In July 2018 a new set of elected SIGCHI EC members began their term. As outlined in a prior blog post, a strong value for this EC is to be Open. This refers to both having public processes as well as reporting on decision-making to the SIGCHI community. This post explains how we are doing the former and fulfills the requirement of the latter.
One way to achieve openness is to build on some of our conferences’ initiatives of open calls for interested volunteers to fulfill leadership roles. Within this growing culture, I (as President) decided we needed an open call for appointed VPs. But first a bit of background.
The SIGCHI EC Positions
According to the SIGCHI Bylaws, there are 10 core positions in the SIGCHI EC. Six of those positions are elected by the membership: President, Executive Vice President, Vice President for Finance, Vice President for Membership & Communication, and Vice President at Large (of which there are two). After the election, the new President then is to appoint the remaining four VP positions with approval by the six elected VPs: VP of Chapters, VP of Publications, VP of Conferences, and VP of Operations. The primary reason for these four positions being appointed is the need for specific prior experience and knowledge to do the job. In the past, the SIGCHI community was small enough to know who had accumulated the appropriate experience and knowledge. I do not believe that is true anymore. And so I wanted to have an open call to see who could carry these positions as well as who was interested in these positions.
The Process that we Followed
I worked with all of the prior members who held these positions to formulate accurate descriptions of each position along with duties and required prior experience or knowledge. The call was then posted in July 2018 on the SIGCHI social media channels, the SIGCHI-membership listserv, and sent to the Council of Steering Committee chairs. It directed people to a Google Form that allowed for people to apply themselves or indicate someone they think would be good for the position. The form was left open for two weeks before we began the next stage of the process.
In total, we had 33 applicants to the four positions. VP of Chapters was the most popular position indicated (20 entries) followed by VP of Conferences (8), VP of Publications (7), and VP of Operations (4). If you are paying attention, you may note that that is more applicants than 33 – that is because a number of people applied for more than one position and two applicants applied for all four positions.
The applicants were then initially reviewed by myself and the former appointed VP for each role. The reason for including the former appointed members in the process was due to their deeper understanding of the knowledge needed for the role – well beyond my own limited understanding. All former appointed VPs were supportive of this open call process and understood that reappointment was not to be assumed.
The Outcome of the Open Call
VP of Publications had been Cliff Lampe for the past three years, who was now to step into the role of Executive VP. From the list of people who volunteered, we identified three applicants that had the appropriate level of knowledge of the Publication process as well as innovative ideas for the future of SIGCHI Publications. He interviewed those three applicants in mid-July and provided his recommendation to me. I then brought this recommendation to the EC during our July face-to-face meeting and moved to offer the position to Julie Williamson – this was unanimously approved by the elected EC members. Julie has since accepted the position as of early August. Welcome Julie!
VP of Chapters had been Tuomo Kujala who, after seven years in the role, was ready to pass it to the next volunteer. He identified four applicants that had the appropriate level of knowledge and/or had a unique perspective on addressing the needs of our local chapters. He interviewed those four applicants in late-July and provided his recommendation to me. I then brought this recommendation to the EC over email and again during our monthly teleconference and moved to offer the position to Eunice Sari – this was unanimously approved by the elected EC members. Eunice has since accepted the position as of mid-August. Welcome Eunice!
VP of Conferences has been Aaron Quigley. Aaron had taken on a very difficult position about two years ago – he began as Adjunct Chair for Specialized Conferences and then after a year and a half moved into the position of VP of Conferences at the same time the SIGCHI EC took on a major reorganization of our Conferences leadership structure [link to interactions article outlining this change]. After he and I discussed this transition and the future of our conferences, we agreed that one more year is useful to complete the transition and he would also use this time to train up the next person to take on this position. Of the eight that applied to this position, none had chaired one of the 23 SIGCHI sponsored conferences. This is a challenge as an important duty is to approve TMRFs – in essence the budgets for the conferences. Without having a nuanced understanding of how to handle a conference budget, it would be difficult to mentor the conference chairs for our 23 conferences. This poses a problem for the future of our conferences that we have not identified Aaron’s successor. We may do another open call for applicants in the very near future, but at the same time need to ensure those that have held the appropriate positions see and respond to that call.
VP of Operations has been Dan Olsen for the past two years. Dan had been initially elected to the prior EC as VP for Finances and moved to the appointed position of VP of Operations in order to ensure the success of strategic infrastructure initiative under the prior EC including the new sigchi.org website, PCS 2.0, the SIGCHI conferences mobile app, and most recently a conferences session scheduling tool. As most of these initiatives are still underway, it was agreed that one more year is needed under Dan’s leadership to ensure the continuity of the development process. This position will most likely also require another open call to identify potential volunteers – this may happen next Spring as we get closer to completion on some of the infrastructure initiatives and can thus identify the appropriate skillset moving forward.
Adjunct Chair Roles and Appointments
In addition to the appointment of the four VPs, the President can also create new Adjunct Chair roles and appoint volunteers to these positions. The first Adjunct Chair that was reappointed was the Adjunct Chair for CHI. Philippe Palanque has been serving in this role since the aforementioned Conferences leadership structure changes. I motioned to continue the position and recommended Philippe to continue in the role for one more year to facilitate the transition process. The SIGCHI voted on and approved both motions. Philippe and the CHI Steering Committee will be determining the next Adjunct Chair for CHI with the SIGCHI ECs approval.
In support of our Strategic Initiative to Promote Inclusivity as well as address the concerns brought to light in the Grand Challenges call, the SIGCHI EC voted to create the position of Adjunct Chair for Inclusion. We then voted to offer the position to Allison Druin due to her many years of organizing and hosting the Diversity & Inclusion lunch at the CHI conference. She accepted the role in late July and will be forming a committee to create and promote diversity and inclusion across our organization and through our conferences and events. Welcome Allison!
Finally, after three years of serving as Adjunct Chair for Awards, Ben Bederson has stepped down. He has done a wonderful job and has updated the processes and scope considerably in his tenure. He helped us find his replacement by identifying a list of past SIGCHI Award recipient or past members of the SIGCHI Executive Committee that had strong communication and organization skills, were respectful of the breadth of CHI contributions, sensitive to the needs of recognizing a diverse set of participants of all kinds, and were knowledgable of CHI senior participants to help encourage nominations and recruit future subcommittee chairs. After I spoke with a number of interested applicants, I offered the position to Gloria Mark who accepted in early September. Welcome Gloria!
Lessons Learned from the Process
The experience of having open calls has shown that this is a viable way to find new volunteers for positions and, probably even more importantly, find really motivated and experienced volunteers. However, it also was a challenge to properly convey the amount of prior knowledge one would need to take up certain appointed VP roles. So, this has again highlighted for us that the SIGCHI EC can and should engage in volunteer mentorship in order to ensure there are potential applicants for any open position.
— written by Helena Mentis, SIGCHI President