IEEE Sections Congress: Empowering Members

"Empowering the Member to Create the Future" is the theme for the triennial gathering

4 February 2011

The IEEE Member and Geographic Activities (MGA) Board is sponsoring its 10th triennial IEEE Sections Congress from 19 to 22 August at the San Francisco Marriott Marquis. IEEE Sections Congress 2011 (SC 2011) will provide the opportunity for IEEE geographic unit leaders to learn, network and exchange ideas on ways to improve local activities, and enhance member value.

“Empowering the Member to Create the Future” is the theme of this year’s congress. Participants will share ideas and, through interactive breakout sessions, learn how to maximize their volunteering efforts, engage the local member and improve their leadership skills. Delegates to the congress also get to vote for recommendations that they feel should be a priority and implemented by the MGA Board.

Tom Coughlin, Sections Congress Committee conference chair notes, “The three IEEE Sections (San Francisco, Oakland East Bay and Santa Clara Valley) in the San Francisco Bay area have the largest concentration of IEEE members in the world. The Silicon Valley area has become famous from the work of it many local IEEE members and we are very proud that this area was selected as the site for SC2011.

“SC 2011 will have sessions that will provide material that will help IEEE geographic unit leaders serve their members, feature exciting keynote speakers and remind all attendees on how IEEE activities can make a difference in the world," he continues. “SC 2011 will give attendees an opportunity to become more familiar with the new IEEE initiatives and its technical breadth while enjoying the charm and excitement of the San Francisco Bay area.”

The Sections Congress program includes a core track training session, followed by individual breakout sessions designed to give the volunteer leader information they need to serve the member, improve their professional skills, and promote IEEE. The program schedule has been designed to give the attendees more opportunity to spend time with exhibitors and other members while being able to attend the training sessions they are interested in. Breakout session will be recorded and made available after the event in the IEEE Center for Leadership Excellence. Also, for the first time, a poster session will be held. Sections and chapter leaders have been requested to submit abstracts on topics that are related to an IEEE goal, with particular emphasis on benefits to IEEE members.

The IEEE Sections Congress 2011 also will be host to the IEEE Honors Ceremony on Saturday evening, providing attendees from all over the world the opportunity to participate in this prestigious event. An optional event has been added on Sunday evening, which includes a reception featuring exhibits by the leaders of local technical chapters, geographic council, and affinity groups showing the technical depth of the IEEE and will be held at the newly expanded Computer History Museum, in nearby Mountain View. The museum holds one of the world’s largest collections of rare computers, as well as photographs, games, documents, software, and other artifacts surrounding the history and evolution of computing and its impact on humanity.

The IEEE Sections Congress 2008 was represented by 293 Sections, or 89 percent of all IEEE sections. “Our goal is to achieve an even higher attendance of section delegates in 2011,” says Couglin. Registration for the event will be open by 1 April.

The Congress traditionally serves as a forum for attendees to discuss their thoughts and ideas regarding the direction of IEEE and its member’s needs. These viewpoints result in a list of recommendations submitted by section leaders that are prioritized on the last day of the Congress by the primary section delegates. The MGA Board acts on this list and reports progress of each item to the members. The recommendation process has been improved in 2011 to ensure all attendees have more quality time before and at the Congress to discuss the merits of the recommendations.

Each Region Committee is requested to submit up to 4 recommendations by 15 May. The MGA Operations Committee will review the recommendations for clarity and overlap. All of the recommendations with appropriate back up material will be made available on the Sections Congress Web site prior to SC2011.

IEEE Sections Congress 2008 spurred several initiatives from the recommendations voted on. Of the top 10 recommendations made, all but one are in some stage of implementation at this time. Highlights of the progress on these 2008 recommendations are provided below.

In response to a request for more affordable, flexible subscription options to IEEE Xplore digital library, the Member Digital Library Basic was launched in September. It offers three full-text article downloads per month for a monthly fee of US $15.

Additionally, IEEE section and chapter leaders asked for online tools that would help them fulfill their duties. In response, the IEEE Center for Leadership Excellence was established in 2009. The center contains training materials to build professional skills and acquaint newly elected leaders with the basic goals and tasks of their positions.

Volunteers requested online tools that would assist them with such administrative tasks as planning a meeting, creating a calendar of events, and posting blogs. They also wanted an affordable, secure Web site that would allow them to accept small payments online for local events. In response, vTools Meeting was launched. And Web-in-a-Box—aimed at helping volunteers easily create and maintain their section’s Web pages—is in the works.

Delegates at SC 2008 said members, especially students in developing countries who do not have credit cards, needed flexible payment methods for paying dues, regardless of location. In response, IEEE launched the Rupee Project pilot program in 2010. This program allows student members in India to pay their membership dues in local currency. The program was deemed successful and will be extended to the 2012 renewal cycle. Similar programs for students in other countries are under consideration.

Additionally, to encourage student members to become full IEEE members, the Loyalty Program was launched in March. It provides free access to five eLearning online tutorials to first-year, full-grade members. This year, beginning in October, IEEE plans to extend the program to first-year full-grade renewing members including free access to 10 tutorials.

Another concern brought forward at SC 2008 was that many member benefits are available only in Regions 1 through 6. In an effort to implement similar benefits across all regions, the IEEE Job Site has been expanded to include postings for jobs in Australia, India, and Singapore. Additionally, several IEEE discount programs are now available to more IEEE members. The Dell Employee Purchase Program, for example, allows IEEE members to receive discounts on Dell products in 48 countries. The Alamo and National car rental companies offer a 15 percent discount to members in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa and a 20 percent discount to members in the United States, Canada, Latin America, and the Caribbean. The IEEE Financial Advantage Program includes a range of discounts on products and services for the home, school, and office.

This year IEEE plans to implement and promote IEEE-USA Webinar and eBook access for all IEEE Member Net users. Rules in different countries, however, as well as IEEE’s ability to negotiate on behalf of 200, 000 members in the United States versus a smaller concentration of members in other parts of the world, makes it difficult to provide equal benefits globally.

The recommendation asking IEEE to give its members a number of free downloads every year from the IEEE Xplore digital library has not been implemented due to the cost implications.

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