions to its intricate challenges. These applications range from problem solving in project stages to automatic data extraction from geotechnical reports, showcasing the transformative power of cognitive AI.

As AI continues to evolve, its integration into specialized fields like geotechnical engineering not only enhances current methodologies but also opens avenues for unprecedented solutions, making the mastery of AI communication an indispensable skill for the future.

READ “AI UNVEILED” NOW

See the next article in the series: How Large Language Models Work: In a Nutshell.

New Case History: #116 “Went Fishing, Caught a Whale!”

GBA has a long history of sharing the painful and sometimes expensive lessons its member firms have learned through its popular GBA Case History series. Member firms can also learn from one another from projects that turned out successfully.

In the newest Case History – #116 – a GBA member firm was hired to evaluate and design the repair of  a sheet pile dock at a food processing plant. The owner was pleased with the design but did not have the capital to construct the full repairs and tasked the engineer with devising a temporary solution. In the early morning hours on the first day of mobilization for the project, the dock collapsed and the project immediately shifted from repair to replacement.

Through the extraordinary efforts of the contractor and trust from the owner, the project was completed before the plant’s operating season began and the geotechnical engineer was made to look like a hero.

GBA Case Histories provide unprecedented real-world learning examples related to project and business management. Learn where others went wrong, how they handled their problems, and how you can learn from their experiences to avoid the same problems in the future.

Case Histories are FREE for all GBA Members.

Download Case History #116 HERE.

View the GBA Case History Digest or search the GBA resource library to find other learning opportunities for your firm.

 

GBA Launches New Podcast Series: Leadership Lounge

GBA Multimedia Delivery Committee

Have you ever wondered how a skilled coach might be able to help you or your firm?  GBA’s Multimedia Delivery Committee launched a new GBA Podcast series called “Leadership Lounge” that features exclusive interviews with business coaches on topics like communication, culture crafting, and igniting innovation.

In each episode, hosts Tiffany Vorhies, NACE CIP2 (SME) and Ryan White, P.E., G.E., F.ASCE (PBS Engineering + Environmental) share ideas to elevate your team as they have conversations with business coaches who share their tools, insights, and practical tips.

The first episode of the Leadership Lounge series, “How to Communicate Like a Hostage Negotiator,” is available now on the GBA Podcast website or wherever you listen to podcasts. Tune in to learn from a master negotiator how to communicate more effectively through building a culture founded on emotional communication, active listening, and relationship-based negotiations.

The guest, Dan Oblinger, is a hostage negotiator commander with a wealth of expertise in high-stakes communication. In this captivating conversation, Dan shares invaluable insights on how the principles of hostage negotiation can significantly enhance your team’s ability to listen actively and negotiate effectively.

LISTEN NOW: “How to Communicate Like a Hostage Negotiator”

In addition to the Leadership Lounge, the GBA Podcast offers the following series:
Management Best Practices
Audio Education for Field Representatives
• Case Histories
• Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

GBA podcasts are part of a vast library of valuable resources available to help you excel as a geoprofessional consultant. Our comprehensive multimedia collection of publications, audio programs, videos, webinars, training curricula, model documents, case studies, and more are targeted to meet the unique business needs of geoprofessionals.

EXPLORE GBA RESOURCES.

New Video Message from GBA President Matt Moler

Get a glimpse into the Winter Leadership Summit in this special video  recap by GBA President Matt Moler, P.E. (S&ME, Inc.) as he shares how the event helps GBA committees drive the organization forward.

In his message, Moler highlights the contributions of GBA’s volunteer leaders – members of the Board of Directors, committees, and task forces.

GBA is grateful to everyone who contributed to the resounding success of this productive, collaborative, and enjoyable occasion. Explore GBA’s calendar of events for more opportunities to engage with us and your fellow geoprofessionals.

GBA recognizes that we must adopt different platforms to communicate membership value to our members. Traditionally – like many organizations – we’ve used written publications. We’ve recently adopted audio and video elements to our communication channels through The 1st Word video series, the GBA Podcast, and other multimedia resources.

WATCH MATT’S MESSAGE NOW

GBA Launches New Podcast Series: Management Best Practices

GBA Multimedia Delivery Committee

GBA’s Multimedia Delivery Committee launched a new GBA Podcast series called “Management Best Practices” that will dive into some of the unique challenges faced by geoprofessional consulting managers and supervisors.

Becoming a manager or supervisor is an important step in many people’s professional careers, and it introduces a set of new responsibilities that they may not have had in their prior role. This new podcast series highlights a handful of those responsibilities, the challenges that can go along with them, and best practices for navigating through them. The episodes in this series will provide valuable advice for new as well as seasoned managers or supervisors.

The first episode of the Management Best Practices series, “How to Have Tough Conversations,” is available now on the GBA Podcast website or anywhere podcasts are available. In this episode, host Jennifer Sanborn, Multimedia Delivery Committee Vice Chair, and Leadership Development Coach Jen Bell explore how to facilitate better one-on-one discussions.

