Vicki L. Hanson, ACM President 2016 - 18
As ACM celebrates its 75th anniversary, we invited ACM’s former presidents to reflect on their terms in a brief Q&A. In revisiting some of the milestone moments from ACM’s history, we hope for insight into the ever-changing landscape of computing to guide us forward in the next 75 years.
Vicki Hanson served as ACM President from 2016 - 2018.
Hi, I'm Vicki Hanson. I'm currently ACM's chief executive officer. I am also a past president of ACM. I was president from July 2016 through June 2018.
What motivated you to run for ACM president?
For these past president videos we were asked to answer a series of questions, so I will go through those. The first one, what motivated me to run for president? To answer this question I thought it'd be worthwhile to go back and refresh my memory and read my candidate statement that appeared in Communications of the ACM at the time of the election. There were two aspects of the position that motivated me. The first was that I thought had the right experience at the time to be ACM president. My research career had taken a path from industry to academia, giving me various perspectives on these. Also, like some other presidents, I've been involved with ACM as a volunteer leader for many years. This began with the SIGs. I served as chair of SIGACCESS "SIG on Accessible Computing" and as an officer on the SIG Governing Board, including being elected chair of the SGB. I was then elected to ACM wide office, first as secretary treasurer, and then as ACM's vice president. I was proud of the work of ACMs volunteers. I very much enjoyed the experience of volunteering and I wanted to continue to serve ACM.
My second reason for running for president had to do with ways in which I thought I could lead the organization forward. Some initial ideas were rapidly identifying and supporting emerging technical areas, working to embed ACM's diversity and inclusion efforts throughout all ACM activities, better meeting the needs of early career professionals. And I just want to say that working to meet the needs of early career professionals is now very much a part of ACM's leadership thinking in terms of how to engage with these individuals to support their professional development, and also hopefully to get them interested as future leaders of ACM. And the fourth goal that I talked about at the time was better addressing the need for open access to content and data in ACM's digital library. This is something that's been an ongoing effort by ACM for many years now, ongoing by any presidents so I'm not unique in having an interest in this. I'm glad to say that progress has been and continues to be made in making the DL open. And ACM is currently aiming for a sustainably open digital library in 2025.
What were your most significant accomplishments as ACM president?
A second question for us to answer on these videos, what were my most significant accomplishments as ACM president? As president, I worked with leaders of our community to identify emerging areas in computing where ACM could have influence in nurturing new research through our conferences and publications. In follow up talks for example, with organizers of the FAccT Conference, which is the Conference on Fairness, Accountability, and Transparency, and the International Conference on AI, I was instrumental in bringing these to ACM. Those are just examples. The emerging areas of focus that I was working on were all interdisciplinary, which represents exciting new opportunities for ACM and computing more generally.
A third area of accomplishment. I'd like to say that a long-standing commitment of mine has been to accessibility for people who experience disability. This continues to be a work in progress for ACM, but following on initial work I outlined as SIGACCESS chair ACM's conferences have become more accessible. In addition, there's been a lot of progress in improving accessibility of ACM's website, captioning of videos on ACM's YouTube channel and accessibility of the ACM digital library.
>A big accomplishment during my term was the approval of ACM's 2018 code of ethics and professional conduct. This was an update from the 1992 code. As you would expect, in the year since the original code there have been many changes to what was expected of a computing professional and the updated 2018 version took account of those changes. The 2018 version has been adopted by many organizations worldwide, having a huge effect on professional ethics, not only for computing but also for other disciplines. And for all their work on developing this code I want to give a shout out to ACM's Committee on Professional Ethics.
What are some of the most memorable moments from your term?
A third question to answer, what were some memorable moments from my term? First, at as luck would have it, I happen to be president as we celebrated 50 years since the Turing Award was started. This 50 years was celebrated with two days highlighting the contributions of Turing Award recipients. Many of these Turing laureates were present for the celebration and participated in a series of panels on current developments in computing. You can find the talks from those two days on ACM's website. Also, when I think back on the two years there was definitely one funny moment that always stands out in my mind. Dave Patterson and John Hennessy were the 2017 Turing Award recipients. And Dave indicated to me that he would once again be wearing his famous kilt to ACM's awards banquet, where he'd receive his Turing Award. This inspired the idea of wearing kilts to the banquet. The men in Dave's family wore their kilts and I also got my husband, John Richards, to wear his kilt which he had from our time in living in Scotland. And I conspired with that year's presidential awardee, Andrew McGettrick, who actually is native to Scotland, to wear his kilt. So it was a notable kilt collection on display that night. I remember that as the awards banquet ended there was an announcement for all kilt wearers to gather for a group photo.
How would you like your term to be remembered?
The last question to be answered here, how would you like your term to be remembered? I've had time to get some perspective on this. I'd like my term to be remembered as a time of growth for ACM, not particularly in terms of membership numbers, but more importantly in terms of proactively considering the ACM of the future. So I've already talked about work on addressing emerging technical areas, which is critical for ACM to continually do. There was also initial consideration of how to grow diversity efforts beyond what at the time was our ongoing work with ACMW, the Coalition to Diversify Computing and regional councils in Europe, India, and China. For example, discussions were begun on creating a diversity equity and inclusion council to address a wider scope for inclusion. And finally, during my term there was also the goal to better serve others who had historically been underrepresented in computing, as well as exploring ways to better serve younger members of the global computing community. So, there you have a brief walkthrough of my two years as ACM president, and thank you for your time.
During ACM’s 75th anniversary, we promote the accomplishments of ACM’s former presidents. To better understand how they served the organization, we invited each of ACM’s living former presidents to participate in a brief Q&A. Through the Q&As, we also learn about important milestones during ACM’s history.
ACM organized a special one-day conference to celebrate its 75th anniversary. This event was truly a memorable day of panels featuring world-leading scholars and practitioners on topics central to the future of computing. Panelists imagined what might be next for technology and society. ACM’s 75th Anniversary Celebration took place at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco on June 10. View the livestream on demand. Visit the event webpage for more details, including the program.