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ACM Student Chapter Manual: Part 2

Role of Student Chapters

ACM established student chapters to provide an opportunity for students to play a more active role in the Association and its professional activities. By encouraging organization of student chapters on college and university campuses, the Association is able to introduce students to the benefits of professional organization. These benefits include regular meetings that encourage and enhance learning through exchange of ideas among students as well as between established professionals and students. Members of a student chapter may also take advantage of the activities and services provided by ACM, including the lectureship program, student programming and tutorial contests, and the publications program. Student chapters provide an obvious setting for the development and demonstration of leadership capabilities. Finally, students find the various activities of ACM and its student chapters both professionally and socially exciting as well as rewarding.

Initially, the ACM organizational structure was based solely on individual membership. In 1954, as a result of growth and the wishes of its members, chapters were officially formed. These chapters provided a means for people in a geographical area with a common interest in computing to exchange ideas and sponsor professional activities. Since the recognition of the Dallas-Fort Worth Chapter in 1954 as the first ACM chapter, the number of professional chapters has grown steadily to over 113 today, and they have become an integral part of the ACM organization. Student chapters were authorized by the ACM in 1961; the first was chartered at the University of Southwestern Louisiana.

Student chapters provide important services to ACM student members and offer a means whereby the ACM can provide scientific information on the industry to other members of the college or university community as well as to the general public. Moreover, professional chapters and student chapters are focal points for feedback from members to the ACM leadership. Finally, ACM Chapters are a training ground for the Association's future leaders. Over one-third of the current members of the ACM Council began their volunteer work with ACM as officers in the chapter system.

Why Belong to an ACM Student Chapter?

In addition to the advantages of ACM membership listed in Section I, there are a number of benefits specifically available as a result of association with a student chapter.

Professional contacts: Activities of student chapters, such as lecturer appearances and chapter participation at any of the numerous conferences, afford the opportunity to meet distinguished computing professionals.

Technical and professional growth: Student chapter sponsorship of, or participation in, programs consisting of papers, debates, panel discussions and forums provide clear opportunity for augmented learning and development.

Development of leadership capabilities: Opportunities for development and demonstration of leadership capabilities abound in the formation, growth, and sustenance of a student chapter. In addition to the various chapter offices, there are opportunities for chairing committees, conferences or symposia, organizing programming contests, coordinating professional development seminars, and leading panel discussions and round tables, to name just a few.

Career development : The chapter can help its members select and prepare for a careers by creating a chapter newsletter, career-day programs, and graduate school forums. In addition, the student chapter can help locate and organize summer opportunities and internships by working with the department and career center to find and fill part-time and summer employment opportunities.

Tours: Setting up a tour presents an opportunity to develop contacts as well as organizational skills.

Representation in the Association: A student chapter acting as a group, through the Chapters Advisory Committee, may influence ACM activities or policy and, therefore, the profession.

Forming a Student Chapter


A group of students at any accredited college or university may petition for a charter as a student chapter of the ACM. Informational materials are available from the Chapter Coordinator at ACM

A student chapter charter must consist of at least 3 student members of the ACM to serve as the chapter officers, and one Professional ACM member who is willing to serve as faculty sponsor. The sponsor (usually a faculty member at the institution), represents both ACM and the institution, and cannot be a student chapter officer who represents the students in the chapter. A total of 10 chapter members are required to start a new chapter.

The Chapters Coordinator at headquarters will review the materials and will assist in making any necessary revisions. The Coordinator will then forward the materials to ACM's Chief Operating Officer for consideration. Upon approval by the Board, the chapter will be notified via email, and provided with a set of bylaws. If you need help or advice, do not hesitate to contact the Local Activities Coordinator at

Organizational Structure of a Student Chapter


The importance of leadership to the success of a student chapter cannot be overemphasized. Enthusiasm and dedication are the fundamental qualifications for both the student officers and the sponsor. In addition, each officer must be a student member in good standing of the ACM. Other requirements for chapter officers may be added in the student chapter's bylaws. A description of typical chapter officers, along with their respective duties, follows.

Chair: The chair of any student chapter is the student leader responsible for all chapter activities. This person normally presides at all meetings of the chapter, and represents the chapter to the Association. However, all chapter members are encouraged to attend ACM meetings and become involved in the activities of the Association. Typically, the chair appoints all committees of the chapter.

Vice Chair: The vice chair assumes the duties of the chair in the event of the chair's absence, and fulfills those duties assigned by the chair. Typically, the vice chair is chair of the program committee, which is responsible for arranging speakers, socials, and other activities for the chapter. Since the vice chair's duties can prove to be extensive, some chapters have chosen to create a separate office, the program chair, to be responsible for planning the various chapter activities. A variety of possible chapter activities is detailed in a later section of this manual.

