Starting a Student Branch: Easier Than You Think

You now only need 12 students to form a branch

4 September 2009

studentThere’s more to belonging to an IEEE student branch than getting a membership card. Much more. You get to meet other members who share your technical interests, network with professionals, participate in conferences and competitions, and enjoy social events.

No student branch at your school? Not to worry. IEEE has made it easier to start one of your own. You now need only 12 student members to form a student branch, not the 20 previously required.

Here’s what to do once you’ve rounded up your dozen:

1 Visit the IEEE Student Concourse and click on the IEEE Student Branch Resources and Reporting link. That brings you to a downloadable packet of forms to fill out and return to IEEE.

2 Each of your members must sign the branch petition form. You also need the signatures of three faculty members who are IEEE members and teach in IEEE’s fields of interest. One must be your department head, and another must be willing to serve as your branch counselor.

3 Choose one of your fellow students as your interim chair. You can choose a permanent chair once IEEE approves your application.

4 Fill out the form that asks about your university’s educational programs. Be sure to specify whether your university is accredited and if so, which authority—such as ABET or a government agency—authorized the accreditation, when the accreditation or permission to award degrees was granted, and when it is scheduled to expire. If you need help tracking down the required information, ask the professors who signed the petition.

5 Include all the degrees your university offers in IEEE’s fields of study. The form lists the fields for you, including engineering, computer science, information technology, and biological and medical sciences. Also note the date your school graduated its first students. It must have graduated at least one class before you can form an IEEE student branch.

6 Adopt a constitution. You can find a sample constitution with the other forms. Write in the name of your new branch, and give it a purpose. The constitution must include bylaws, also available in the sample documents.

After you submit your application, IEEE Member and Geographic Activities staff, in Piscataway, N.J., will ensure it’s filled out properly and send it for approval to the director of your IEEE region and the region’s student activities committee chair. You’ll be notified when the approval process is complete.

Once your application is approved, rev things up by organizing meetings and fun events. Here are several ways to make your branch successful, according to student branch leaders who have gone through the process.

Tech Seminars
One of the top reasons for joining an IEEE student branch is to network with working engineers and gain a competitive edge when entering the workforce. A great way to arrange that is by organizing technical seminars, according to Amr el-Deeb, 2008 chair of the student branch at Alexandria University, in Egypt. Invite speakers from local companies to discuss breakthrough technologies they’re working on as well as to offer advice on landing a job.

“Technical courses and workshops have always succeeded in attracting the largest number of students to our branch,” el-Deeb wrote in the September/October 2008 issue of IEEE Potentials, the publication for IEEE student members. That issue featured a profile of his branch, which boasts more than 750 members.

You can find speakers simply by calling local companies as well as by asking your professors if they know of good candidates.

Be Active
Don’t allow your branch to fade from sight. It’s important to hold regular meetings, at least once a month, to keep members engaged. Organize a committee to plan interesting events—and don’t forget those guest speakers. Use the meetings to update everyone on upcoming events and brainstorm new activities. There are many ways to engage members, such as getting them involved in IEEEXtreme, a 24-hour online programming challenge. The next one takes place on 24 October.

Every branch needs a place to hold its meetings. Talk to your professors about using a room. The student branch at the University of Victoria, B.C., Canada, for example, got a room in its engineering building simply by asking the dean for space.

After you’ve secured a space, accumulate equipment such as computers and supplies. Your local IEEE group or your school might help with funds. For example, the University of Victoria’s student branch wrote a grant proposal; the IEEE Canadian Foundation and the Victoria Section each gave the branch CDN $3000. The branch also received equipment from the university’s electrical and computer engineering department.

Play Dates
A great way to recruit members and retain those you have is to hold barbecues, sporting events, video-game nights, pizza parties, and other gatherings.

“We make ourselves visible by organizing large social events,” said Chuan-Zheng Lee, 2009 chair of the student branch at the University of Auckland, in New Zealand, in the branch profile that appeared in the May/June 2009 issue of IEEE Potentials. “Each year we gain 80 or more new members at these events.”

The most important factor in recruiting members is to get the word out, according to Manfred Sampl, 2008 chair of the student branch at Graz University of Technology, in Austria.

“Our marketing methods include hanging posters, handing out our branded mugs, and sending e-mail,” he said in the IEEE Potentials profile of his student branch [November/December 2008].

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