Computing Applications

ACM Is Built on Volunteers’ Shoulders

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ACM President Alain Chesnais
ACM President Alain Chesnais

It is a great honor to have been elected ACM President. I must say it’s been an interesting road to this juncture. My first ACM role was volunteering to maintain the mailing list of my local SIGGRAPH chapter in Paris in the mid-1980s. Over the last 25 years, I have continued to volunteer for many different roles within the organization. I am proud to be the first French citizen and the second European to hold this position, as it clearly illustrates that ACM has become a truly international organization. I’m looking forward to the day when we can look back at this time as the beginning of a long chain of volunteer leaders coming from countries throughout every region of the world.

This organization is largely built on the energy and devotion of many dedicated volunteers. I’d like to take this opportunity to share some thoughts on the value of volunteering at ACM. When you look at all of the activities that make up the offerings of our organization, it is amazing to note that members who volunteer their time to deliver the content we provide do the vast majority of the work. There are many opportunities for members to step forward and donate their time to the success of ACM’s various endeavors.

I recently attended the annual SIGGRAPH conference in Los Angeles where volunteer efforts are highly visible. With a multimillion-dollar budget, it is by far the largest conference that ACM sponsors, attracting tens of thousands of attendees every year. Though a conference of that size calls upon many highly skilled professional contractors to implement the vision of the conference organizers, the content is selected and organized by volunteers. I encourage you to visit Communications’ Web site ( to view a dynamic visual representation of how much work went into the preparation of the conference over a three-year period. Created by Maria Isabel Meirelles, of Northeastern University, Boston, the series of graphs illustrate how volunteer involvement increased dramatically over the 40-month preparatory period as we got closer to the dates of the event. By the time the conference took place a total of over 580 volunteers had put in over 70,000 hours of work to make the conference successful. That’s over eight years of cumulated effort!

Not all ACM endeavors require as much volunteer effort as the annual SIGGRAPH conference. There are a multitude of tasks that you, as a member of this organization, can volunteer your services for. You can start by checking out the ACM professional chapter in your area. We have ACM general interest chapters as well as more specialized chapters associated with any of ACM’s 34 special interest groups, (SIGs) that can use volunteer support. Tasks cover everything from greeting people at an event hosted by your local chapter to maintaining a Web presence for a particular activity. If a chapter does not yet exist in your area, you can volunteer to establish one. From there you can consider volunteering to help organize a conference or being a referee to evaluate the quality of submitted content to ACM’s 40+ journals and periodicals or the more than 170 conferences and workshops that we sponsor.

By starting off with a task that is small and easily manageable, you can get a sense of the time requirements involved. As you proceed you might find you want to take on more. Working as a volunteer at ACM is extremely rewarding. You can see the value of your effort in the results of the activity you have supported. Little did I imagine, when I first volunteered so long ago to manage a mailing list for my local SIGGRAPH chapter, that I would one day wind up elected to the position of president of the organization.

Over the decades I’ve held multiple positions including contributing to the publication of the SIGGRAPH quarterly, serving as director for Chapters on the Local Activities Board, chairing the SIG Governing Board, and serving on the organizing committee of the annual SIGGRAPH conference. Each experience has carried with it the satisfaction of giving back to the community that ACM represents. I’d like to encourage you to donate your time to help make ACM a success. Volunteerism is the core of what makes ACM what it is.

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