Take the Reins
How Louisiana Chapter – ACI is ushering in the next generation of industry leaders
Starting out in any industry can be tough. Getting
involved in industry organizations like ACI, however,
can help younger professionals access the networking
and learning opportunities they need to establish themselves
and grow their careers. Their employers also benefit by
having young hires who are actively building on their
technical and leadership skills while making connections
in the local industry.
In New Orleans, LA, the Louisiana Chapter – ACI is
providing younger professionals with fast-track, hands-on
leadership training. It is a practice instilled by the chapter’s
founders, who anticipated younger members would assume
the mantle of leadership as the chapter grew, according to
Nick Maalouli, Past President and current Chair of the
Website and Social Media Committee. The chapter’s culture
empowers younger members to take executive control while
more established members remain on hand to offer guidance
“It feels almost intentional, how the older members step
aside to give us the freedom to chart our own course,” says
Ayodele Love, Chapter Secretary. “They allow us to take
ownership, which is great.”
The chapter’s current officers are all in their 20s and
30s, and they are paving the way for future members by
introducing ACI to students of all ages. They have improved
the chapter’s K-12 student outreach program and strengthened
relationships with student chapters at universities across the
state. In doing so, they’ve also brought positive exposure to
their own companies and gained the experience necessary to
be more successful at their jobs.
Getting younger professionals involved in chapters, and then
into leadership positions, often starts with grassroots efforts.
Each of the Louisiana Chapter – ACI officers was encouraged
to join the chapter by co-workers and supervisors, and their
ongoing participation is supported by the companies they work
for, demonstrating how members and member companies play
a crucial role in recruitment. The following are their stories.
Jackie Sempel, Past President
In 2015, at just 26 years old, Jackie Sempel became first
female Chapter President of the Louisiana Chapter – ACI.
When Sempel was fresh out of college in 2010, her supervisor
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encouraged her to join the chapter; and
during her 8-year tenure with the chapter,
she led the way in improving student
outreach, from elementary school on up.
Chapter members regularly visit local
schools to share their experiences and
serve as role models for students.
“At first, joining my local chapter
seemed like a good way to network and
get to know people in a city and industry that were new to
me,” says Sempel. “However, it quickly turned into a hobby
that led me to getting involved with ACI on the international
level while also making lifelong friends.”
In 2018, Sempel was selected to represent ACI through
the 2018 Emerging Leaders Alliance, a partnership among
leading engineering and science-based organizations that
includes an interdisciplinary conference providing leadership
training for younger professionals. That same year, Sempel
became the youngest and first female Vice President at her
company. She credits the professional network she built
through ACI, along with the skills she learned along the way,
for her career advancement.
“My involvement has given me fast-track knowledge that
others in my profession might not have acquired as quickly.
I’m an engineer, and ACI has exposed me to the application
and construction side of my work that would have taken me
years to experience. Committee work has also helped me
become more efficient and confident in professional situations,”
Sempel recently relocated to her home state of Washington
and is now a Civil Project Manager with Coughlin Porter
Lundeen, a structural, civil, and seismic engineering firm
based in Seattle, WA. She has joined the Washington
Chapter – ACI and plans to become an active member.
“Through ACI chapter membership, I get exposure in the
local industry, and by extension, my company gets exposure.
You make connections with people and experts that you
might not otherwise meet,” Sempel adds.
Rebecca Chopin, President
Rebecca Chopin’s path to Chapter President was seemingly
inevitable. While in college, she helped launch the University