ACM CEO John White talks about initiatives to serve the
organization’s professional members, increase international
activities, and reform computer science education.
iT WAs 1967 when a classmate at the
University of California, Santa Barbara
introduced John White to professor
Glen Culler and his APRA-funded research project to build a mathematically oriented time-sharing system on
an IBM /360 Model 50 mainframe—and
drew him into the then-nascent field of
computer science. After obtaining his
Ph.D., White spent nine years as a professor at the University of Connecticut.
He then moved to Xerox PARC, where
he spent 17 years leading research
groups on projects like networked electronic document systems, services, and
commerce. In 1999, White accepted a
full-time position as Executive Director
and Chief Executive Officer of the ACM,
where he helps guide initiatives on everything from education policy to the
2012 Turing Centenary.
how do you see your role at AcM?
My primary role as CEO is to be an
ongoing partner with ACM’s changing
elected leadership to build a coherent
strategic direction for the organization. As a result, much of what I do is
focused on strategic initiatives and priorities. I am still ultimately responsible
for overseeing core ACM activities like
publishing, conferences, education,
and policy, but I spend a lot of my time
when you look at the demographics of
ACM’s members, practitioners compose about 60% of the membership.
And when we looked at what ACM produced in the way of products and services, probably 80% of it was targeted at
researchers. What we’ve done over the
last several years is develop new products and services targeted at practitioners—everything from the launch of
Queue in the mid-2000s to the courses
and books program that ACM members receive, Tech Packs, Learning
Paths, and Webinars.
bers in ACM who come from that constituency has also increased slightly.
The Practitioner Board continues to
work on new products and services that
will be of value to the community. That
said, the other way we’re working on
reaching and serving practitioners is
throughout an international initiative.
Let’s talk about some of the AcM’s
broader strategic initiatives.
One initiative that came together
around 2005 was a desire to see ACM
do a better job serving practitioners.
It was an obvious thing to do, because
What are your successes in that realm,
and what are you doing to build on
One result of this effort has been
an increase in satisfaction among our
practitioners. The percentage of mem-
This is the initiative you launched to in-
crease AcM’s international activities.
The computing community has become a global community, and around
six years ago, the ACM Council and senior staff agreed that we needed to do
more outside the U.S.
PhotoGraPh by larry berCo W
That’s a big job. Where did you start?
Somewhere between the administrations of Stuart Feldman and Wendy
Hall, we settled [con TinUeD on P. 119]