Secretary: The secretary keeps the minutes of all chapter meetings; prepares the annual chapter activity report, which is presented to the chapter at the end of the program year--normally the meeting when newly elected officers formally assume their posts; and prepares reports to be sent to ACM headquarters as required. The secretary must also notify ACM Headquarters of changes in officers or sponsor of the chapter. Likewise, the secretary must send official notification to the ACM Chapter Coordinator of any proposed changes in the chapter's bylaws for approval, prior to their distribution to the membership.

Treasurer : The responsibilities of the treasurer include collecting dues and maintaining the financial and membership records of the chapter. The treasurer must also file the annual report of the chapter's finances required by the Treasurer of ACM.

Faculty Sponsor : The sponsor should assist, when necessary, with the programs and activities of the chapter to ensure adherence to the tenets of the Association, and to ensure responsible fiscal management of the chapter's affairs. Hence, the characteristics of an effective sponsor are a sincere interest in the Student Chapter, and sensitivity to the needs of the chapter and the chapter officers and membership.


The officers can make or break a student chapter. Finding the right people to assume leadership roles is essential to the chapter's success. Thus, the election of officers should be taken seriously. We suggest the following procedures for the nomination and election of a chapter's officers.

Nominating Committee: The Committee should be composed of chapter members in good standing who have a sincere interest in the continued success of the chapter. Members of the committee may be current officers or members-at-large of the chapter. To allow adequate time for the Nominating Committee to select nominees, the chapter chair should appoint the Nominating Committee at least one month prior to the annual election meeting. The nominating committee is responsible for presenting at least one nominee for each of the chapter offices prior to the annual election meeting.

The nominating committee should meet and select a proposed set of candidates for each office, and then contact each prospective candidate to determine whether that person will be willing and able to serve, if elected. The chosen slate of candidates for each office should then be presented to the general membership and additional candidates may be nominated, either at a meeting or by petition, prior to the election meeting. The final slate of nominees, along with any supporting statements, is then promptly sent to all voting members of the student chapter for their consideration prior to the election meeting.

Election Meeting: A meeting for the election of officers should be held annually in accordance with the provisions of the student chapter bylaws. It is best to hold the election early enough so the newly elected officers will have time to work with the outgoing officers. An annual report on the chapter's activities during the past year and the state of the treasury are provided to the members at this meeting by the outgoing officers.

Continuity : The most persistent problem facing student chapters is the rise and fall of chapter activity due to the transience of the membership and officers. Careful selection of a chapter sponsor can go some distance toward alleviating this problem. In addition, current officers need to continually "groom" many possible successors through task assignments and active involvement in the operation of the chapter.

Elections should be timed to include an overlap period -- that is, we suggest you have the election meeting early enough in the spring to allow elections of new officers prior to the expiration of the terms of the current officers, allowing for an effective and smooth transition. Similarly, if the sponsor resigns, see the department chair to arrange for selection of a replacement in time to allow for overlap if at all possible.


Student chapter officers usually delegate at least some tasks to committees. The chapter may have one or more standing committees responsible for continuing or recurring tasks. Examples include a program committee, a membership committee, a fundraising committee, a luncheon committee, and an awards committee. In addition, ad hoc committees can be created for specific one time events such as an ad hoc committee for a regional conference or bylaws revisions. As stated earlier in this section, committees are usually appointed by the chapter chair, as specified in the chapter bylaws.


Members are the life of the chapter; without an active membership, there can be no student chapter. This is especially significant to student chapters since, by definition, the present and prospective members are transient. Therefore, a continuing membership recruitment program is essential for success of the chapter.

A membership committee should be appointed and chaired by an enthusiastic and conscientious member. This committee should have a supply of promotional materials, including ACM student member brochures and applications. It is recommended that at least once a year, this committee plan a major membership drive. This drive could include an ACM table at some major chapter event; direct contact of majors in computer science and related fields, and students registered in computer science courses; mailings to other student members of the ACM in the chapter area--labels are available from ACM headquarters; or hosting a welcoming get-together for new or interested students at the beginning of the academic year.

Perhaps the most effective means of membership recruiting is an excited current membership. If current members are enthusiastic, this enthusiasm is bound to spill over to fellow students, who can be encouraged to explore the potential benefits of student chapter affiliation.

An interesting chapter is a successful chapter. Therefore, the key to success is to stimulate and maintain interest. The purpose of this section is to present some guidelines and suggestions for maintenance of a viable and stimulating student chapter.

