Celebrating the Women of the SIGGRAPH Student Volunteers Program

From left to right: Emma Gauthier, Maya Karp, Corinne Price, Munkhtsetseg Nandigjav, Diana Arellano, Juyeon Hong, Sarah Rust, Rianti Hidayat, Christine Holmes, Mikki Rose, Gracie Arenas Strittmatter

In honor of Women’s History Month, the SIGGRAPH Student Volunteers program is celebrating the women chairs of the program — past, present, and future — from 2011 to 2022 for both the SIGGRAPH and SIGGRAPH Asia conferences. As chair, each agreed to be responsible for fulfilling the needs and integral operational support in order to help orchestrate and implement the conference’s larger vision, all while maintaining a roadmap that allows the Student Volunteers program itself to succeed.

We caught up with these women to ask some questions about what it means to lead the program and how it has impacted their personal lives and professional careers.

What does it mean to you to serve ACM SIGGRAPH?

Maya Karp, SIGGRAPH 2011, Vancouver, British Columbia

The Student Volunteers program is like space camp for graphics kids. I’ll always remember this time as when I found my tribe. It wasn’t about opportunities, careers, or networking; rather, it continues to be about lifelong friendship.

Mikki Rose, SIGGRAPH 2012, Los Angeles

Serving ACM SIGGRAPH is an honor for me. It allows me to give back to the computer graphics community that has thoroughly enriched my life. I am grateful to work in a profession that keeps me engaged and interested in both the technical and artistic aspects of animation and visual effects, but there is more still to this unique line of work. The main things that keep me going are the people I work with and the love of the storytelling craft. ACM SIGGRAPH provides a place for those two things to intersect outside of work as well, allowing members like me to connect with old friends and new, learning from and inspiring each other along the way. This community that ACM SIGGRAPH provides has been crucial to exploring how my experience in film overlaps with tools and techniques being used in games, VR/AR/MR, themed entertainment, scientific visualization, and so much more. I personally have experienced an outpouring of support and encouragement from this organization in both good times and bad. I’m happy to volunteer as a steward of ACM SIGGRAPH to help provide this source of support, inspiration, education, and sense of community to my fellow members!

Gracie Arenas Strittmatter, SIGGRAPH 2013, Los Angeles

Volunteering with ACM SIGGRAPH enables me to play an active role in helping to elevate and celebrate contributions to the computer graphics industry that are leaving their mark in this increasingly connected world. I love the international community that it brings together and the sense of ownership and pride that comes along with being a part of it.

Christine Holmes, SIGGRAPH 2015, Los Angeles

Serving ACM SIGGRAPH as a member of the Student Volunteers program was always an incredible experience. Throughout my eight years of participation, I made lifelong friends who continue to inspire me to this day.

Munkhtsetseg Nandigjav, SIGGRAPH 2017, Los Angeles

It’s been an honor to serve the computer graphics and interactive techniques community through ACM SIGGRAPH conferences the past 10+ years. I started as a student volunteer when I was a freshman at Purdue University. Being involved with the program over the years allowed me to grow both personally and professionally and to meet many great friends and colleagues.

Emma Gauthier, SIGGRAPH 2018, Vancouver, British Columbia

To me, service is defined as the effort to ensure that those around you are given what they need to succeed. Serving SIGGRAPH through the Student Volunteers program means taking care of the next generation of young professionals and ensuring their time as a volunteer is a positive, formative experience they can carry forward.

Rianti Hidayat, SIGGRAPH Asia 2018, Tokyo

For me, SIGGRAPH is a huge melting pot of diverse communities, where people and inspirations come together. The more I am involved with this community, the more challenges I found coming, providing huge opportunities for everyone to grow.

Corinne Price, SIGGRAPH 2019, Los Angeles

I was first introduced to SIGGRAPH in 2002 while in high school and immediately wanted to participate as a student volunteer. I was drawn to the conference and SIGGRAPH’s intersection of art, technology, and innovation. Ever since that first year, I have been hooked and volunteering in some capacity.

