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Student Volunteering

Updates on Student Volunteering (SVing) at virtual CHI 2021


SV chairs are working with the rest of the organizing committee and the CHI community to deliver the best possible online CHI 2021 SV program. Here is a summary of the changes so far:


Key dates:

  • Enrollment to CHI2021 SV will close on March 1st, 2021 
  • Lottery results will be announced by March 8th, 2021


SV duties:

  • All SV accepted should commit to a minimum of 15 hours of work between May 7 and May 16. This may rise to 20 (like in previous years) as the program develops, and may also include hours leading up to CHI.
  • SVs should attend the training session taking place at some time before May 7 (date TBD). There will be multiple sessions to accommodate time zone differences. 


In return for their help with the conference, SVs will receive the following benefits

  1. Free conference registration.
  2. An exclusive SV happi coat (barring any covid-related restrictions for shipping).
  3. Two CHI 2021 face masks.
  4. A chance to win one of 10 Hello CHItty.
  5. A virtual SV party to socialize with your peers.


Moving to a fully virtual conference comes with new challenges, but also opportunities. While we are maintaining a similar SV distribution and selection process as previous years, evolving requirements may lead to additional last minute changes to the SV program. On the other hand, a virtual CHI 2021 will allow for increased diversity: all time zones needed!

We welcome students from anywhere around the world to apply to the online SV program. Please enroll at if you are interested in SVing for CHI 2021!


Who are Student Volunteers (SVs)?


Student volunteers have become an essential part in the organization of CHI. They play a major role in executing structural tasks – especially during the conference. Among other things: we hand out and check badges; show you where to find a paper session, restaurant, bathroom, your lost water bottle, etc; help set up nets for drones, build sculptures out of coke bottles and other exciting demos; help figure out where that missing paper presenter is and why, oh why, isn’t the microphone working anymore? Along with many others, the student volunteers put A LOT of effort into helping CHI run smoothly.


SVs are also HCI researchers. Quite a few SVs already publish their research at CHI and have been attending conferences for a while. For others, CHI is a whole new experience, allowing them to see how research results are distributed and how the community interacts. In both cases, being an SV is an incredible opportunity to network with possible mentors, collaborators, and peers.


And here is the tricky bit: SVs are students! We are not trained event managers or AV technicians. We are volunteers and conference attendees.


All SVs agree to an informal contract. In past years, this entailed about 20 hours of volunteer service with benefits including waived conference registration fees, some meals (breakfast and lunch), an SV party, among others. Benefits will be somewhat similar this year: 

  1. Duties will include about 15-20 hours of work, between May 7 and May 16, plus a training session to take place sometime before May 7. 
  2. Benefits will include waived registration fees, an SV happi to be shipped to SVs around the world (barring any covid-related restrictions), two CHI 2021 face masks, a chance to win one of 10 Hello CHItty, and a virtual SV party. More benefits and events may be added later. 


In the scope of their volunteer hours, SVs engage in plenty of tasks, some of which are simple while others require certain expertise or training. For this reason we need some people who have done the job before and can teach the job to the next generation of SVs. This is the basic concept: returning SVs show incoming SVs how tasks work, new students come up with new ideas on how to improve them.


How do I become an SV?


You must have had student status for at least one semester during the academic year before CHI to qualify for the program. We are more than happy to accept undergrad, graduate, and PhD students. We need friendly enthusiastic volunteers to help us out.


If you were going to be a student in the 2020-2021 academic year but took a COVID related extension, you may still qualify for the SV program. Email us at to check.


The SV lottery opened September 18th 2020, at and will close on March 1st, 2021 . The number of accepted SVs this year will be kept at 175 spots in total, in line with previous years. All other students who enrolled in the lottery will be assigned a position on the waiting list. To sign up your interest to be an SV, please visit, select the appropriate conference, and follow the steps to enroll.


There are four different pathways for you to become an SV: you can enroll in the general selection process, you can be nominated by members of the Program or Organizing Committees, you can be selected as an institutional knowledge SV. We also dedicate a slot to the happi design contest winner. Note that in all cases (including nominated SVs), the student must be enrolled with CHI2021 in to be considered for a spot.