The chapter must have regularly scheduled activities to remain viable. The vice chair or a separate officer can serve as program chair. Selection, encouragement, and support of this officer is vital -- certainly one of the keys to success. The other is encouraging the active involvement of the membership. Full member participation is essential because (1) there is simply too much work for the officers alone, and (2) active and expected involvement makes each member feel important and provides a sense of accomplishment. There are a number of ways to involve members in chapter operations, including ad hoc committees, the nominating committee, a membership committee, or an arrangements committee (for a chapter trip to a regional or national conference, or for a chapter-hosted event such as a lecture or film). This kind of activity structure allows for further delegation of such tasks as publicity (posters, news media), brochures, campus tours, reception arrangements, and dinner arrangements, and therefore promotes the active involvement of a significant number of chapter members.

"I think the best leaders are the lazy ones. They get everyone enthused but let others do all the work. Funny thing is the more you delegate, the more everybody likes it! Everyone gets to be in charge of something like the newsletter, the April Meeting, the web site, etc. At that point, the leader's job is to encourage his hatchlings to lazy up a little too so there's room for even more volunteers to take care of mailing lists, snacks at the meetings, etc. There can never be too many small jobs that a new volunteer can handle with their eyes closed.

"All these people will bond with each other, pretty soon the chapter will take on a life of its own simply because the folks like to socialize with each other."

-- Bob Lamm, Boston ACM SIGGRAPH

Student Chapter Activities


The importance of regular chapter meetings cannot be understated. Suggestions for the early organizational meeting were detailed earlier; other types of meetings are discussed below:

General Meetings: It is usually helpful when general meetings of the membership are on a regular basis, like every first Wednesday of the month. However, remember that the student chapter is competing for members' time, so general meetings should be primarily devoted to programs and topics of interest to members, with detailed business matters delegated to the committees. In fact, only summary reports and proposals requiring general approval need be brought before the general membership. Robert's Rules of Order is the standard reference guide to fair and orderly procedures for carrying on that business which requires discussion and vote.

Executive Council Meetings: Most administrative concerns are addressed at these meetings. It is essential that results of the issues addressed by Council be reported on a regular basis to the chapter membership, either in summary report form at general meetings, via a posting on the chapter's web site, or by direct correspondence.

Social Meetings: It is desirable for student chapters to hold at least one primarily social meeting each semester/term. This could be a dinner meeting at which new officers are installed, a picnic in the fall or spring, or an informal gathering as part of a lecturer's visit to campus. As with all other events, arrangements and publicity should be considered well in advance of the planned event.

Discussion Groups and other special meetings: A regularly scheduled lunchtime discussion group can be an interesting and rewarding activity. Typically, a member of the group decides on a current research article or some other article of interest from a journal or magazine and leads a group discussion on the article. The other members of the group are responsible for reading the article so stimulating discussion may take place. A different group member should lead the meeting each time so that many students have the chance to organize such a discussion meeting. Several student chapters have found meeting every other week to be most successful.

Lectures, Symposia, and Workshops
ACM Distinguished Speakers Program

Lectures by eminent computing professionals are some of the most common activities at student chapter functions. The ACM Distinguished Speakers Program consists of lecturers on a wide variety of topics, ranging from Ada to Computer Security, from Computer Graphics to Robotics, to name only a few. This program is especially advantageous to student chapters since the Association supports travel to the area of the student chapter, and the lecturers themselves are volunteers requiring no honoraria, thus leaving the student chapter with responsibility only for local arrangements, i.e. hotel and meals. Note that the CS department may be willing to help the chapter with all or part of the local expenses in exchange for the benefit of having the speaker on campus, especially if the department is consulted on the choice of speaker. Visit the Program's website for complete details and forms.


Members of the student chapter can organize and present workshops or lectures of introduction to various systems available at the department, computer laboratory, or the campus computer center. Examples might be introduction to UNIX, Java, or Linux. These tutorials can be presented to various groups including fellow students, high-school students, faculty members, administrators, and members of the community at large.

Site Tours

A popular and always successful event is a chapter-sponsored tour. Possibilities include a local data processing installation; a computer controlled typesetting installation, an airline reservation center, a space guidance center, or a major bank.

Student Presentations

Providing opportunities for chapter members to present talks is an important function of a student chapter; it stimulates interest of the membership and offers the speaker experience and confidence in making public presentations.

Regional Technical Meetings/Symposia

Student chapter members can organize and sponsor a regional technical meeting, affording an opportunity for students to gain experience and confidence in presenting their current research. Some chapters have organized regional chapter events by choosing a theme and sending a Call for Participation to members of all nearby chapters concerned. Holding such an event requires much time and effort and should be undertaken only when enough volunteers are recruited. One of the biggest tasks is to get sponsorship from local corporations. Please note that it is essential for the chapter to contact the ACM Local Activities Coordinator prior to setting up any regional conference, technical meeting, or symposium using the ACM name.

