A Message from ACM SIGGRAPH Chair, Adam Bargteil


A couple of years ago I attended an event for volunteer leaders. The event itself is a story for another time. But, one memorable moment was when a friend, colleague, and professional partner asked me “why do you volunteer?”  I do not recall how I answered; it may have been the cliched, altruistic platitude “to give back.” Or the more honest “I do not know, I have not thought about it.”

But now, I have had several years to think about it. And the truth is, my reasons are more nuanced. Genuine altruism combines with personal interest. I could write pages on the subject, but let me focus on five points.

First, volunteering is part of my day job. I think one of the things that attracted me to an academic career is that service is one of the three pillars of the profession. I am expected to, and rewarded for, volunteering and serving. One of the coolest things is that I largely get to choose how I serve, and volunteering for SIGGRAPH is at the top of my list. And this is where the warm, fuzzy altruistic feelings come in—if I get to choose something to serve, I am going to choose the organization that has helped me along my professional path.

Second, I have grown tremendously through my service. I’ve gained and honed all sorts of skills and discovered things I am good at (and things I am not).  ACM SIGGRAPH even sent me to the intense, 6-month SmithBucklin Leadership Institute, where I picked up skills and discovered things about myself that I had not in forty years of being a human. As ACM SIGGRAPH Chair, during a pandemic, I have found myself navigating all sorts of issues, from budget to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, that would have been far removed from my usual work, but that have greatly informed me in other aspects of my professional life.

Third, service is one of the primary ways I have built my professional network. It started by serving on papers committees, when I had the chance to meet many of the people I had idolized as a graduate student. But, since serving for the organization, I have met many folks outside my usual academic circles. I now have goto people to ask about for everything from fine art to the mechanics of academy awards.

Fourth, it is fun. Being surrounded by people with a shared passion is just a pleasant experience. Volunteering for ACM SIGGRAPH has certainly involved plenty of work, but it rarely feels like drudgery because everyone else is working toward the same shared goals.

Fifth, aside from the fun, there is also fulfillment. There is something about creating things that last beyond your participation that make a human feel good. The kudos and congratulations on the ACM SIGGRAPH Frontiers program will always warm my heart. The fact that the EC trusted me to be chair is a great antidote to Imposter Syndrome and other self-doubts. But, what is more, I do feel like I am making a difference. In my own little way, in my corner of the world, I do feel that I am nudging SIGGRAPH toward a better place and a brighter future.

So, there you have a few of my thoughts on volunteering. Now I would like to ask that you come and join our efforts. We will be having a volunteer recruiting event early next month, but feel free to reach out to me directly if you want to get involved right away.

Adam Bargteil