Roles & Volunteer Opportunities
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Volunteer to Be a Discussant or Facilitator

For the 2020 virtual conference, Track Chairs will be seeking volunteers to serve as 1) discussants and 2) facilitators, a new role that will be piloted at the conference. These roles are essential to successful paper sessions and roundtables.

For those faculty without a presentation or roundtable appointment, acting as a discussant or facilitator places you formally on the agenda.

Track chairs will issue and confirm discussant and facilitator invitations via email. All discussant and facilitators should inform the track chair if the time of the panel they are assigned to conflicts with one where they are a presenter.

Use the form at the very bottom of this page to volunteer as a discussant or facilitator. Thank you!


Conference Roles

  • Presenting Author - The author is listed first in the conference program and is actually presenting the paper at the conference. This person is sometimes the primary author, but in some cases, may be a co-author.
  • Primary Author - The author who took the lead responsibility in preparing and writing the paper.
  • Co-Author - One of several additional authors on a paper who should be noted for their contributions but may or may not be in attendance at the session.
  • Timekeeper - This individual "manages" the session by keeping track of time for the presentations. In most cases, the timekeeper is also the discussant or facilitator.
  • Discussant - This is an individual knowledgeable in the topic of the session.
    • Receives papers prior to the conference, reads and tries to summarize, synthesize and make compelling comments about each and all papers.
    • Acts as timekeeper for the session.
    • It is the decision of the track chair(s) whether or not to include a discussant as part of the session.
  • Facilitator - The facilitator fosters a discussion of the papers, rather than providing their own synthesis or comments on papers. The facilitator:
    • Creates a conversation space by highlighting common threads among papers or suggesting big questions for consideration. They should refrain from giving lengthy comments or evaluating the papers.
    • Encourages engagement between/among presenters and audience members.
    • Keeps time for the presentations.
  • Roundtable Facilitator - This individual is responsible for ensuring the flow of the roundtable discussion. S/he poses questions, asks follow-up questions, and seeks input from the audience.
  • Roundtable Organizer - This individual proposes a topic for the conference and seeks confirmation from participants for the roundtable prior to the abstract submission deadline. Note: organizers are partially responsible for making sure participants agreeing to participate are not already committed to another roundtable.
  • Pre-Organized Session Organizer - This person has a lot of responsibility. Using their personal channels, they suggest a topic for an entire session, typically 3-5 papers. They create a session title, confirm other participating authors, collect paper titles, and identify a potential discussant. Confirmation of other participants in advance includes reminding them that their participation in this pre-organized session will preclude them from presenting an individual paper in another session. The organizer is responsible for setting up the session in the abstract management system; however participating authors are responsible for submitting their own abstracts to the system.
  • Track Chair - A volunteer, invited by the Conference Committee Chair, and confirmed by the ACSP Executive Committee, who is given the responsibility for reviewing the abstract submissions within their topic. Track chairs organize accepted papers into coherent sessions with a title and discussant.
  • Reviewer - Abstracts are accepted or rejected for presentation. Reviewers specializing in the topic, in addition to the Track Chairs, may be asked to read and recommend a decision for a particular abstract.
  • ACSP Staff and Conference Committee Chair - With tired, smiling faces, they solve the problems you didn't anticipate. Be nice to these people. With your patience and flexibility, most of the time they can intervene and solve any crisis.


Guidelines for Discussants and Facilitators

Before the Conference

  • Reach out to presenting authors before the conference via e-mail. Remind them of the deadline to circulate papers to the discussant or facilitator.
    • If you are a discussant, you are responsible for reading the papers prior to the panel so that you can provide comments to authors. We strongly encourage you to contact each presenter in advance of the conference and follow up on any that have not submitted final papers. Students and faculty truly benefit from your effort.
    • If you are a facilitator, you should read through papers, but you are not responsible for synthesizing the papers at the conference or providing comments.
  • Both facilitators and discussants should think about questions ahead of time and ways of facilitating an exciting conversation at the session.

At the Conference (these instructions may be modified as we plan the details of virtual sessions)

  • Arrive at the session room five minutes prior to the scheduled starting time and introduce yourself to the presenters.
  • Attempts are made to assign a student room attendant to session rooms, 3-4 per student. This person, wearing an identifiable conference t-shirt and carrying a walkie-talkie, will help you contact necessary parties to take care of the audio visual equipment, room temperature, and to assist you and the presenters at any time.
  • Look on the front table or podium for the yellow and red cards to assist you with letting presenters know their time frame. Please return these cards to the front of the room when the session is completed.
  • Inform presenters of the maximum time they can use for their paper presentation. This time can vary depending on the number of papers in the session and whether there is a discussant who needs time to respond. Ask the presenters to introduce themselves to the audience.
  • When introducing the session - please be brief - tell the audience how many papers will be presented, how long each presentation will be and when there will be time for questions. You will not have presenter bios, nor should you provide any personal commentary. Time is a premium for the presenters. Introduce the yellow and red card system to all.
  • Show the yellow card to the presenter when 5 minutes of presentation time is left. Show the red card when time is over. Be firm in your request to end the presentation in fairness to all other presenters.
  • Ensure the session finishes on time. Sessions that overrun will affect next sessions.
  • In case you are presenting a paper yourself during the session, we strongly recommend you present at the end of the session, even if this means altering from the published order of presentations. The efficient management of the session will benefit from it. When presenting your paper ask one of the other presenters to manage your presentation time using the cards.

Other considerations:

  • The conference committee does its best to avoid conflicts for discussants with their own paper presentations, however; if the end result is a paper-discussant conflict, we will ask you to step aside from your discussant commitment. We will not rearrange the schedule.


 Keeps time for presentations
 Yes  Yes
 Introduces the session
 Yes  Yes
 Synthesizes papers and provides comments
 Yes  No
 Encourages discussion between the presenters and audience 
 Yes  Yes
 Facilitates respectful and supportive climate
 Yes  Yes


Volunteer Using the Form Below


The Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning promotes education, research, service and outreach in the United States and throughout the world by seeking to:

  • recognize diverse needs and interests in planning;
  • improve and enhance the accreditation process, and;
  • strengthen the role of planning education in colleges and universities through publications, conferences, and community engagement;
  • extend planning beyond the classroom into the world of practice.


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