“Our aversion to difficult conversations comes from the inherent potential for conflict associated with corrective actions,” Bell said. “But through a well-prepared, strategic approach, we can address pressing concerns amicably and simultaneously build a culture of mutual understanding.”

By embracing discomfort as a catalyst for positive change, we pave the way for enhanced collaboration, improved relationships, and a resilient, forward-thinking workplace.

A few of the lessons listeners will learn from this episode include:
• Leaders must make an effort to become skilled in tough conversations.
• Creating an environment where such discussions feel normal is crucial.
• Lack of accountability can lead to organizational dysfunction.
• Rules without relationships lead to rebellion.

LISTEN NOW: “HOW TO HAVE TOUGH CONVERSATIONS”

In addition to the Management Best Practices, the GBA Podcast offers the following series:
• Audio Education for Field Representatives
• Case Histories
• Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

GBA podcasts are part of a vast library of valuable resources available to help you excel as a geoprofessional consultant. Our comprehensive multimedia collection of publications, audio programs, videos, webinars, training curricula, model documents, case studies, and more are targeted to meet the unique business needs of geoprofessionals.

EXPLORE GBA RESOURCES.

GBA Draws on Strategy, Member Feedback to Create New Meeting and Event Schedule

GBA Board of Directors

Based on our strategic objectives, feedback from members, and historical data, the  GBA Board of Directors has adopted a new schedule of events, beginning this year. GBA’s goal with these events remains to deliver conferences that have high-value content, provide collaboration and networking opportunities, celebrate the contributions of volunteer leaders, and that are warm and welcoming to all. We also want to schedule and deliver events that attract more attendees, representing more member-firms.

GBA’s most active members overwhelmingly state that in-person meetings are one of the most important aspects of membership. In support of in-person networking, we are committed to delivering two in-person events each year.

GBA will continue to have a conference each April, which has been renamed our Annual Conference (formerly the Spring Conference) and we will shift what has been called the Winter Leadership Summit to October and rename it the Fall Leadership Summit.

Here is more information on each event that will regularly take place on an annual or biennial basis:

Annual Conference – Annual in-person event that features Committee meetings, Committees in Concert, keynote speakers, business round tables, annual awards banquet, networking events, and exploration opportunities unique to the local area.

Summer Board Meeting – Annual meeting that includes association business of the Board of Directors, including creating and advancing the GBA Strategic Plan.

Fall Leadership Summit – Annual in-person event featuring Board and Committee meetings, Committees in Concert, networking opportunities, facilitated workshop and/or keynote presentation on a topic valuable to all in attendance. The Fall Leadership Summit will be held during the week and avoid weekends. The goal is to build on the successes of Committee participation in the Leadership Summit with an enhanced format to provide more value to attendees.

Crystal Ball Workshop – Stand-alone facilitated event held approximately every two years, drawing subject matter experts, industry leaders, and constituents representing consultants, academia, contractors, regulatory agencies, and clients.

This schedule allows GBA to make each event even more valuable to GBA members, gives Committees time to collaborate on important actions throughout the year, and allows GBA to host special industry events beyond the Crystal Ball Workshop, and provide timely professional development through webinars, seminars, and short courses.

See what event are currently scheduled HERE.

Please contact us if you have any questions at info@geoprofessional.org.

NEW RESOURCE! Best Practices: Interviewing – The Right Way!

GBA Business Practices Committee

To maximize your hiring manager’s efforts and protect your firm from legal trouble resulting from bad hiring practices, GBA’s Business Practices Committee has developed a new Best Practices document titled, “Interviewing – The Right Way!”

One of the foremost issues of concern facing geoprofessional firms is a lack of new talent entering the industry. This workforce shortage can create a scenario where good hiring practices have been kicked to the curb. Interviewing involves a significant number of legal do’s and don’ts. Employers must understand the rule of law related to interview and application questions to ensure they’re performed in accordance with state and federal regulations.

Hiring the right talent is important for long-term stability and growth for your firm and the geoprofessions as a whole. Many hours will go into writing job descriptions, sorting through applications, and interviewing candidates – yet interviewing is one of the least-trained roles in the engineering industry.

When you don’t interview in the best way for your firm’s open position, you may miss out on the innovative hire that impacts your business growth for years to come.

Studying and sharing this Best Practices document and enacting the suggestions contained herein ensures greater interview success, leading to hiring more valuable employees and minimizing risk for your firm.

This new resource is FREE for GBA members.

Not sure if your firm is a member? Check here.

Invest in your firm’s most precious resource – its people.

DOWNLOAD GBA BEST PRACTICES: INTERVIEWING – THE RIGHT WAY!

New Case History: “Don’t Drown Your Sorrows … Yet”

GBA Multimedia Delivery Committee

GBA has a long history of sharing the painful and sometimes expensive lessons its Member Firms have learned through its popular GBA Case History series. Member Firms can also learn from one another on projects that turned out successfully.

