Mentorship Becomes Theme of New and Improved Opening General Session

August 22, 2017

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As the kickoff for WEFTEC® 2017, the Opening General Session sets the tone for the entire annual technical exhibition and conference. The 90th WEFTEC will introduce changes to this event.

New format features more speakers

For the updated event, the Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) combines traditional Opening General Session programming with the popular Great Water Cities session. On Oct. 2, attendees can gather in the Grand Ballroom at McCormick Place in Chicago to hear a keynote address from acclaimed educator Fredi Lajvardi as well as a series of presentations from urban water leaders from around the world.

My Water Legacy WordCloudBuilding on the #MyWaterLegacy campaign launched last year, speakers will focus on the importance of mentorship and discuss workforce development, leadership, and innovation. WEF Executive Director Eileen O’Neill, 2016-2017 WEF President Rick Warner, and Lajvardi will speak. Then, Tom Ferguson, vice president of programming for Imagine H20, will moderate a series of short “WEFTalks” by a variety of water leaders.

Keynote speaker shares an inspirational STEM story

Fredi Lajvardi will give a keynote speech during the WEFTEC 2017 Opening General Session that focuses on mentoring a new generation. Photo courtesy of Keppler Speakers Bureau (Washington, D.C.).

Fredi Lajvardi will give a keynote speech during the WEFTEC 2017 Opening General Session that focuses on mentoring a new generation. Photo courtesy of Keppler Speakers Bureau (Washington, D.C.).

As a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) teacher, advocate, and mentor, Lajvardi has guided many students into science-based careers. He encouraged his students at Carl Hayden Community High School in Phoenix, Ariz., to enter a 2004 robotics competition against university students. His school’s team won the top prize that year. Other teams from the high school went on to place first, second, and third in the competition in subsequent years. His team’s achievement inspired the 2015 film, “Spare Parts.” The team also was featured in the 2017 documentary, “Dream Big.”

Lajvardi believes that a competitive environment jump-starts creativity and that hands-on projects can inspire and motivate youth. “Give them the encouragement they need to follow their dreams and help them remove some of the obstacles that may get in their way,” he said. “Develop real, meaningful relationships so that they can see you as role models.” Read more about Lajvardi in the September WE&T article, “Taking a chance on the next generation.”

Register to join thousands of colleagues during WEFTEC 2017.

— Jennifer Fulcher, WEF Highlights

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