Jonathan T. Morgan is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering (HCDE). He received funding from HCDE to attend the CHI 2012 conference.
Being a student volunteer is a great way to attend CHI, especially if you're new to the CHI community and want to learn more about what happens at the conference (in other words, how that old HCI research sausage is made!). This year, I worked registration desk, the press room, and "quick response." You also get to meet a lot of other young researchers, eat free food, and meet a rotating cast of HCI luminaries such as Ben Shneiderman, Bonnie Nardi, and Donald Norman (who stop by for the free food).
Unfortunately, I wasn't able to attend as many talks this year as I would have liked. This was partially because of my student volunteer responsibilities, but mostly because I scheduled my dissertation proposal to be due in the middle of CHI: questionable judgment on my part, to say the least! However, my personal scheduling snafu afforded some unexpected opportunities: I wound up in several in-depth discussions with other dissertation-stage colleagues of mine, and elicit invaluable feedback from them, making my proposal leaps and bounds better than it otherwise would have been. None of that would have been possible if I hadn't been sitting right in the middle of the highest concentration of HCI minds in the world!