Juyeon Hong, SIGGRAPH Asia 2020, Virtual

Last year, I had the honor of graduating the program as the Student Volunteers Chair at SIGGRAPH Asia 2020, which was planned to take place in Daegu, South Korea. As it’s not easy to have a female as a leader where I live, it was a worthwhile challenge for me as one of the first steps of my career as a leading engineer. To be frank, when I first got the position, I was a bit panicked. The thought of leading the international team was daunting, as I struggled with imposter syndrome. I thought I was not qualified enough, being too shy, eccentric, and not fluent enough in English to be a leader. I felt more comfortable with being a troublemaker at that time. Adding to the challenge, 2020 presented perhaps one of the most unique challenges ever in the SIGGRAPH Asia program’s history, as the conference had to go virtual in the midst of a pandemic, while a lot of planning was already completed for an in-person conference.

Thankfully, my team members were there with me through it all. With relentless optimism, they got over the difficulties with me and tried to enjoy the virtual conference together until the end despite so many uncertainties. In addition, my old student volunteer friends and great mentors (including the previous chair Norbert Drage, who warmly encouraged me to be more confident and step forward to take the chair role at the conference) always provided me with valuable advice and support. I would like to thank Sarah Rust, SIGGRAPH 2020 Student Volunteer Chair, who confronted the pandemic ahead of me as well. They all helped me make better decisions through every step of the way, paving way for the success of the program.

Sarah Rust, SIGGRAPH 2020, Virtual

The SIGGRAPH Student Volunteers program is full of passionate individuals with a diversity of interests. As a volunteer, the program helped me develop a unique blend of knowledge, skills, and relationships in the graphics industry that I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else.

After volunteering in the program for a couple years, I saw there were ways to streamline the process and improve the experience for the students. For example, with an amazing team of engineers and designers, I’ve helped the program move away from volunteer shift management with pen and paper to a web app. My goal has been to do what’s best for the students.

Diana Arellano, SIGGRAPH 2022, planned for Vancouver, British Columbia

To serve ACM SIGGRAPH is a lifestyle. It is something that gets so deep in your blood once you get to do your first volunteering activity (in my case as student volunteer in 2007), that you cannot imagine not being an ACM SIGGRAPH volunteer. It is giving back for all the opportunities that ACM SIGGRAPH opens, which involves a lot of learning and growing as a person and professional.


What has the Student Volunteers program meant to you personally and professionally?

Mikki Rose, SIGGRAPH 2012, Los Angeles

Student volunteers will always be my home base within the SIGGRAPH conference and, therefore, will always have my heart! I started my SIGGRAPH career as a student volunteer who had just barely started studying digital animation, and when I first attended my mind was blown at the presentations I saw that year. I was way out of my league, but I knew that this really was the career path I wanted, so I hunkered down in my studies, continuing to volunteer along the way. This exposure to computer graphics outside of my school program showed me the possibilities for my future and inspired me to continue striving to improve my skills.

Beyond actual artistic and technical skills, I also learned a ton of other valuable life lessons from the program, including having the confidence to strike up a conversation with strangers over a common interest, networking, independence, travel experience, cultural understanding, leadership, team-building and teamwork, management, public speaking, how to stay calm and handle difficult situations, and work responsibility. These experiences prepared me for my professional career in a way that classroom education on its own never could have, and it’s fair to say that I’ve been successful in my career in animation and visual effects as a result! Best of all, I have had the opportunity to work with hundreds of students over the years, both as a student volunteer myself and volunteering later as subcommittee and program chair, and have built some incredible lifelong friendships out of that group. These are the folks who pick me up when I get knocked down and cheer for me when I get going again. I have the Student Volunteers program from many SIGGRAPHs over the years to thank for my success, and I am more grateful than I can express for it.

Gracie Arenas Strittmatter, SIGGRAPH 2013, Los Angeles

The SV program afforded me a great opportunity to become a part of a network — a family — of people who are passionate about computer graphics, leadership, creativity, and so much more. In fact, it has given me lifelong friends whom I’ve had the honor of growing alongside for nearly two decades, and it’s been phenomenal seeing and sharing our career journeys and successes. The program helped me get my footing as I navigated my own career in the industry, and for that I am grateful. It helped me develop valuable leadership skills on my path to becoming a manager and leader in my professional role in a way that has provided incredible returns. In 2013, I coined the hashtag #ProudToBeSV as a way of celebrating exactly what this program means to me and what it has done for me, as well as a symbol of what I hope it continues to be for others who will become the future of the computer graphics industry.

