An Interview with Leigh McCue, the New Director of the ASNE
We recently caught up with Leigh McCue, the new executive director of the American Society of Naval Engineers (ASNE), to discuss her career, and current opportunities and challenges facing the 125-year-old organization.
As the seventh-oldest technological society in the United States, the American Society of Naval Engineers (ASNE) is the leading organization for engineers, scientists and allied professionals involved in designing, building and maintaining naval and maritime ships, submarines and aircraft at sea.
Leigh, would you tell us about your new role as the executive director of the ASNE, and a bit about yourself and how you got here?
I was a faculty member at Virginia Tech in the Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering for a little over 10 years, and in those 10 years, I was very involved in the ASNE. I was a member of Council for a few years, involved with the Launch & Recovery Symposium that the ASNE put on. I was the paper chair one year, and the program chair this last year for that event.
I’ve been a regular volunteer with the Society, and when retired Navy Captain Dennis Kruse was ready to step down as executive director, I was motivated to apply for the job. His are big shoes to fill and Captain Kruse has been a great mentor during the transition.
So you’ve gone from academia, which is one type of non-profit, to another—a society of engineers—a different kind of non-profit. Has the change in roles been fairly comfortable for you?
It has been a comfortable transition, largely because I was very involved with the Society before, so I knew all of the people I would be working with. It’s a rare treat to be able to take a job where you already know who all of your colleagues are going to be, and you like them all. There have been no surprises.
What are some of the key opportunities that you see in your new role?
In the years I’ve been involved, I’ve seen the Society really expand its reach toward young professionals and students, and in diversifying the workforce. (For more on this topic, see Secrets to Success as a Young Corrosion Engineer: Britney Taylor Q&A.) These are very positive developments, both for the Society and for the workforce. Events like Mega Rust, with hands-on activities and flag officers in attendance—just the sheer breadth of what is offered in a symposium like Mega Rust really makes a high impact on our profession. I would love to see us do more events like this.
What are some of challenges you see for the ASNE?
It’s a challenging fiscal time for our members. Travel is harder and harder to get approved, and so keeping our membership engaged has been a key challenge. Because of this, we are building our continuing education program and making more resources and services available online. We’re also building our social media presence. We’re really just trying to develop ways to give our members the same type of networking and educational experiences they’ve benefitted from through the Society in years past. Our goal is to improve by expanding our offerings, without giving up traditional approaches.
Regarding the corrosion problem, is the marine engineering community focusing more now on corrosion control of existing ships, or in designing more corrosion-resistant new vessels?
Both retrofit and new design are important aspects in properly managing corrosion. In this day and age, we have multiple new ship programs and also have a new Fleet being designed with a working life of up to 40 years. As an industry, we really need to be thinking about ways to handle both problems. (Learn more in Mega Rust: Navy Trends in Shipbuilding & Corrosion Control.)
I understand that obtaining purchasing approval to address corrosion problems in the Fleet is getting harder in these fiscal times. How is the Society helping to address this problem?
We are hosting various symposia, ranging from the Future Programs Panels with events like ASNE Days, to the Fleet Management & Modernization Symposium that hops back and forth across the U.S. mirroring Mega Rust. And the annual Mega Rust meeting itself provides an excellent venue for our members to discuss these problems, get engaged and develop proposals for solutions.
It is important to understand the costs of corrosion. The Naval Aviation Enterprise Corrosion Prevention Team presented findings of an impact study at the Mega Rust conference, reporting that corrosion accounts for 29% of the Navy and Marine Corps aviation maintenance cost. Understanding the real costs is an incentive to address the problem more effectively.
I think a future direction of the ASNE would be to provide our members a venue for putting out technical recommendation documents, having working groups that can analyze problems, and publishing their findings. We would definitely like to enable this level of accountability in the industry. This will involve going back to our roots and doing more working group discussions. The ASNE would clearly have a role in helping to organize and maintain the continuity of those working groups.
Thank you for taking the time to bring valuable information about the ASNE to our readers. If they seek additional information about the ASNE, what’s the best way?
Thank you, Lou. This has been good for us as well. If your readers would like more info, they can visit www.navalengineers.org.