In the spring of 1983, two Purdue Engineering Student Council members began planning a national conference. Soon, the conference planning committee consisted of five members, and the list of sponsors grew to seven companies. The conference theme was the “Meeting of the Minds,” and it was held November 30 through December 2, 1984. Purdue would again host the 1985 national conference with delegates from 26 universities in attendance. These two national conferences resulted in an organization created to serve engineering student councils around the country. The organization was divided into five geographical regions, and representatives from each region served in a task force with the goal of drafting a constitution and laying the framework of the organization. The official name of the organization became the National Society of Student Engineers.
In 1986, the University of Virginia held the Third Annual National Conference, the first meeting of the organization under its new title. Fifty schools attended the conference and together ratified a national constitution, and the name of the organization was further changed to the National Engineering Student Council (NESC).
The National Conference was held throughout the country in the following years at schools such as Columbia University, University of Colorado in Boulder, University of Cincinnati, and University of North Carolina. In 1991, the national conference headed west to the University of California at Irvine, where regional meetings were held on the beach around bonfires. In 1992, the NESC Conference traveled back to Purdue University, attracting over 300 delegates from nearly 70 universities. This was a momentous event for the organization, as a new constitution was ratified, a National Executive Board was established, and the name of the organization was renamed to the National Association of Engineering Student Councils (NAESC).
In 1993, the University of Virginia hosted the first national conference under the new name of NAESC. In 1994, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign drew in over 400 delegates from 67 universities from the U.S. and Canada. This marked the first interactions between the Canadian Federation of Engineering Students (CFES) and NAESC. The 1994-1995 school year turned out to be one of the more difficult years for NAESC when the President resigned from his position in early 1995 after being injured in an automobile accident in route to the Congress of the Canadian Federation of Engineering Students. Despite this setback, the University of Texas at Austin managed to bring nearly 400 delegates together in 1995 for yet another successful conference, with an Advisory Board being added to the NAESC structure.
1996 was another major stepping-stone for NAESC. The organization officially became incorporated, all five NAESC Regions hosted Regional Conferences, and Regional charities were established. In 2001, the NAESC published its first magazine, and NAESC representatives attended the Canadian Engineering Competition, ASEE Conference and NSPE Conference. Iowa State University closed out a successful year for NAESC by hosting the largest conference in NAESC’s history.
Great strides were again taken in 2003 when the two National Conferences were held in the same academic year. It was decided the National Conference would be held in the Spring rather than the Fall, with the University of Kansas hosting the final fall National Conference, and Marquette University hosting the first spring National Conference just five months later, which was considered one of the most professional and most successful conferences in NAESC history. The first President’s Retreat was also held in 2003, bringing together the leaders of all councils for an open-forum gathering.
In 2004, no school was able to host the National Conference, and thus the NAESC Executive Board was tasked with planning that year’s National Conference. They chose to host it in St. Louis, Missouri, with Washington University at St. Louis stepping up to provide the conference facilities.
Over the next 10 years, NAESC began to struggle with maintaining a strong Executive Board, with many members resigning or being impeached each year. In 2012, NAESC lost its not-for-profit status, only three regions hosted a Regional Conference, and several officers resigned. New leadership was installed in January of 2013, and over the next several months, a reform package was created to address the association’s problems. The Voting Delegates unanimously passed the reform package at the 2013 National Conference, hosted by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. By 2014, NAESC had fully turned around through incorporation of the reform initiatives and reached a new level of success. Oklahoma State University hosted the 2014 National Conference, strongly increasing the organization’s momentum.
In the 2014-2015 school year, all five regions hosted a Regional Conference once again. President’s Retreat was reengineered by the Executive Board to become the Engineering Leadership Summit (ELS). The first annual ELS was hosted by the University of Pittsburgh and emphasized leadership, council development, and finding a mission. In March 2015, Arizona State University hosted the 2015 NAESC National Conference, and for the first time in a decade, attendance reached 45 member schools. The University of Minnesota – Twin Cities hosted the 2016 NAESC National Conference in April 2016, and in the spring of 2017, Purdue University hosted the 2017 NAESC National Conference.
Looking towards the future, the 2018 NAESC National Conference is to be held at Arizona State University.