Meet the IEEE-USA Candidates for the 2011 Elections

By Abby Vogel

Annual Meeting attendees heard from this year’s candidates for IEEE-USA President-Elect — Jim Howard and Marc Apter. Below are excerpts from some of the questions the candidates were asked to answer by audience members.

1. Why does IEEE-USA exist?

Jim:  IEEE-USA exists to represent the interests of IEEE in the U.S. and represent the IEEE U.S. members. IEEE-USA is the only organization approved to lobby in the U.S. I think IEEE-USA is the paramount organization that we need to make sure that in Regions 1-6 we have representation in places where we need it when we need it.

Marc:  About 40-odd years ago, some very smart people realized that IEEE members in the U.S. needed unique representation. At first it was a committee, and then it was a board, now it’s IEEE-USA. They were right. We do need unique representation. We have a very unique structure here in the U.S. and we need a unique organization to represent us and we need to get the rest of the U.S. to understand who we are and what we represent.

2. How can IEEE-USA keep a strategic vision so that we can overcome the rising storm?

Jim:  I think that IEEE-USA is in the leadership role in their process of putting a plan in place of trying to address this and as you watch the IEEE-USA of the future you’ll have an idea of how we’re addressing it from the grassroots all the way to Washington.


Marc:  The number one way would be the will to do it, and I think the will is there. It’s obvious in the past few days talking to people here, there’s a will and a desire. We have the structure and the organization and it’s just going to take will to make it happen.

3. What is the most effective way to engage members and how would you implement it?

Jim: The most effective way to engage members is at the grassroots level. The grassroots level is where we can actually have impact. How we can do that has to do with communications. What is the best method to communicate? One of the best ways we can do that is to be at the Annual meeting to take the messages back to their members.

Marc: The best way to engage the members is to communicate our message to them and listen to what they have to say back to see what we’re missing. We need to communicate to them as many different ways as possible — whether we’re talking paper, e-mail or any of the other new social networks that our members are now involved with. No one way is going to solve the problem.

4. What is your favorite aspect of IEEE-USA?

Jim: My interaction with the dedicated volunteers. That interaction is just such an enhancement in the way I do my job — the fact that the volunteers are willing to spend an entire weekend at meetings and spend time at home to get our messages out.


Marc: My favorite part is the part that got me involved to start with and that’s the PACE network. It has been fun!

5. What is one of the most important public policy issues?

Jim: Energy right now is our key policy that we have to address as a nation if we’re to survive. We can bring in more production and we can bring in more manufacturing, but without the infrastructure we cannot survive.

Marc: Critical infrastructure protection, which involves every other policy — energy, transportation, aerospace. It is everywhere, so if we don’t get that right, the other policies aren’t going to succeed.

6. What will you do differently to turn around the aging member population statistics?

Jim: It has been my privilege to work on the S-PAC committee for several years now and I’ve been very impressed with this group of young folks and the message they’re able to get out to the students. If we can expand the program and message, all of us can benefit from it because students begin to see the relevancy of IEEE-USA and what we have to offer as they progress to their professional careers.

Marc: Get new members who are younger. Get new members from all the fields of interest of IEEE, not just our traditional electrical and

IEEE-USA Board Member-at-Large Candidates Forum

Annual Meeting attendees also heard from the candidates for the 2011-2012 IEEE-USA Board Member at Large — Mauro Togneri and John Twitchell. Below are excerpts from some of the questions the candidates were asked to answer by audience members.

1. Why does IEEE-USA exist?

Mauro:  I think we’ve been told already by the speakers at this year’s and last year’s Annual Meeting that engineers in the future need to be a different type of engineer than we’ve seen in the past. We’ve gone from very generalists to very specialized engineers, but always highly technical. Engineers now need to be businessmen and engineers and they need to have the ability to work on human relations and on teams, convey their ideas to their peers as well as the public. IEEE-USA is a necessary component to take the members’ skills in the technical fields to cross them over to promote our ideas, sell our ideas, and interact with all facets of people including arts and government.

John:  An electron in the U.S. is the same as one in Canada and in Europe. IEEE handles electrons pretty well I think. Our IEEE-USA members in Regions 1-6 have many issues that are unique to the United States. Licensure is unique to the states in the U.S. and the educational system is different from the educational system in many other places. The national electrotechnology policies that our organization supports go to a different audience than IEEE can provide.

2. How can IEEE-USA keep a strategic vision so that we can overcome the rising storm?

Mauro: I believe IEEE-USA is vital in maintaining the strategic vision of the country because so many of the technical areas that we’re involved with have to do with the issues issues that cause the gathering storm. We need to keep focus on the entire message of the gathering storm because it’s a holistic solution to the problem. We need to convey the message to our members and create the vision for the IEEE-USA that works toward solving the whole problem and not pieces of it.

John: I think we have begun to focus on the implications of the gathering storm and we need to continue to do that.

3. What is the most effective way to engage members and how would you implement it?

Mauro: I agree that we have to use all means of communicating to the members that are available in today’s world with today’s technology. I think we need to translate some of the things we do involving law, patents, etc. to make sure the members get the message as to what we’re doing. Some of the stuff we do — reading the position statements — it’s not clear what we’re really saying.

John: I agree that member engagement begins at the grassroots level. I think it would be very difficult to get individual IEEE members in Regions 1-6 engaged in many of our issues, but we do have a mechanism in place to communicate with members and get them involved — our system of regions and sections. We can focus on getting regions and sections involved.

4. What is your favorite aspect of IEEE-USA?

Mauro:  My favorite aspect is being able to work with the other volunteers because we have such a talented group of people here. They are willing to spend time to help the members. My passion is the careers of our members as they go through their employment or start companies because I think that is very rewarding on a very large scale.

John:  It’s very satisfying to meet and work with people like yourselves all from diverse parts of our electro-technological industry while trying to serve our members.

5. What is one of the most important public policy issues?

Mauro:  I think the most important issues are some of the things that are happening with patents. For the members, the policy issues have to do with what we do with education.

John:  I think our national energy policy is currently the most important issue we face. Our country is at a crossroads with respect to energy supply and there is a terrific balance trying to be reached between the environment and cost and reliability and the use of natural resources. I foresee at least for the next 5-8 years energy policy is going to be one of the most important things.

6. What will you do differently to turn around the aging member population statistics?

Mauro:  I think part of it is we need to get industry to realize and see the kind of benefit that membership in IEEE is bringing to their companies. The other is we need to find a way to take the S-PACs and transition the students from students to members.

John:  Twenty-five to thirty-five percent of employees are going to be eligible to retire in 3-5 years from my company. We need to get more members, but our members have to come from college and the way that’s going to work is to encourage our K-12 kids to look at science, technology and math education as an attractive, exciting field for them.

Abby Vogel is Chair of IEEE-USA’s Communications Committee, and Member Activities Editor for IEEE-USA in ACTION.

Guest Contributor

IEEE-USA is an organizational unit of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. (IEEE), created in 1973 to support the career and public policy interests of IEEE’s U.S. members. IEEE-USA is primarily supported by an annual assessment paid by U.S. IEEE Members.

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