Want to Volunteer With IEEE? This Training Program Can Help Get You Started

Workshops aim to help volunteers find their best fit within the organization

16 January 2015

Trying to volunteer for IEEE can be daunting. The challenge for many is figuring out IEEE’s complicated structure of operating units, societies, sections, and technical chapters so that they can determine where their talents can be used best. After all, IEEE is governed by volunteer members. It depends on them for many things, including coordinating local and regional activities, developing educational programs, editing publications, and organizing conferences.

But trying to get a handle on how IEEE operates can be a stumbling block. Many simply give up trying, it is believed, causing the organization to lose out on filling positions with talented, enthusiastic members who could have brought new ideas about improving the organization and the engineering profession.

One area that has had a dearth of volunteers, especially from outside the United States, is the Technical Activities Board. The largest of IEEE’s six major boards, it manages and operates the organization’s 39 technical societies and 6 technical councils, along with their 1,300 conferences and 170 transactions, journals, and magazines.

The 2014 vice president-elect of Technical Activities, IEEE Fellow Vincenzo Piuri from Milan, Italy, decided to do something to increase TA’s volunteer ranks from Regions 8, 9, and 10. Last year, he developed workshops with material from all of IEEE’s boards to give attendees a better understanding of the organization and the volunteer positions available. Piuri is quite knowledgeable about how IEEE works, having served in many positions, including division director and vice president of membership. He also was the president of the Computational Intelligence Society, vice president for publications for the Instrumentation and Measurement Society and the Systems Council, vice president for education of the Biometrics Council, and chair of various technical committees in the Computer Society, Computational Intelligence Society, and Instrumentation and Measurement Society. He also established technical chapters in Italy of the Biometrics Council and the Systems Council.

“The ultimate goal of the workshops is to embrace more members since they may not be aware of all the opportunities IEEE has to help them serve and nurture the worldwide technology communities and their local branches,” he says. “This program was also an experiment to see how open and willing IEEE’s major boards were in working together. During my term as vice president of Technical Activities, I want to make a strong point that we are ‘One IEEE.’”


Three workshops have been held so far. One was in July at the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Automation, in Beijing, which had 36 participants. The others were held in Brazil in November: one at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (18 participants) and the other at the Grand Hyatt Sao Paulo (30 participants).

The workshops were led by Piuri; Jacek Zurada, the 2014 vice president of Technical Activities; and Bill Moses, the 2014 conferences chair for Technical Activities.

Each one-day workshop covered how the attendees could play a role in building IEEE technical communities, organizing successful IEEE activities, and training future volunteers. The workshops included networking opportunities with senior IEEE volunteers, local section leaders, and IEEE staff.

There were also presentations by local volunteers, 2014 IEEE President J. Roberto Boisson de Marca, and 2015 IEEE President Howard Michel. They presented overviews of IEEE’s structure and operations and covered key areas, such as technical communities, chapters, educational activities, conferences, and periodicals. Each area then drilled down into the details about their operations and volunteer positions. For example, the publications group covered the elements of a manuscript; how to review it; the role of reviewer, associate editor, and editor in chief; the difference between a journal article and a conference article; and the responsibilities of the various boards and committees.

The conference group went over its core volunteers who fulfill critical functions, such as the finance, conference, and technical program chairs and their duties. Also discussed were other positions, such as the publicity and local arrangements chairs, special session organizers, and the conference positions within societies, technical chapters, and geographic units.

The session on educational activities covered the methods used to deliver educational content, such as tutorials, webinars, and short courses, both for university and continuing education. Volunteers are needed to serve as lecturers, presenters, and tutors, as well as content developers. Other opportunities focus on outreach to preuniversity students, such as the Engineering Projects in Community Service and to the general public with the IEEE Exhibits for Science and Technology Museums Around the World.

Satisfaction surveys are being conducted a few months after each workshop. While it is too early to survey attendees in Brazil, according to Piuri, attendees in Beijing said they were very happy with the content and appreciated IEEE’s efforts. To further measure the effectiveness of the workshops, attendees will be contacted again after six months and then after one year to learn if they took on volunteer positions during that time and whether they repeated the workshop training in their respective local communities.


The next workshops are being held on 19 January in Delhi and on 21 January in Mumbai, in conjunction with the IEEE-IEEMA Intelect Conference and Exposition. The conference will cover topics such as sustainability, smart-grid innovations, and electricity for remote regions.

Piuri is trying out such joint efforts with conferences to cut down on travel expenses for his workshop attendees since many IEEE members will be going to the conference anyway.

“I thought it was a good opportunity for them to attend the session without spending too much money—essentially the cost of an extra night at a hotel, which is minimal to the benefit we are giving,” he says.

Piuri is also looking into repurposing the presentations into what he calls a “volunteer training workshop in a box” so it can be given in a few hours instead of one full day. The plan is to present them as tutorials at conferences.

Visit this site if you’d like to volunteer for technical activities.

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