ComSoc Membership Services Interview with Zhensheng Zhang, Director of Membership Services

By Stefano Bregni - Vice-President–Member and Global Activities and Zhensheng Zhang - Director of Membership Services

This is the second article in the series of eight, started in November 2016 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 six MGA Directors (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’s activities and plans.

In this issue, I interview Zhensheng Zhang, Director for Membership Services (MS). Zhensheng received his Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He has over 20 years of experience in the design and analysis of network architectures, protocols, and control algorithms. He has worked at Boeing as a principal scientist, and he has served as principal investigator for several Department of Defense projects, at Bell Laboratories, Lucent Technologies, and Columbia University, focusing on research and development in wireless networks. He was an IEEE ComSoc Distinguished Lecturer from 2010 to 2013. He served as GLOBECOM2015 Executive Vice Chair, IEEE GLOBECOM2012 TPC Chair, IEEE ICC2015 TPC Vice Chair, an Editor of the IEEE Transactions on Wireless Communications (2000-2004), and Chair of the IEEE ComSoc San Diego Chapter from 2008 to 2014 (Chapter-of-the-Year winner in 2013).

It is my pleasure to interview Zhensheng and offer him this opportunity to outline his current activities and plans for ComSoc Membership Services.

Bregni: Zhensheng, what is the goal of the ComSoc Membership Services Board? What have you and the Board done to reach this goal so far?

Zhang: The goal of Membership Services is to serve our members, to listen to what our members need, and to work with our four regional directors and chapter chairs to add value for our members so that we can increase member retention, renewal, recruitment, and recognition. To achieve this goal, since the beginning of 2016, the Membership Services Board has allocated and funded our ComSoc local chapters (who filled in the questionnaire and required funding) with $54475 (out of the budgeted $55000), has reviewed and approved six MDSGs from various regions, and reviewed and approved more than 30 Distinguished Lecturer tours and more than 20 Distinguished Speaker Program tours.

Bregni: How is Chapter funding granted and regulated?

Zhang: Each local Chapter may request funding to support chapter activities/initiatives, including membership development, and organizing Distinguished Lecturer Tours (DLTs), Distinguished Speakers Programs (DSPs), social events, and workshops. The chapter must complete a questionnaire in the early part of the year and request funding. The Region Director approves or modifies each Chapter request, taking into account the balance in the Region. Each Region proposal is submitted to the MS Director for final approval, taking into account possible modifications for overall harmonization and balance if necessary.

Bregni: There are Awards to recognize the most deserving Chapters. What Awards are assigned? What is the selection process?

Zhang: To recognize those chapters that served our members best, every year we assign the Chapter Achievement Awards (CAA) and the Chapter of the Year (COY) Award. The CAA is given annually to one chapter from each Region. The nomination is made by the Region Director and is approved by the Director of MS. The 2016 CAA winners were: the Malaysia Chapter from the Asian Pacific region; the Romania Chapter from the Europe, Middle-East and Africa region; the Panama Chapter from the Latin America region; and the Ottawa Chapter from the North America region. The Chapter of the Year (COY) Award is also given annually to one Chapter out of the four CAA winners, chosen by the entire MS Board Committee. The 2016 COY Award went to the Malaysia Chapter.

Bregni: What are the main MS programsthat you would like to discuss in some detail? Zhang: The following are main MS programs designated to create value for our members.

Membership Development Support Grant (MDSG): The grant is offered to initiate, promote, and support activities of ComSoc members, local Chapters, and Regions aiming at the following targets: IEEE ComSoc membership growth, member professional development, local Chapter growth (currently there are 213 Chapters worldwide, forming four Regions: Asia/Pacific, Europe, Middle-East and Africa, Latin America, and North America). Each local Chapter is encouraged to advertise local programs as a service to members through GCN, local chapters’ web sites, etc.

Distinguished Lecturer Program (DLP): The 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 new Chapter formation. It is invited and organized by local Chapters including student Chapters. Each Distinguished Lecturer Tour (DLT) is organized by providing at least three lectures in different locations. We currently have 43 Distinguished Lecturers, listed on the ComSoc web site ( memberprograms/distinguished-lecturers). Candidates for DL can be nominated by a Technical Committee or be self-nominated, and are selected by the DL Selection Committee annually. Distinguished Speaker Program (DSP): The objectives of the DSP are similar to those of the DLT, 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.

Student Travel Grants: ComSoc Student Travel Grants (STG) are provided to help Student Members attend major ComSoc conferences (ICC, GLOBECOM, SECON, NOMS, INFOCOM, WCNC, CCNC, BlackSeaCom, Cloudnet, CNS, Dyspan, Healthcom, IM, SmartGridCom). Conferences may also seek sources other than ComSoc STGs for travel grants, e.g. the NSF (National Science Foundation) program supports travel for students studying at a U.S. college or university.

Bregni: Student Travel Grants are very appreciated by our members. How are they assigned? What are the main rules?

Zhang: The applicant must be an author of an accepted conference paper, who is presenting the paper at the conference, a Student Member of the IEEE Communications Society when submitting the application, and a full-time student registered toward a Bachelors, Masters, or Ph.D. degree in engineering or related fields in a college or university when submitting the application. Moreover, the applicant must have not received an STG Award in the last 12-month period. The STG awardees are selected by the STG Committee for each conference. The individual conference website will provide the instructions for the STG application as well as information regarding the approval/notification process. The STG consists of a monetary award to be used for registration fees, conference hotel expenses, and travel costs, which is the most appreciated aspect of the STG Award.

Bregni: Chapter officers can meet periodically at Regional Chapter Chair Congresses. Can you tell us something more?

Zhang: The Regional Chapter Chair Congress 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 LA-RCCC will be held at IEEE LATINCOM 2016 in Medellin, Colombia, and the NA-RCCC will be held at IEEE GLOBECOM 2016 in Washington, DC, USA. The AP-RCCC is planned to be held during IEEE GLOBECOM 2017 in Singapore.

Bregni: What are you plans for next year?

Zhang: Our plan for next year remains to provide value to our members by continuing those programs that have proven to be successful and improving those programs that have not been implemented as expected.

One of the problems associated with DLT/DSP is that some chapter chairs and Distinguished Lecturers/Speakers are not fully aware of the application procedure, and the ComSoc P&P need to be modified so the procedures or steps are clear to the Chapters and the Distinguished Lecturers and Distinguished Speakers.

We also plan to provide opportunities for chapter chairs to share their success stories, voice their concerns, and exchange ideas to serve our members either at RCCCs or conferences. We are confident that the Board of MS will work together with ComSoc staff and local chapter chairs/volunteers to promote ComSoc and provide our members with the best benefit.