Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

CSE News Story

Recent Interview With the Society President

Reporter: I've scanned around the various pages of the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Alumni Societys website and it seems to answer many of the questions about the Society. When did it go on-line?

President: It's good to hear you say that. Getting the word out about the Society was our main objective. Although there is still much work to be done before our organization is operating the way we hope it will, the website provides an outline of a few of the many exciting things we have planned. It was published on January 31 of this year, thanks to the outstanding help from Catharine June and others.

Reporter: How did the Society get started?

President: Mainly through the efforts of Professor Richard B. Brown, Department Chair, who could see the potential benefits of a departmental alumni society. He called a meeting of all interested departmental alumni and friends during Homecoming Weekend last October and, as a result of that meeting, the EECS Alumni Society formally came into existence with the adoption of bylaws and the election of officers.

Reporter: Who are the officers?

President: Theyre listed elsewhere on the website but here is the list. Bill Becher, President; Shelia Hermami, Vice President; Steve Schwartz, Treasurer; Catharine June, Secretary; and Board of Directors: Jamie Phillips, Rob Rutenbar, Navnit Shah, and Don Walker. Professor Richard Brown is, of course, Department Chair and Professor George Haddad is the Faculty Liaison. Two positions remain to be filled, Publicity Chair and Student Representative. Were hoping to fill those positions shortlythat is, as soon as our members volunteer to take on these responsibilities.

Reporter: I see you have a Student Representative. I thought this was an Alumni organization?

President: We thought involving students in the organization would create benefits both for the Society and the students. Getting the students involved in the Society before they graduate will, hopefully, influence their continual interest in the Society after graduation. It will also help make the Society better aware of the needs of the students, and help us focus our support on those needs. Examples of this is the mentoring program and career assistance activities.

Reporter: Mentoring and career assistance. What do you have in mind for these?

President: As students progress through their program, questions often arise not only about technical matters but also about career choices. Since our Society membership is made up of professionals in the field, we thought it would be a good idea to connect the students with these professionals. The alumni can benefit too, by identifying future employees for their organizations. We plan to make the Mentoring and Career Assistance programs available exclusively to departmental students and Society members, which should provide a degree of confidentiality and serve as additional motivation for students and alumni to join the Society.

Reporter: What other types of activities are you planning?

President: Well, naturally, we are planning the usual alumni activities: honoring our fellow alumni, getting together at a tailgate party during Homecoming Weekend, ultimately having our own Society newsletter, linking the faculty and alumni together so they might share common interests, and much more. Were also thinking of offering departmental tours and special lectures during Homecoming Weekend so our alumni can see all the great things our department has been doing.

Reporter: Its interesting that you did not mention gifts and donations among the activities youre planning. Isnt the Society interested in that sort of thing?

President: (Laughs) Certainly it is. We expect the Alumni to continue to support the Department, the College and the University through generous contributions as they have done in the past. Our treasurer, Steve Schwartz, has been working hard setting up procedures and methods for gift-giving. I suppose the omission reveals my philosophy and approach to organizing the Society. I did not want the Society to become simply a solicitor of financial contributions. Instead I wanted to emphasize its other goals, objectives such as: the mutual benefits--socially and intellectually--between our alumni, students, faculty and friends; camaraderie within the membership; and all those other activities beneficial to our professional and academic community.

Reporter: What are the major needs of the Society at this time?

President: Im glad you asked. As I said earlier, this website was our initial effort. I thought we needed to describe what our goals and objectives are and to establish a preliminary outline of where we planned to go so potential members could see what we are about. Now that those objectives have been established, we need to get the word out about the existence of the Society so we can increase our membership base.

And most importantly, we need help in carrying out all our presently planned activities. That is, we need volunteers, persons willing to serve on our committees and spend the time necessary to get the various efforts rolling. Identifying potential helpers has been one of the most frustrating parts of my job so far. Frankly, I just dont know enough of our members personally to make assignments. We need our members to volunteer. Those interested in helping should forward a note to our Society Secretary at EECS-Alumni-Society@umich.edu listing the activities they would be interested in supporting and a brief description of why they believe they would be particularly effective. The amount of time they could devote would be helpful, too. Ill do my best to match volunteers to assignments. Our most pressing needs currently are for Publicity Chair; Student Representative; Newsletter Editor and members of the networking committees including mentoring, career assistance and notes and the events committees including Homecoming Weekend departmental tours, get-togethers and the tailgate party. If anyone would like to discuss any of these further or has any other ideas they can contact me personally at becher@eecs.umich.edu.

Reporter: Well, it certainly sounds as if the Society is off to a good start. I wish you much success.

President: Thanks! We believe we have the makings of a great organization and look forward to a rapid increase in its activities and member benefits.