Who are Student Volunteers (SVs)?
Student volunteers have become an essential part in the organization of CHI. They play a major role in executing structural tasks – especially during the conference. Among other things: we hand out and check badges; show you where to find a paper session, restaurant, bathroom, your lost water bottle, etc; help set up nets for drones, build sculptures out of coke bottles and other exciting demos; also help figure out where is that missing paper presenter and why, oh why, isn’t the microphone working anymore? Along with many others, the student volunteers put A LOT of effort into helping CHI run smoothly.
SVs are also HCI researchers. Quite a few SVs already publish their research at CHI and have been attending conferences for a while. For others, CHI is a whole new experience, allowing them to see how research results are distributed and how the community interacts. In both cases, being an SV is an incredible opportunity to network with possible mentors, collaborators, and peers.
And here is the tricky bit: SVs are students! We are not trained event managers or AV technicians. We are volunteers and conference attendees. All SVs agree to an informal contract: in exchange for about 20 hours of their time (many put in much more), the conference waives their registration fees and provides daily lunch and breakfast (a lot of tasks start as early as 6:30am, some go well through lunch, and others end as late as 8pm). SVs still have to pay for their own housing and transportation. Workshops and courses are not covered either.
In the scope of their 20 hours, SVs engage in plenty of tasks, some of which are simple while others require certain expertise or training. For this reason we need some people who have done the job before and can teach the job to the next generation of SVs. This is the basic concept: returning SVs show incoming SVs how tasks work, new students come up with new ideas on how to improve them.
How do I become an SV?
There are three different ways for you to become an SV: you can be nominated by members of the Program or Organizing Committees, you can enroll in the general selection process (for general SVs and institutional knowledge SVs), or you can win a slot through the t-shirt design competition.
Each Program or Organizing Committee member gets to nominate one student. This pool of SVs accounts for approximately 20% of the total slots for SVs.
This year we will also add the students who were in the new role of Subcommittee Assistants. This role was created by the Paper Chairs this year to help Subcommittee Chairs with their tasks before and during the Program Committee meeting.
From this selection pool we pick about 30 to 40% based on the information provided by nominators. We look for strong recommendations on the person’s ability to perform SV-related tasks, we look for opportunities to increase the diversity of the SV group, and we look for people who would benefit the most from being an SV for the current year. The rest of the slots are assigned through a random lottery.
Institutional Knowledge SVs
Institutional knowledge SVs are students that have been SVs at CHI before, are experienced with a variety of tasks, and can help train the incoming class of SVs. These SVs account for approximately 20% of the SV slots. All of these students were exceptional SVs in previous years (e.g., always on time AND very proactive AND helpful to others on/off duty AND went above the requirements for their current task). Many of them are trained in specialized tasks. Unfortunately due to the high competition for an SV slot, we can’t always accept all students that fit this description. We prioritize selecting a few exceptional SVs in specialized roles, the other slots are selected through a random lottery.
The remaining 60% of the slots go through the current lottery system built into chisv.org: please check the “Become a Student Volunteer” blog post for details on how to apply. The system uses a weighted lottery and assigns one ticket per student. We can also increase the number of tickets assigned to a student (a.k.a. influence the likelihood that a type of student has to win the lottery) based on:
- Whether a student is local;
- Whether a student has attended CHI before;
- Whether a student needs a VISA for the conference;
- The type of program the student is currently in (BA/MA/PhD); and,
- Whether a student has been a SV at CHI before.
We are working towards an upgrade to the chisv.org system which, among other things, would give us more control over the ticketing system. This could allow us to, for example, give extra tickets based on diversity metrics. If you have suggestions on aspects that should be built into the new lottery system, please consider taking a few minutes and writing up your opinions here.
T-Shirt Design Competition SV
The last way you could get an SV slot is by winning the t-shirt design competition. This competition happens in January where we accept t-shirt designs for the SV t-shirt. After an initial selection made by the SV chairs, a subset of the Organizing Committee and previous SV Chairs vote on which design is their favorite. That person gets an SV slot. If they are already an SV they can pass that slot to a friend.
And who are the SV chairs?
SV chairs are two senior SVs who have seen the process through multiple years of serving as SVs. The SV chair position is a two year commitment (one junior chair and one senior chair). This is because the CHI SV program is a beast. With 175 SVs each year, coordination with many conference chairs, multiple stakeholders with different needs, serving as SV chair for CHI requires SV experience and training in the role. The first year the junior SV chair observes, learns, and helps with organizational tasks. They learn how to operate chisv.org, how to address different types of requests, and how to manage an operation the size of a small startup.
Future SV chairs are selected based on their experience as SVs, their graduation timeline, and the specific needs of the conference that year. The current SV chairs consider several candidates and make a recommendation to the General Chairs of someone they are confident will do a good job in organizing the SV program for the coming years. Sometimes, when there are special needs the General Chairs of future CHIs are brought in earlier in this decision process, to ensure that the “rollover” SV Chair will be able to attend to those needs (e.g. locations where English is not as widely spoken or where cultural norms are significantly different).
As SV chairs, we invest more than 100 pre-conference hours planning SV tasks and ensuring the conference is adequately supported by the SV program. During the conference we spend the majority of our time at the conference managing and addressing incoming requests. If you would like to be a future SV chair, make sure you are an SV at CHI (and other conferences as well), have higher responsibilities tasks (volunteer for them!), and that you let us know that you are interested. Every year we go through the process of picking a new junior chair and that person can be you!