Building a foundation for the future


By Kendal Butler

A 96-year-old organization has established a new way to invest in the future of the liquid asphalt industry through education and strategic research.

The Asphalt Institute Foundation (AIF) was established in 2014 as a 501(c)3 charitable organization. The foundation’s mission is to conduct strategic research and facilitate educational activities that advance and improve the industry.


Attracting a talented workforce to the industry is a vital concern. As part of its education mission, the AIF is building an internship program to connect college students with Asphalt Institute member companies.

University level students will be matched with summer internship positions in a wide variety of disciplines. Students interesting in civil engineering, chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, construction management, marketing, chemistry information technology, business administration and many other fields can utilize the program.

“We have a large group of member companies with a wide variety of career paths. We hope to leverage this into many opportunities for students across the nation to participate,” said Asphalt Institute President Pete Grass.

Students will also have the option to attend an Asphalt Institute member meeting. Student poster sessions and networking opportunities with industry leaders will be beneficial for both the interns and potential employers.

“An increasing percentage of top university graduates start their careers with companies where they interned. Introducing students to the opportunities available in the asphalt industry will open their eyes to exciting career possibilities,” said AIF Board Chairman Ralph Shirts of ExxonMobil.

AIF will facilitate matching interns with companies while each employer will be responsible for any compensation. A full program is slated for the summer of 2016.


AIF’s strategic research program is designed to focus on economic, worker, sustainability and performance issues in the liquid asphalt industry.

Much of today’s research in the industry is funded with the aim of solving current problems or attempting to understand material behavior. AIF’s goal is to find and fund research that is focused on breakthrough change for the benefit of the industry.

“We need to ask how do we address the ‘over the horizon’ quality requirements in an environment of ever changing crude oil and global products demand,” said Shirts.

The foundation vets suggested research projects through a technical panel of experts to prioritize research needs. AIF does not employ research staff, facilities or equipment but rather considers research proposals and funds those seen as worthwhile for the industry.

“AIF research goals are much more strategic and will attempt to address the distant future of our industry. The foundation is ideally situated to not only identify this work, but more importantly raise the funds to execute this exciting work,” added Grass.

All research is performed by qualified research facilities. Final reports are published under the foundation name in the public domain.

Strong foundation

Since 1919 the Asphalt Institute has represented the industry as an international trade association promoting the use, benefits and quality performance of petroleum asphalt.

The genesis of AIF resulted from members of the Asphalt Institute searching for a way to contribute even more to the sustained growth of their industry. As a companion organization to the Asphalt Institute, the foundation is primed for success in reaching those goals.

AIF’s status as a tax-deductible, charitable organization allows for important fundraising and development. Where the institute rightly focuses on research and engineering that address the problems of today and educates current technicians and practitioners on best paving and design practices, the foundation focuses solely on the future of the industry.

“Whether it is developing the future leaders of the industry or delivering answers on asphalt technology to keep asphalt the pavement of choice – the foundation will have a positive impact and ensure a bright, long-term future for the industry,” said Shirts.

For more information on AIF and the internship program or possible research projects visit

Butler is the managing editor of Asphalt magazine.