Member and Global Activities Interview with Nei Kato, Vice-President MGA

By Nei Kato - Vice-President for MGA and Stefano Bregni - Global Communications Newsletter Editor in Chief, Vice-President for Conferences

With this issue we begin a new series of eight interviews with the Officers of the IEEE ComSoc Member and Global Activities (MGA) Council, which will be published every month in the Global Communications Newsletter.

In this series of articles, I will introduce the Vice-President MGA and the five Directors on the MGA Council 2020-21 (namely: Membership Services and AP, NA, LA, EMEA Regions) and the Chairs of the Women in Communications Engineering (WICE) and Young Professionals (YP) Standing Committees. They will present their sector activities and plans.

Opening the series, this month we begin with Nei Kato, IEEE ComSoc Vice-President for Member and Global Activities for the term 2020-21.

Nei has been a full professor with the Graduate School of Information Sciences and the Director of the Research Organization of Electrical Communication (ROEC), Tohoku University, Japan for over 20 years. He served as the Editor-in-Chief of IEEE Network (2015-2017), a Member-at-Large on the Board of Governors, IEEE Communications Society (2014-2016), the Chair of the Satellite and Space Communications Technical Committee (2010-2012) and Ad Hoc & Sensor Networks Technical Committee (2014-2015) of ComSoc. He is a Distinguished Lecturer of ComSoc and a Fellow of IEEE.

Bregni: Nei, this is the second time you are serving as VP MGA. You served in 2018-19 and you were elected again in 2019 for the term 2020-21. Congratulations! You really like the MGA area.

Kato: I am very grateful for the chance to work as VP-MGA for ComSoc. It is an honor and big responsibility. I would like to thank all the volunteers and ComSoc staff members who have been involved in the development of membership and global activities.

Bregni: Do you have any recent news you wish to share with the readers of the GCN?

Kato: It is my great pleasure to share a figure with you in this article. The good news is that, as you can see from the accompanying figure, in 2017 and 2018 we witnessed a relatively stable membership situation in comparison with the previous years. More encouraging information is that, as of the end of May of 2020, we have 25,253 members, which is an increase of 6.67% compared to the same month in 2019. This is particularly impressive when compared to other IEEE societies, almost all of which are seeing a decrease in their membership numbers this year while ComSoc is improving in this regard.

ComSoc memberships 2013 – 2019 (as of December month-end).

Bregni: Would you like to mention any special initiative that you started in the previous term?

Kato: One helpful and powerful new initiative we launched in 2019 was offering travel awards for our flagship conference, GLOBECOM 2019, to students from select ComSoc chapters. To be eligible, chapters must have recorded an increase in student membership by 20 members before November 29 in 2019. The chapters that managed to do this could apply for the award by indicating one of their members as long as such member was either a student member or a graduate school member and was able to secure a visa to the U.S. The sponsorship from ComSoc was to support this person to attend GLOBECOM 2019 on Big Island, Hawaii, USA.

Bregni: I am very happy to hear that, because students are the future. We have invested significant resources to attract students. In the previous term 2018-19, Past President Khaled Letaief and you as VP MGA paid special attention to this goal.

Kato: We managed to recruit many student members through this instrumental initiative and, as a result, contributed to a significant increase in the number of student members. Unfortunately, this year we are unable to use the same approach to motivate and recruit student members, but I truly believe that as the situation surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic is gradually getting better in the world, we can consider a similar idea again next year, if circumstances allow.

Bregni: What are you preparing in 2020? Any special initiative you wish to highlight?

Kato: The membership development plan which is ongoing identifies key touchpoints for members and non-members, while also noting areas for customized touchpoints for select cohorts. ComSoc’s membership staff is actively developing communications for each of these areas in an effort to recruit, retain, recover, and reinstate members. Notably, a new campaign is underway to engage non-members who have attended ComSoc conferences and events. Other campaigns under development include a student retention program and volunteer training materials.

To support these efforts, the marketing committee is working with staff to refresh the ComSoc brand. The first signs of this refresh will be seen in the coming months as the Marketing and ITC committees work with staff and other committees on a website enhancement plan. The plan will ultimately improve the website experience for members and non-members alike, while also identifying where website users are interacting the most or engaging with other members of our community. The membership team can then use this information to create new engagement campaigns to convert users to membership or identify opportunities for current members to continue their ComSoc journey.

Besides the above-mentioned actions, exciting new initiatives will take place during the MGA council in 2020, such as the Virtual DLT/DSP program and other activities to keep our members updated. For more information, please look forward to the other interviews involving MGA Directors and committee chairs in the coming GCN issues.