University of New Orleans civil engineering professor Norma Jean Mattei is the first woman selected as a national honor member of Chi Epsilon, an honor society for civil engineering students and professionals. Of more than 114,00 Chi Epsilon members nationwide, Mattei is the 64th to have been elevated to national honor member status. When she received the honor on Monday, Oct. 9 during the 2017 American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) national convention in New Orleans, she became the 10th living national honor member of Chi Epsilon. Mattei is past-president of ASCE, having served as president in 2017.
Elevation to national honor member status is the highest level of recognition in Chi Epsilon. National honor members achieve this recognition through distinguished and preeminent accomplishments in the civil engineering field and outstanding contributions to the organization’s vision, mission and purpose. According to Chi Epsilon’s website, the organization “seeks to foster excellence, connectivity and engagement among those in the civil engineering community to improve our world.” Founded in 1922, the national organization, along with its university-based chapters, provide co-curricular educational activities, scholarships and awards to recognize engineering students and graduates.
Mattei’s prodigious engagement and leadership in her field are indisputable. A majority of her activities involve service to students, her peers, her community and the nation. She is serving a 9-year term as one of three civilian engineers on the Mississippi River Commission. In that role, she advises Congress and the executive branch on matters related to the Mississippi River watershed, from its headwaters in Minnesota to the Louisiana delta. She has served the state of Louisiana as a member of its licensing board for professional engineers and land surveyors and currently sits on the nominating committee for the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority, the entity charged with maintaining the physical and operational integrity of the regional flood control and risk reduction system. She held multiple positions within the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) and is now an emeritus member, and she has been active in the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) as well on the boards of several STEM-related educational organizations.
In a vision statement for the American Society of Civil Engineers, Mattei expresses her view that the nature of the profession equips its practitioners to be leaders in a civilized global society.
“I envision that ASCE will lead the profession to a more sustainable world and enhanced global quality of life,” Mattei writes. “The future that I see is one where civil engineers are the go-to people when it comes to enhanced infrastructure for a growing economy, wise use of our natural resources, well thought out mitigation and recovery from disasters and public policy that makes sense.”
Mattei earned her bachelor’s and doctoral degrees from Tulane University and spent several years in the private sector as a design and project engineer. She came to the University of New Orleans in 1995 and has served as civil engineering department chair and interim dean of the College of Engineering. She serves as advisor to the UNO student chapter of the Society of Women Engineers and the LA Epsilon Chapter of Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society. Between 2005 and 2010, she held various positions as leader and assistant leader for local Brownie and Girl Scout troops.