ComSoc Membership Services: Interview with Song Guo, Director of Membership Services

By Song Guo - Director of Membership Services and Stefano Bregni - Vice-President for Member and Global Activities, Editor of the Global Communications Newsletter

This is the third article in the series of nine, started in May 2018 and published monthly in the IEEE ComSoc Global Communications Newsletter, which covers all areas of IEEE ComSoc Member and Global Activities. In this series of articles, I introduce the Vice-President and six Directors on the Member and Global Activities Council (Sister and Related Societies; Membership Services; AP, NA, LA, EMEA Regions) and the two Chairs of the Women in Communications Engineering (WICE) and Young Professionals (YP) Standing Committees. In each article, one by one they present their sector activities and plans.

In this issue, I interview Song Guo, Director of Membership Services.

Song is a Full Professor in the Department of Computing, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. His research interests are mainly in the areas of big data, cloud computing and networking, and distributed systems, with over 400 papers published in major conferences and journals. He is the recipient of several Best Paper Awards. He was an IEEE Communications Society Distinguished Lecturer in 2016-2017. He serves on the Editorial Boards of several IEEE transactions.

Bregni: This is the first time you have served as a ComSoc Director. What are your first impressions? Any difficulties or challenges that you did not expect before beginning?

Guo: To get familiar with global membership status, I took quite a while analyzing member data in the past. The biggest challenge I see is to stop the membership decline that has been occurring in recent years.

Bregni: What is the first initiative under your leadership that you would like to present to our readers?

Guo: I have made significant effort to implement the Membership and Global Activities Contribution Award (MGACA) initiative proposed by VP of MGA Prof. Nei Kato. With the strong support of local chapter chairs, this initiative has shown effectiveness in proactively recruiting members, especially student members and graduate student members.

It’s goal is to praise individuals who have made significant contributions to the IEEE Communications Society membership and global activities. An awardee should have recruited more than 50 ComSoc members (including undergraduate student members, graduate student members, members, etc.) each year in their local chapter. Also, the local chapter should have attained a net increase of at least 50 ComSoc members. Each awardee can receive a plaque from the MGA Council. An award ceremony will be held during Globecom each year at the MGA council.

The objectives are to:

  • Foment and incentivize activities geared toward attracting new members to ComSoc and the renewal of membership by existing ComSoc members.
  • Directly help ComSoc financially and indirectly help consolidate ComSoc’s position as a standard for telecommunications professionals in academia and industry.
  • Make an impact on both small and large chapters, motivating all to create programs to improve the member base.

Bregni: Chapters need funding to feed their activities. May you tell us more about that?

Guo: The chapter funding aspect of our Membership Development Program is in process with questionnaires having been sent and responses returned.

Each Regional Director decides whether a chapter should receive only the amount requested, and whether the chapter could better use the amount they are qualified for. Regional Directors are in the best position to judge the U.S. dollar value in their particular regions.

To date, we have rarely allocated more than $1000 to any one chapter, no matter how much they may have requested. This has provided a logical rationale and kept funding decisions fairly consistent. For 2018 our chapter-funding program is $55,000, and the breakout is as follows: “initiatives” ($300); membership recruitment ($200); speaker remuneration ($250); web expenses ($50); newsletter costs ($75); administrative ($75); other ($50); in total $1000.

Bregni: I know the Distinguished Lecturer Program (DLP) is probably the ComSoc program that is best appreciated by our members and local Chapters. Please tell us more about that?

Guo: The Distinguished Lecturer Program (DLP) is provided as a service to local Chapters. It is organized to benefit existing members and chapters. It can also be used to generate new membership and promote new Chapter formation. Lecturers are invited and events are organized by local Chapters, including student Chapters. Each Distinguished Lecturer Tour (DLT) is organized by providing at least three lectures in different locations.

The objectives of the Distinguished Speaker Program (DSP) are similar to those of the DLP, but it can support only one lecture and covers only local expenses. Distinguished Speakers may be any current and former DLs, IEEE Fellows, and prominent leaders. From Jan. 1 to April 30 2018, we approved 27 DLTs (10 in AP, 7 in EMEA, 3 in LA, and 7 in NA) and 5 DSPs.

Bregni: Every few years, the Chairs of Chapters in a Region are invited to meet up in a Regional Chapter Chair Congress (RCCC) to share their experiences and discuss common problems. Please present your perspective on that and share what are your plans?

Guo: The Regional Chapter Chair Congress (RCCC) is held to encourage sharing, feedback, and networking among Chapter Chairs of a particular Region, inviting ComSoc Officers and ComSoc Staff to meet the chairs and participate in the Congress. The RCCC is hosted by the Region Director in consultation with the MS Director.

The NA RCCC was just held in conjunction with IEEE ICC 2018 in Kansas City, USA on May 19-20, 2018. Many hot topics, challenges and suggestions were raised, and I fully agreed on the following five recommendations made by the Region Representatives and Chapter Chairs:

  1. Create a ComSoc Membership “30 sec, 3 min, 30 min” pitch (what it is, why, what value and how to take advantage),
  2. Empower volunteers at the four ComSoc Regions and the ComSoc chapter levels to function more autonomously to enable membership growth.
  3. Create a Tiger Team of staff and volunteers to develop the appropriate membership fee models and pricing for ComSoc membership.
  4. Investigate how ComSoc can become involved in humanitarian and community development activity.
  5. Recognize the most active/successful volunteers at the Region and Chapter level.

Bregni: What are your plans for the next months of your term?

Guo: After MGACA was implemented in March 2018, the membership level is stable when compared with the previous year in the same months for the first time in recent years. The highest priority task in the near future is to keep this momentum by expanding the impact of the MGACA initiative and exploring other alternatives.