Chungsik Yoo has been involved with the IGS for a quarter of a century. Here, as he comes to the end of his presidency, he reflects on his four-year term, achievements and hopes for the future of the IGS.
Chungsik, you became President in 2018. What drew you to the role in the first place?
I have been involved with the IGS since 1997 as an individual member and became increasingly involved over the years including hosting the 3rd Asian Regional Conference (GeoAsia 2004) in Seoul as Secretary General, and serving as a Council member since 2010 and Vice-President from 2014. I’ve always been interested in serving the Society and becoming President was a natural step.
Please share some of your highlights over your term, and why.
Thanks to the help of IGS Officers and Council members, one of my biggest highlights was how the IGS enabled many events, activities and initiatives to carry on online or in a hybrid fashion during the pandemic. This included the GeoAmericas 2020 conference, the IGS Pan-American Regional Conference and a number of Educate the Educators (EtE) programs. I’m also really proud of our signature achievement, the IGS Digital Library, as well as the ‘Did You Know…?’ series highlighting the sustainability benefits of geosynthetics.
You set five goals at the start of your presidency. Do you think you’ve achieved these and what more needs to be done?
With the help of the lGS leadership, I was able to achieve most of what I planned. For example, Technical Committees were able to deliver specific resources to members during the pandemic such as specialty workshops, webinars, and online educational materials.
Furthermore, the IGS Digital Library is making a significant impact on IGS education and knowledge-sharing with a range of resources not just for our members but the wider public. As mentioned previously our ‘Did You Know…?’ campaign has been diligent in delivering the important message that geosynthetics make significant contributions to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. In addition, we have created electronic versions of the IGS Newsletter and Chapter Chat to help make our resources more accessible. The EtE programs have been successfully executed, although virtually, by Chapters in different regions despite the pandemic.
One of my top priorities during my presidency has been expanding involvement of Young Members in IGS activities. As part of that effort, the chair of the Young Members Committee Dawie Marx has been involved in Council activities as an invited member to incorporate young minds for leadership development in the IGS.
Your term included navigating the IGS through the pandemic. What was that experience like?
When the Covid crisis broke in early 2020, I (maybe most of us) thought that the situation would be over in the next couple of months. My assessment of the situation was totally wrong, and we are still fighting. There were obvious downsides as we couldn’t have face-to-face events, but the positive side was facilitating virtual activities which allowed us to communicate more widely. I am glad we found a way to get around the challenges of the pandemic so the strategic goals set out in 2018 could still be pursued.
How would you like to see the IGS develop?
The IGS should continue to strive as a global leader in sustainable infrastructure development, and the same in geoengineering. The IGS has immense potential to grow in sustainable infrastructure development as geosynthetics are indeed key construction materials that will allow us to meet the zero-carbon policy set by many countries around the globe.
Do you have any messages for incoming President Sam Allen?
I have great confidence in Sam. He has been a core member of the society and involved with many IGS activities as Communication Committee Chair, which means he knows how the system works. My message to him is to put more effort into delivering our sustainability messaging not only to the construction industry but also to the general public. Another important message to Sam is to lead this wonderful society in harmony.
You’re still going to be on the Council as Past President. What do you hope to contribute in this role?
Yes, I will remain as an Officer as Immediate Past President. I will share my experience with the incoming Officers to help them achieve their goals, which will be developed in Warsaw at the forthcoming EuroGeo7 conference in Poland.
You are set to become the new President of the Federation of International Geo-Engineering Societies (FedIGS). What do you hope to achieve in this new role?
The FedIGS, of which the IGS is a member, is a collaborative forum within which learned societies or associations involved in engineering with or in geo-materials can meet and interact. During my four-year term I will try to facilitate interaction among the member societies, explore opportunities to promote their common interests and provide a unified response to common issues through effective collective actions, especially on climate change issues.
EuroGeo7 will be your final major conference as IGS President. What are you most looking forward to there?
Yes, EuroGeo7 is just around the corner! We have come a long way due to the Covid-19 disruption. The members of the Organizing Committee and all those involved in preparation of the conference deserve huge congratulations. As President, I look forward to meeting the members in person and finding a common ground in delivering our message that geosynthetics are fundamental to sustainable infrastructure development.
How would you sum up your experience as IGS President?
I have been truly humbled, delighted and privileged to serve the members. I’ve felt very blessed with this great honor and am very grateful for having earned the trust of our membership, which was both professionally and personally important to me.
I would like to thank my outstanding fellow Officers – Vice President Nathalie Touze-Foltz, Secretary Edoardo Zannoni, Treasurer Ian Fraser, and Past President Russell Jones – as well as the Council members who represented the major regions of the world.
Thanks also to IGS Executive Director John Kraus, IGS Secretariat Manager Elise Oatman, and our communications partners Inquisitive Type, Sarah and George Hamilton. Without their support our achievements would not have been possible.
Lastly, I once again thank the IGS members for giving me an opportunity to serve and represent you. Thank you, IGS!