Nominated SVs


Each Associate Chair and Program or Organizing Committee member gets to nominate one student. This pool of SVs accounts for approximately 20% of the total slots for SVs. 


From this selection pool we pick about 30 to 40% based on the information provided by nominators. We look for strong recommendations on the person’s ability to perform SV-related tasks, we look for opportunities to increase the diversity of the SV group, and we look for people who would benefit the most from being an SV for the current year. The rest of the slots are assigned through a random lottery within the nominated pool. Students not selected at this stage will be added into the general lottery pool later. 


Institutional Knowledge SVs


Institutional knowledge SVs are students that have been SVs at CHI before, are experienced with a variety of tasks, and can help train the incoming class of SVs. These SVs account for approximately 20% of the total SV slots. All of these students were exceptional SVs in previous years (e.g., always on time AND very proactive AND helpful to others on/off duty AND went above the requirements for their current task). Many of them are trained in specialized tasks. Unfortunately due to the high competition for an SV slot, we can’t always accept all students that fit this description. We prioritize selecting a few exceptional SVs in specialized roles, the other slots are selected through a random lottery.


General SVs


The remaining 60% (105) of the slots go through the current lottery system built into please check the “Become a Student Volunteer” blog post for details on how to apply. The system uses a random lottery to generate a waitlist. We reserve a few spots (up to 15%, about 16) for individuals on top of the waitlist that fulfill strategic criteria. Factors we considered in the past include whether individuals are local to the conference location, whether they have specialized knowledge (e.g., accessibility, photography, video editing), and whether they fulfill specific diversity criteria. These criteria are largely dependent on conference needs and are not limited to these examples. SVs are therefore encouraged to detail in their application how they may uniquely contribute to the conference to their best capacity. The remainder of the spots are fulfilled by waitlist order.  


Happi Design Competition SV


The last way you could get an SV slot is by winning the happi design contest. We are pleased to announce we will be having Japanese happi coats as the SV uniform this year, and we very much look forward to everyone's designs! More instructions can be found on this blog post.


The selection process is as follows. After an initial selection made by the SV chairs, a subset of the Organizing Committee and past SV Chairs vote on which design is their favorite. That person gets an SV slot.


And who are the SV chairs?


SV chairs are two senior SVs who have seen the process through multiple years of serving as SVs. The SV chair position is a two year commitment (one junior chair and one senior chair). This is because the CHI SV program is a beast. With 175 SVs each year, coordination with many conference chairs, multiple stakeholders with different needs, serving as SV chair for CHI requires SV experience and training in the role. The first year the junior SV chair observes, learns, and helps with organizational tasks. They learn how to operate, how to address different types of  requests, and how to manage an operation the size of a small startup. 


This year also includes a third local SV chair. This is an exceptional 1-year position created to provide language and local knowledge support to SV activities. 


Future SV chairs are selected based on their experience as SVs, their graduation timeline, and the specific needs of the conference that year.  The current SV chairs consider several candidates and make a recommendation to the General Chairs of someone they are confident will do a good job in organizing the SV program for the coming years. Sometimes, when there are special needs the General Chairs of future CHIs are brought in earlier in this decision process, to ensure that the “rollover” SV Chair will be able to attend to those needs (e.g. locations where English is not as widely spoken or where cultural norms are significantly different).


As SV chairs, we invest more than 100 pre-conference hours planning SV tasks and ensuring the conference is adequately supported by the SV program. During the conference we spend the majority of our time at the conference managing and addressing incoming requests. If you would like to be a future SV chair, make sure you are an SV at CHI (and other conferences as well), have higher responsibilities tasks (volunteer for them!), and that you let us know that you are interested. Every year we go through the process of picking a new junior chair and that person can be you!


If you need to communicate with us, please always use the address so that all of us receive it. Reply-to-all on our correspondence so we both stay in the loop and can better help you. 


We are looking forward to meeting all of you!

Nicole Sultanum, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada

Bingjie Yu, University of Bath, Bath, UK

Xiyue Wang, Tohoku University, Sendai, Japan



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