The ACM Videotape Library

A number of excellent videos are available at no charge to chapters. The student chapter might sponsor such movies occasionally for chapter members, and/or the general campus community. To order a video, please visit the Video Tape Library Site.

Contests and Competitions

The ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC)

The ICPC allows students to demonstrate problem-solving abilities and sharpen their skills in the art and science of computing. At the annual Contest finals, over 50 teams worldwide compete in a contest that provides bragging rights, scholarships, prizes, and awards to the top six institutions. The first round of the ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest begins with the Regional Contests held at sites all around the world from September to November. The winners of the Regional Contests go forward to the Contest Finals. If you want to enter a team of three students in higher education, you should contact the Regional Contest Director of the appropriate region and request a registration pack. You will need to include contact information for a faculty member of your organization who will vouch that your team meets the student eligibility requirements. All the Regional Contests are listed at the ICPC site.

Sponsorship of a High School Programming Contest

Chapters can sponsor a programming contest in secondary schools to stimulate interest in computer-related activities and to make high school students aware of computer science as a discipline.

Chapter Outreach and Communications

Graduate School Forum

A group of faculty representing various graduate institutions may be invited to make presentations on opportunities for graduate study in computer science. Students are interested in rationale for graduate study, program descriptions, faculty specialties, available financial aid, and policies and procedures for application. Also, the student chapter could organize and maintain a collection of current graduate school catalogues and various comparative guides to graduate schools. Workshops on How to Prepare for Grad School and How to Apply to Grad School have always been very popular among chapter members.

Career Day

A chapter can host a career day, where speakers provide information concerning the professional opportunities in computing. Students are eager to learn what kinds of jobs are available and thus, descriptions of job possibilities and the commensurate responsibilities, qualifications, and opportunities for growth are always of interest. Speakers can be found by contacting potential employers. On the other hand, as a community outreach project, a student chapter could sponsor or assist high schools in putting on a career-day program. This might include participation by chapter personnel and assistance in finding speakers who can describe career opportunities in computing.

A student chapter could also collect and publish a booklet of resumes for job applicants in the chapter. The booklet can be made available to recruiters and local industry. The student chapter could also collect information on internships and summer jobs, as well as full-time career opportunities for use by its membership.


The student chapter can maintain a list of its members willing and able to serve as tutors for other students in areas of computing such as personal computer operations, elementary programming, systems programming or operating systems, or theoretical computer science.


A chapter can sponsor a scholarship or prize for a promising or accomplished student in computer science.

Publication of a Chapter Newsletter

A chapter newsletter is a practical and effective means for intra- and inter-chapter communication. It need not be elaborate; a newsletter can range from a 1 or 2 page series of "notes of interest" published periodically and distributed informally at a computer center, to a professional, quality periodical, distributed by subscription. Easier to produce would be an electronic newsletter distributed to members via e-mail. The Chapter can also prepare articles for the campus and community newspapers publicizing various chapter activities and happenings in computing in general.

Cooperation with other ACM units and other professional organizations

A working relationship with members of a chapter provides contacts useful in initiating internship programs, organizing tours, and for career and employment opportunities. The ACM chapters are important resource student chapters should strive to cultivate. The benefits are mutually supportive.

Fellow ACM Student Chapters

Chapters should establish communication with other Student Chapters in the area so that they may cooperate in planning tours for ACM lecturers to provide lecturers with a broader public. Student Chapters in an area can join together to sponsor a lecture, a technical meeting, or a Chapter Officer Training Workshop.

ACM Professional Chapters ACM professional chapters are often willing and able to assist student chapters in a number of ways. First, chapter members may be willing to speak to student chapters on a variety of topics, offering a low-cost source of program activities for the student chapter. Second, chapters are often able to subsidize student participation in chapter activities such as dinner meetings and professional development seminars. Student chapters can reciprocate by providing assistance (such as arrangements, demonstrations, etc) at chapter-sponsored functions.

ACM Special Interest Groups

A student chapter can offer assistance to a SIG planning a local meeting or symposium. The benefits include the opportunity to work closely with established professionals, and the possibility for reduced registration fees for members of the student chapter. A list of volunteer opportunities is available.

Other Organizations

There are many possibilities for a student chapter to explore common interests with members of other organizations. The IEEE Computer Society has student groups; exchange of ideas on hardware and software with them is likely to be of mutual interest and benefit. Student groups in psychology or sociology afford opportunity for study of implications of computers on society. The economics of computing is certainly of interest to both computing practitioners and economics or business students. Similarly, science and engineering groups are interested in algorithms for applications. The possibilities are extensive and provide incentive for cooperative sponsorship of meetings, panel discussions, and technical meetings.