North America Region Interview with T. Scott Atkinson, Director of the NA Region

By Stefano Bregni - Vice-President for Member and Global Activities and T. Scott Atkinson - NA Region Director, IEEE ComSoc

This is the fourth article in the series 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 (namely: 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.

Table 1: Shares of ComSoc membership among the four Regions.

In this issue, I interview T. Scott Atkinson, Director of the North America Region (NA). Scott is retired and spends most of his time volunteering for the IEEE. He received the B. S. degree in physics, with minors in mathematics and chemistry, from Texas A&I University, Kingsville, TX, USA in 1961. From 1961 to 1967, he was a communications officer in the United States Air Force. In 1967, he worked as a communications engineer with Lockheed Electronics Company on a contract with the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, TX. In that position, he supported the testing of the Apollo spacecraft communications sub-system. In 1968, he joined the IEEE and the Communications Society and became a volunteer supporting Section and Chapter activities in Houston, TX. In 1973, he joined Tenneco Inc, Houston, TX, spending 14 years performing engineering tasks on their telecommunication systems. His last major work activity was as a senior technical support specialist for the United Services Automobile Association (USAA) in San Antonio, TX. Retiring in 1997, he now volunteers full time for the IEEE, the IEEE Communications Society, and IEEE Region 5.

I have known Scott since a long time, as one of the most dedicated and best appreciated volunteers in the entire NA Region of the IEEE Communications Society. It is a pleasure for me to interview Scott today and offer him this opportunity to outline his current activities and plans as Director of the NA Region.

Bregni: Scott, would you introduce briefly the North America Region Board?

Atkinson: Our Region consists of the 92 Communications Society Chapters in IEEE Regions 1 through 7, which include all of the United States and Canada.

Per the ComSoc Policies and Procedures, our Board “is responsible for stimulating, coordinating and promoting the activities of ComSoc members and chapters throughout the North America Region.” Therefore, we support the activities of the 92 Chapters and its members.

Our NA Board consists of individual IEEE Region Representatives and several other volunteers, namely:

  • IEEE Region Representatives Ali Abedi (R1), Kafi Hassan (R2), Scott Midkiff (R3), William Ashe (R4), Fawzi Behmann (R5), Upkar Dhaliwal (R6), and Wahab Almuhtadi (R7).
  • NAR Board Vice Chair Fawzi Behmann.
  • Distinguished Lecturer/Distinguished Speaker Coordinator Zafar Taqvi.
  • Past Chair Merrily Hartmann.
  • Advisors Richard Miller, Anader Benyamin-Seeyar, Paul Cotae and John Lyons.

In addition, we have set up an Awards Committee. Meetings of the Board are held monthly via telecon and twice a year during the ICC and GLOBECOM Conferences. In short, what are the activities of the NA Region which the NAR Board oversees?

Bregni: What is your special focus?

Atkinson: The Board oversees the ComSoc activities at the Chapter level through each of the Region Representatives, maintaining contact with each of their IEEE Region Chapters to assist them by suggesting activities and resolving any issues. Special focus is given when a chapter has not shown any recent activity as shown on the IEEE L31 reports. Additionally, at the direction of the Director, each Regional Representative may be appointed Chair of one of the Board Standing Committees.

Bregni: Is it possible to attend the NA Board meetings and collaborate on some of its activities?

Atkinson: Yes, certainly. The NA Board is open to any IEEE ComSoc member from the NA Region at our Board meetings held during each of the two flagship conferences each year, which are usually held during the Technical Sessions of GLOBECOM/ICC. I hope that as many of our members as possible will get involved and serve on one of our Committees, as the best networking often occurs when you are working toward a common goal.

Table 2: Members by category in the four Regions.

Bregni: Now, would you give us a brief overview of the membership of the NA Region? How are they distributed?

Atkinson: The number of ComSoc members in the NA region is 12,211, and this represents 42.2% of the 28,935 ComSoc members in total (as of Jan 2017). This is the largest share among all Regions, as shown in Table 1. See Table 2 for more details on ComSoc membership and the various categories.

Bregni: In 2016, the IEEE NA Region Chapter Achievement Award was presented to the Ottawa Communications Society Chapter. Could you tell us about this Chapter and what they did to be awarded?

Atkinson: My pleasure. Their chapter official IEEE name is “Joint Chapter of Communications Society, Broadcast Technology Society and Consumer electronics Society.”

The Chapter Chair is Dr. Wahab Almuhtadi, P.Eng. He is a professor and coordinator of the Algonquin College–Carleton University Joint Degree Program “Bachelor of Information Technology– Photonics and Laser Technology–BIT-PLT” in the School of Advanced Technology, at Algonquin College. Dr. Almuhtadi is also the R&D Coordinator at the Algonquin College Faculty of Technology and Trades. Dr. Almuhtadi has more than 20 years of university and college teaching experience at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

During 2016, the Chapter (1) was heavily involved in communications with local industry, academia, Ottawa Tourism and the City of Ottawa in the preparation for hosting Conferences in Ottawa; (2) co-organized with the student branches and the young professionals many events; (3) held five meetings with Distinguished Lecturers plus five meetings with other noted technology speakers; and (4) the Chapter was also heavily involved in community technical activities.

To make the selection for the Chapter Achievement Award, we examined questionnaires of the chapters, who were reporting their activities for the previous year. The Ottawa Chapter was clearly superior among all those submitted.

Their award was presented during the Luncheon Awards Ceremony at the recent IEEE GLOBECOM 2016 Conference in Washington, DC. To further recognize the Chapter volunteers, I made a personal visit to Ottawa to congratulate the various Chapter Leaders, who played a significant role in the success of the Chapter.

Bregni: You just had your NA Region Chapter Congress last December at GLOBECOM 2016, in Washington, DC. When do you anticipate the next opportunity for another NA Region Chapter Chairs Congress?

Atkinson: The next opportunity to hold an NA Regional Chapter Chairs Congress could be in 2018, most likely at the IEEE International Conference on Communications (ICC) to be held in Kansas City, MO, May 19-25.

Bregni: Scott, in conclusion, what would you recall as main highlights during your term as Director of the North America Region?

Atkinson: Here are some highlights during my term as Director. We committed extra time and effort to ensuring that we had a fully staffed and active Board. To maintain communications, I frequently communicated via phone calls and emails with the IEEE Region Representatives to keep them active and informed on current activities.

Visit to the Ottawa Chapter.

Additionally, we proposed an RCCC in June and delivered a very successful RCCC meeting at the IEEE GLOBECOM 2016 in Washington, DC with 24 Chapters represented. A highlight of the meeting included a luncheon speaker, Michael Janson, the Open-Internet-Ombudsperson for the U. S. Federal Communications Commission.

To complete the year, we accomplished two additional items of note: a personal visit to the chapter winning our Chapter Achievement Award, Ottawa, Canada, to congratulate the Chapter leaders on their achievements; and receiving six nominations for our Exceptional Service Award and provided, for the first time ever, awards to two outstanding chapter individuals in the Montreal and Ottawa chapters.