Member and Global Activities: Promoting ComSoc Membership Locally and Globally: Interview with Nei Kato, Vice-President–MGA

By Nei Kato - Vice-President for MGA and Stefano Bregni - Vice-President for Member and Global Activities, Editor of the Global Communications Newsletter

As we did already in past years, when I was serving as IEEE ComSoc Vice-President for Member Relations and Vice-President for Member and Global Activities, with this issue we begin a new series of nine interviews with the Officers of the IEEE Com- Soc Member and Global Activities Council, which will be published every month in the Global Communications Newsletter.

In this series of articles, I will introduce the Vice-President and six Directors on the Member and Global Activities Council 2018-19 (namely: Sister and Related Societies; Membership Services; 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 2018-19.

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, welcome to your new position as VP MGA! You were elected in 2017 (congratulations!) and you began your two-year term in January 2018.

Kato: I am very grateful for the chance of working as VP-MGA for ComSoc. My intentions are to work closely with the other directors of MGA and under the guidance of our president and the other staff members in order to create a dynamic environment in terms of membership and global activities.

Bregni: In a few words, what will be the main focus of your activities?

Kato: As per the responsibilities of the MGA board, recently many events and activities have been performed on a global and local scale. For example, the creation of this newsletter was significant in disseminating and spreading news and events from local chapters.

Additionally, we have the very important Distinguished Lecturer Tour, which takes our most active researchers to various areas according to the needs of the local chapters, bringing knowledge to the local members and promoting ComSoc membership in the chapters.

Besides this, we have a Student Competition Program, the Women in Communications Engineering standing committee, and multiple awards in various regions. All these programs have already had a significant impact for advancing membership and activities of our society.

Bregni: All this sounds exciting. Is there another side of the coin?

Kato: ComSoc, as well as other academic and professional institutions in the field of communications engineering, has had trouble recently with declining numbers of members. For example, in October 2017, ComSoc had 26778 members, of which 6.2 percent were student members and 3.3 percent were graduate school members. Needless to say, these numbers are far below what is ideal and we plan to invest resources, both financial and human, to revert this situation.

Bregni: So, are there any plans to expand ComSoc membership?

Kato: More concretely, we have two actions already being realized with such a goal in mind. First, starting this year, we will start presenting the Membership and Global Activities Contribution Award (ComSoc-MGACA) to volunteers who promote ComSoc membership and activities in their local chapters and manage to recruit a significant number of members.

Although we have awards to reward local chapters and the Chapter of the Year award, so far we had nothing to commend individuals for the their efforts in promoting ComSoc and recruiting members. We believe that encouraging senior members can have an impact on the local students, influencing them to join ComSoc and teaching them about the benefits of our society.

As a matter of fact, although the ComSoc-MGACA will be first awarded in September of this year, its mere announcement has already sparked some chapters into action. For example, the Xian Chapter saw a 60 percent increase in membership since January, going from eight graduate student members to 73. The Harbin Chapter had a 105 percrnt total increase, going from five graduate student members to 37. These are the kind of advancements that we expect to be created with this new award, in all chapters but especially in areas with more potential members.

Additionally, we would like to modify the way funding is allocated to local chapters. We would like to give better incentives to chapters that recruit more members, by checking their net increase in the number of members yearly through ComSoc membership statistics. Obviously, this must be done carefully, evaluating if the chapter in question is a newly created one or not, and how densely populated is the area where it is located.

Finally, I would like to say that to achieve this goal of increasing the membership of ComSoc we need to work together with other councils of ComSoc to maintain and even increase the level of our society. This means offering good publications, good conferences, good local and global activities, and a good connection with the industry. These steps will help establish ComSoc even further as a benchmark for achieving a good career and creating relevant academic research, especially among students. We also would like to improve the synergy between chapters, allowing the exchange of state-of-the-art technologies, events, awards, and lecturers.

I look forward to working with all the members of ComSoc to make it an excellent venue for the growth of members. We, the MGA council and I, will listen to you, make use of your strong support and deliver only our best efforts.