In this Case History, a GBA-Member Firm was hired to assess whether a proposed facility was “buildable” in a rock quarry with reclaimed fill material, prior to purchase. The project scope did not include final design or construction observation services. The relationship was complicated in its early stages because a third-party acted as an intermediary between the client and Member Firm.

After construction began, the Member Firm was again contracted to assess the exposed subgrade at the project site, where static groundwater was observed, consistent with the Member Firm’s prior report. The client told the firm they didn’t do enough to call out the issues related to the groundwater and that they were reserving the right to hold the firm responsible for the additional costs incurred.

The Member Firm remained involved in the project and took steps to strengthen the client relationship. The team’s suggestions along the way resulted in considerable savings and the project was finished within budget – and without a lawsuit.

GBA Case Histories provide unprecedented real-world learning examples related to project and business management. Learn where others went wrong, how they handled their problems, and how you can learn from their experiences to avoid the same problems in the future.

Case Histories are FREE for all GBA Members.

Download Case History #115 HERE

View the GBA Case History Digest or search the GBA resource library to find other learning opportunities for your firm.

The Jane Goodall of Geotechnical Engineering

By: Stuart “Stu” Thompson (CTL|Thompson, Inc.)

“What is a geotechnical engineer?” I have been answering that question for most of my life. My dad, Robert W. Thompson P.E., D.GE, F.ASCE, is a geotechnical engineer and founded CTL|Thompson, Inc. in Denver, Colorado when I was a toddler. Inevitably, a teacher, fellow student, coach, friend, or parent of a friend would ask about my parents’ professions, and I had been coached with an elevator-pitch answer.

Maybe because my dad is so passionate about geotechnical engineering — he is a past-President of GBA, a recent inductee to the College of Engineering, Architecture, and Technology Hall of Fame at Oklahoma State University, and the visionary founder of CTL|Thompson — for much of my life I equated a profession with an identity. Beginning in elementary school, I spent my summers and school breaks working for CTL|Thompson, Inc. Until high school, the work was primarily just picking weeds in the parking lot, jacking brass liners and cleaning them for reuse, and other cleanup work around the lab. As I got older I worked in the lab and eventually the field and on the back of a rig.

I spent a lot of time around geotechnical engineers, but I was not one of them. I am still not one of them. I have lived with them, spent thousands of hours of my adult life with them, I work with them, I work for them, admire and respect them, promote them, advocate for them, want the best for them, and encourage them. I am not one of them. I live amongst them. I am like the Jane Goodall of geotechnical engineering.

During my college years at Auburn University, I continued to work for CTL|Thompson, Inc. when I was home on break. While at Auburn I passionately pursued two things: Auburn Rugby and my future wife, Kelly. Notice that there is no mention of engineering. My dad recognized that I did not have enough interest in the practice of engineering, the projects, etc., and guided me toward business school.

The mayhem of the rugby pitch was my happy place in my college years. I captained the team for my last couple of years and was the President of the affiliated club that provided support and raised money. Through rugby I had the opportunity to travel to different universities and meet a lot of people. In rugby it is tradition that the home team hosts a party after the game. The two teams fight it out on the pitch and then get together and share beers and stories after the game. We challenged one another and learned from one another. It was good training for participating in the cocktail parties at GBA. I had friends all over the Southeast Conference that were competitors and compatriots.

Kelly and I ended up getting married and moving back to Colorado. This year is our 30th anniversary. When we moved back to Colorado I worked for a CPA for a while, earned my MBA from Regis University, worked as an EMT and Ski Patroller, owned and operated a franchise, and eventually ended up working for CTL|Thompson, Inc. in the accounting department as the Controller. In 2008 I was promoted to President and in 2018 I became the CEO of CTL|Thompson, Inc.

I have been involved with GBA since the early 2000s. I am motivated to actively participate in GBA by the relationships I have developed. We challenge one another, learn from one another, and share stories over cocktails at GBA conferences. I have friends from GBA all over the country that are competitors and compatriots.

Last year Kelly and I became empty nesters. We have three daughters that we love immensely and enjoy watching take flight. Colorado is a great place for outdoor activities and as a family we’ve enjoyed skiing, cycling, running, hiking, fishing, and backpacking.

With the girls gone from home, I am focused on keeping up with Kelly and staying close enough on a bicycle that I can draft. I am an avid fan of bluegrass music and play mandolin, guitar, and write songs. The bluegrass scene is very friendly and supportive.

I frequent various jams and festivals around Colorado and enjoy making music and friends. We challenge and learn from one another as we share songs in taverns, campgrounds, and festival parking lots. I have friends from bluegrass all over Colorado that are collaborators and compatriots.

I am in my first year on the GBA Board of Directors and I am honored to work with, and for, professionals of such high caliber. I am sure my tenure will be characterized by great relationships with competitors and compatriots that share a desire to elevate the geoprofessions.