Christine Holmes, SIGGRAPH 2015, Los Angeles

Professionally, I had my first real introduction to the industry at SIGGRAPH. After that initial year, I further developed my voice and confidence as a leader guided by the compassionate example set by so many leaders before me. I’m honored to have led the SIGGRAPH 2015 Student Volunteers program — it was such a wonderful team and I have memories that I will cherish forever. I’ve always believed that SIGGRAPH is what you make it. So make it something amazing for you and the rest of the community! 

Munkhtsetseg Nandigjav, SIGGRAPH 2017, Los Angeles

Looking back, I realize a tremendous amount of growth and experiences came from being involved with the SIGGRAPH Student Volunteers program. I’m grateful to have been given opportunities to give back and serve in various ways. As a former member of the program and now as an educator, the program remains dear to my heart. 

Emma Gauthier, SIGGRAPH 2018, Vancouver, British Columbia

My teammates in the Student Volunteers program were the greatest reason why I came to love working with SIGGRAPH. You’d be hard-pressed to find a group of people so dedicated to not only building up the organization (and evolving it to be even better!), but also building up each other. It’s a community I’m proud to be a part of. Personally and professionally, they are an enormous inspiration to me.

Rianti Hidayat, SIGGRAPH Asia 2018, Tokyo

By answering the challenges, SIGGRAPH helped me to develop myself in almost every aspect possible. Volunteering taught me how to be more open, how to communicate better, how to be a better leader, sharpen my skill as an artist, and, most importantly, SIGGRAPH has granted me a family for a lifetime.

Corinne Price, SIGGRAPH 2019,  Los Angeles

It was through the program that I developed my initial SIGGRAPH network, which led to additional volunteer opportunities within the organization and helped me develop my management skills that have translated into my career as a program manager. Throughout my 19+ years with SIGGRAPH, I have developed a wide network within the community and am happy to have many SIGGRAPH friends.

Juyeon Hong, SIGGRAPH Asia 2020, Virtual

I appreciate the program for letting me have the chance to meet these wonderful people. Without them, I don’t think I could have run the first virtual Student Volunteers program as successfully as we did in 2020. Even though virtual was not the same as in-person, it was good enough to feel accomplishment from the online side projects and events by my [subcommittee] and team leaders. While serving as the chair, I truly realized my love for the program and for each of the volunteers, and that the Student Volunteers program means more than just volunteering to me.

Now, I am preparing for my future outside of the program. I will never forget the friendships made and all the meaningful lessons I’ve learned. I am so excited to see the next generations [of student volunteers] starting their own wonderful journey and continuing the great success of the program.

Sarah Rust, SIGGRAPH 2020, Virtual

I was a student volunteer in 2013 and 2014, a team leader in 2015, and tech lead for the program subcommittee in 2016 and 2017. [Student Volunteers] has given me a great network of friends and mentors with whom I love sharing experiences and geeking out about new technologies.

When I interned at Apple in the Platform Architecture Graphics group and worked at Microsoft on the HoloLens Developer Platform team, my interviewers and managers told me that being a student volunteer at SIGGRAPH and being involved in the conference separated me from the rest of my peers who applied for the role. It showed my passion for the industry and my investment in the community.

Diana Arellano, SIGGRAPH 2022, planned for Vancouver, British Columbia

Personally, the Student Volunteers program gave me amazing experiences and memories that shaped me as a person and taught me about leadership, teamwork, generosity, and having an open mind all the time. Professionally, it created the path to further volunteering within the ACM SIGGRAPH organization, for example, with the International Resources Committee (IRC), which taught me more about leadership and group management and gave me great friends. Being the SIGGRAPH 2022 Student Volunteers Chair is my chance to pay tribute to the program that saw me grow and my opportunity to continue the work of amazing previous chairs.


Catch up with the latest Student Volunteers content on the ACM SIGGRAPH Blog.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.