Students Pull the Cart

By Mike VanHilst

The young people you see checking name badges and otherwise looking busy, and often wearing white ICSE T-shirts, are student volunteers. This year there are twenty student volunteers from fifteen universities in five countries. There is also one married couple, from Albany, with both the husband and wife volunteering.

Duties of the student volunteers include stuffing bags before the conference, helping out at the registration desk, assisting tutorial speakers, checking badges at various sessions, running to the copy center for last minute print jobs, and writing, editing, and doing the layout for this newsletter.

In exchange, the volunteers get free conference registration, the T-shirt mentioned above, and the opportunity to participate in the conference. "It gets you so involved in the process of the conference and you feel a part of it rather than being an anonymous attendee," reports Elisa Baniassad, a student at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. When the students are assigned to assist at a tutorial session they also get to sit in on the tutorial. "I think that's probably the best thing, getting to attend the tutorials," says Mike Whalen, a student at the University of Minnesota, "and you normally have to pay the registration, too."

For the students, as for other attendees, the conference is a great opportunity to meet and talk with others in the field. "I've been able to meet a lot of people that I wouldn't be able to meet normally," said Baniassad. Meeting the other students is also a special treat. "You get a lot of ideas from the other students and it's also like a moral support thing," she added.

"In my case I came alone from my department and don't know anyone at the conference. With the student volunteers, you already meet people on the first day," said Michel Wermelinger, a student from the New University of Lisbon, in Portugal.

Students cite a number of reasons for the decision to come. Word-of-mouth seems to be a big factor: "I had talked to Gail [Murphy] about it, and she told me about the good experiences she had had," Elisa explained. Murphy, her advisor, was the student coordinator at ICSE17. "We basically came because Mats [Heimdahl] said we should come," said Jeff Thompson, another student from the University of Minnesota. Heimdahl advises both Thompson and Wermelinger. "Also, Boston is a cool place." Location was also a factor in Wermelinger's choice. "If it was something like Las Cruces, New Mexico... eh."

ICSE student coordinators Gregory Aboud and Kevin Sullivan, together with David Coppit, a Ph.D. student of Sullivan's at the University of Virginia, organized the volunteers and made most of the arrangements. David Coppit is the most directly involved, having set up the volunteer web site early on, scheduling their activities during the conference, and acting as liaison with the conference management.