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Comment: Bringing international representation to the ACS Board of Directors

by Katherine L. Lee, Director, District I
January 29, 2023 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 101, Issue 4


Katherine L. Lee
Katherine L. Lee

At the risk of channeling Dwight Schrute from The Office, let me set the stage for this Comment with a few facts.

Fact: The ACS Constitution authorizes the board of directors to function as the legal representative and to “have, hold, and administer all the property, funds, and affairs of the Society.”

Fact: The board comprises the chief executive officer of the society and 15 voting members, who are elected as follows:

The ACS president, president-elect, and immediate past president, elected by membership

Six directors-at-large, elected by councilors

Six district directors, elected by the membership of districts from which they are to serve.

Fact: The six districts are geographically based in the US and Canada.

Fact: ACS members in certain categories (including regular members, regular student members, retired members, and emeritus members) are eligible to vote in ACS elections.

You may be wondering, what’s with the rapid-fire facts?

The proposal is to reduce the number of directors-at-large from six to five and to create an international district director role.

I serve on the Board Working Group on Board Structure and Representation. We are a small team (Ingrid Montes, Wayne Jones, chair Carolyn Ribes, and me), enabled by select experts from ACS staff. I would like to share the proposal that we, in conjunction with key ACS stakeholders, have put together to bring international member representation to the ACS Board.

Why? This is a prime opportunity to “walk the talk” about diversity, equity, inclusion, and respect for international members of the ACS. With the adoption of this proposal, international members will have the opportunity to vote to elect a person to serve on the board.

How? When I began my service on this newly formed board working group, I thought that our task would be simple. I saw it as a math problem. We already knew the number of members in each of the six districts. I figured all we had to do was divide the number of international members by the average number of members in each district and, voilà—the answer, rounded to the nearest whole number, would be the number of seats for international member representation to add to the board.

Considerations. As it turns out, the “how” was not so easy! We wanted to maintain an odd number of voting board members in order to minimize the chance that board voting would result in a tie. We also envisioned the board as a nimble and efficient governing body, and thus we did not want to increase the total number of people serving on the board in our proposed design. We wanted a construct that would be robust and not require frequent adjustments once put into practice. We recognized that, depending on the nature of our recommendation, changes might be required to the governing documents—namely, the constitution and standing rules. We were mindful that parallel work was being done by members of the Council Policy Committee (CPC) to build international representation on the council. We recognized that input as well as buy-in from groups including other members of the board, the CPC, the Committee on International Affairs, and the Committee on Nominations and Elections was crucial. Under the able leadership of Carolyn Ribes, we worked with a sense of urgency on this important and potentially complex challenge.

Proposal. With respect to changes in the constitution, a Petition to Add International Representation on the Board of Directors has been submitted. Paul W. Jagodzinski, chair of the ACS Board of Directors, offered highlights in the newsletter Councilor News and Committee Alerts in December 2022. In short, the proposal is to reduce the number of directors-at-large from six to five and to create an international district director role. The international district director would be elected by society members who live outside the US and Canada and do not belong to any local section. A Petition to Amend Standing Rules has been submitted and will be up for action at the August 2023 council meeting. The process to identify candidates for the international district director would be similar to the one currently used for district director: the Committee on Nominations and Elections would develop a slate of nominees for international district director, and councilors would vote to select the candidates. A process for the nomination of petition candidates has been drafted.

Next steps. The Petition to Add International Representation on the Board of Directors will be published Feb. 15 in the 2023 March Council Agenda. The board working group is developing a communication plan to provide more information to members and councilors. If you are interested in engaging in the process or have feedback on the petition, please contact

Views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of C&EN or ACS.



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