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Students: Values of the CHI Conference to Students

David Crow, Mike Byrne, and Erika Dawn Gernand

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In past issues, the Students Column in the SIGCHI Bulletin has dealt with the purpose, duties and importance of the Student Volunteers at CHI Conferences (Students, Vol. 27, No. 4, October 1995) and the benefits of networking by SVs (Students, Vol. 28, No. 4, October 1996). In this column we continue to discuss the benefits of being an SV at the CHI conference and also take a look at other ways students can use the conference to "Look to the Future".

The CHI conference offers students many opportunities to participate in the CHI community. A number of CHI Conference events and activities are directed at students. These events include the Student Volunteer program, the Doctoral Consortium and a Special Interest Group (SIG) for students.

Student Volunteers

The Student Volunteers (SVs) are integral part of the CHI Conference. This column has previously covered some experiences of SVs at CHI. The October 1995 issue (http://www.acm.org/sigchi/bulletin/1995.4/students.html) outlined the duties and activities of student volunteers. Among those mentioned were the conference setup, tutorial support, quick response and the SV "Thank you!" party. An SV "newbie" and an SV veteran gave their viewpoints on their experiences as an SV in the October 1996 issue (http://www.acm.org/sigchi/bulletin/1996.4/students.html).

The SV program puts students at a high visibility in the conference. As all SVs are required to wear a characteristic T-shirt while "on duty", SVs are very approachable by any conference attendee. SVs work closely with conference volunteers and presenters. Many of these people are the very same people that students have been reading about in their studies. Working as a Student Volunteer gives students a good opening to talk to these people that they might not approach otherwise. This puts students in contact with potential professors and employers.

The Student Volunteers also spend a great deal of time together. Sitting in the SV lounge while on break or during a meal is a good time to bounce research ideas off one another. Some used the opportunity to learn about schools they might not otherwise have considered for further studies or to make contacts at a school they were already planning to attend. It is also just a neat experience to spend a week with over one hundred other people excited about something important to you.

Students at all levels are invited to participate the Student Volunteer program during CHI 98 in Los Angeles, April 18-23, 1998. There are only a limited number of SV positions available and the spaces fill up early, so it is a good idea to get an application in early. An online application is available at http://www.acm.org/sigchi/chi98/call/stuvols.html. More information about the CHI 98 SV program can also be found at http://www.acm.org/sigchi/chi98/svhq/. The SV Co-chairs can be contacted directly at
chi98-students@acm.org.

Doctoral Consortium

The Doctoral Consortium began at CHI'85 in San Francisco (Barnard, 1990) to provide a forum for Ph.D. candidates to discuss their research with a multi-disciplinary group. This exposure to other points of view may have a beneficial impact on the future progress of the participants' dissertations. The CHI 97 Doctoral Consortium was held Sunday and Monday. It involved 12 Ph.D. students from 5 different countries. Represented were the United States, England, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland. (See the report in this issue.)

More information about participating in the Doctoral Consortium at CHI 98 is available on-line at http://www.acm.org/sigchi/chi98/call/doctoral.html.

SIG: Students at CHI

The Students at CHI Special Interest Group offered students the chance to get involved and have their questions answered by others who have had similar experiences. Mike Byrne and Stacie Hibino organized this SIG with a dedication to providing an open forum for students to meet and discuss graduate student issues. The panelists for the SIG included Anna Watson, Computer Science Department at University College London (UK), La Tondra Murray, Department of Industrial Engineering at North Carolina State University, and Brian Ehret, Department of Psychology at George Mason University.

These panelists began with a short description of their research and then discussed the nature of working on multi-disciplinary teams and how to choose a dissertation topic. After the panelist presentations, the room broke up into two groups with the panelists and organizers distributed throughout the room. These smaller groups allowed the students to interact less formally and discuss student issues not brought up in the large group. The SIG gave students a good forum to learn from each other's experiences. This is definitely an important part of the student experience at CHI.

More Opportunities

CHI isn't just for graduate students; it also offers a number of opportunities for undergraduates:

  • talk to professors in a social environment;
  • see the work that occurs in the laboratories;
  • meet students who have worked with an advisor and learn the truth about what really goes on in their lab;
  • learn more about graduate school requirements.

Students are not limited to academia exposure at CHI. There are also a number of companies recruiting students for positions. The job board at CHI is an excellent starting point to discover what the industry has to offer. The job board contained numerous postings for:

  • full-time and part-time positions;
  • co-operative education positions;
  • internship opportunities.

After checking the job board, many students were able to interview with companies during the week at CHI.

The job board is only a starting point for jobs. There is still the need to network and self promote at CHI. The CHI Conference provides an open environment to approach and meet many individuals from academia and industry.

Looking to the Future

CHI provides a number of unique opportunities for students. All students should make use of the many resources available at CHI. CHI 98 is April 18-23, 1998 in Los Angeles, CA. More information on CHI 98 is available online at http://www.acm.org/sigchi/chi98/.

Acknowledgments

We would like to thank the SV co-chairs, Henk de Bruijn and Elma Wolschrijn, for their dedication, hard work and organizational skills which have ensured the success of CHI 97, and have made the SV experience a truly positive one.

About the Authors

David Crow recently graduated from the Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. Dave is currently employed by Rockwell International Collins Avionics and Communications Division in Chicago, IL as an interface engineer. He can be reached at david.crow@acm.org.

Mike Byrne is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Psychology Department at Carnegie Mellon University and is the Student Volunteers co-chair, along with Hans de Graaff, for CHI 98. He can be reached at byrne@acm.org.

Erika Dawn Gernand is a senior at Texas A&M University, majoring in Computer Science with a minor in Psychology. Erika is the Managing Editor of the ACM student magazine, Crossroads. She can be reached at erika.gernand@acm.org.

Reference

Barnard, P. (1990). Summary of the CHI '90 Doctoral Consortium. In J. C. Chew and J. Whiteside. Empowering People: CHI '90 Conference Proceedings. ACM Press, New York.

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