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University of Michigan School of Information


Robin Brewer revives mentoring workshop for CHI rookies

Tuesday, 04/24/2018

Back in 2012, Robin Brewer was a new PhD student at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. She also was a first-time attendee at the annual CHI conference, held that year in Austin, Texas.

As a graduate student and CHI rookie, she had the opportunity to attend CHIMe, a mentoring workshop specially designed for such attendees. She didn’t know what to expect – but she sure knows today what she received.

“I didn’t know it at the time, but it was a bonding experience,” says Brewer, now assistant professor and postdoctoral presidential fellow at the University of Michigan School of Information. 

“I ended up seeing some of the people I met at CHIMe later, at other conferences, and some of us transferred to the same university. Many of those I met at CHI 2012 are people I still keep in touch with today.” 

Bottom line, Brewer, who describes herself as an “introverted reserved person,” learned “the power of networking in academia, how people got jobs, internships and new research ideas from other people.”

All of the above is why Brewer, along with several others attending the CHI 2018 conference, took the initiative to bring back CHIMe. It formerly had been offered when the CHI conference was held in North America, but the workshop ceased after 2012. 

“It just got complicated for those who organized it,” Brewer says. “So we’ve kind of rebooted it for this year’s conference.”

After a lot of work and planning, Brewer and her fellow organizers offered CHIMe at this year’s CHI conference, taking place April 21-26 in Montreal, Quebec. CHIMe was held the first two days of the conference, Saturday and Sunday. 

If there was any doubt about the interest and need for CHIMe, the response soon proved otherwise. Brewer posted the workshop on a couple of CHI Facebook groups. The plan allowed for 20 people. 

“We had more than 90 applicants just from those Facebook posts,” Brewer says. 

“This is different from other symposiums,” she explains. “Usually, you have to pay for the workshop or symposium. For CHIMe, we pay the workshop fee, the conference fee and a stipend toward travel and housing for one night.”

Brewer says one of the organizers’ goals was to attract students from universities that might not have funding to send their students to the conference.

CHIMe attendees had a full line-up of activities. 

Saturday’s session offered speakers addressing “The Importance of Mentorship – How to Get the Most out of Advisor and Mentorship Relationships” and “The Importance of Communication – How to Market Yourself” via digital and verbal communication. 

This session offered attendees a chance to practice research pitches and a former-student panel with advice on success in an HCI graduate program.

Sunday’s session offered panels on “The Importance of Publishing” and “Exploring Careers in HCI.” 

Three research panels were offered: “Community, Social and Ethical Computing,” “Computing for All-Research in Accessibility, Learning, and Emerging/Developing Countries” and “Builders and Hackers.”

UMSI faculty participating in CHIMe included Tawanna Dillahunt, Lionel Robert, Walter Lasecki, Joyojeet Pal and Libby Hemphill.

Other CHIMe organizers who worked with Brewer are Ronal Metoyer, University of Notre Dame; Marvin Andujar, University of South Florida; Manuel Perez-Quinonez, University of North Carolina; Sheena Erete, DePaul University; and Yolanda Rankin, Florida State University.


- Sheryl James, UMSI PR Specialist