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Comment: Leadership: The heart of the American Chemical Society and the future of chemistry

by Wayne E. Jones Jr., chair, ACS Board of Directors
March 14, 2024 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 102, Issue 8


Wayne E. Jones Jr.
Credit: Portrait Simple Studio
Wayne E. Jones Jr.

Over the past 150 years, the American Chemical Society has grown from 35 chemists in New York to a thriving global membership community of over 200,000 individuals. We strive to improve all people’s lives through the transforming power of chemistry. As the newly elected chair of the ACS Board of Directors, I have been reflecting on the key factors resulting in our longevity and how we can ensure a vibrant, successful future for ACS over the coming centuries.

I truly believe we are here today because of ACS’s long-standing commitment to chemistry and to the development of our members as leaders. Throughout its history, ACS has dedicated significant resources to fostering leadership throughout the global chemistry enterprise, and I am happy to report that this commitment remains strong. Beginning with our founding, we recognized that leadership starts locally through opportunities to serve at the local section level. This recognition has expanded to the many diverse technical division disciplinary areas to which chemistry contributes. However, the world evolves, and ACS must do the same to ensure that we remain relevant and valuable to our members and true to our purpose. Looking forward, we must cultivate new ways to engage and support members in their leadership journey, supporting their development and leveraging their passion to shape the future of ACS.

Cultivating current and future leaders

The ACS Leadership Institute plays a vital role in nurturing leaders within the society, equipping them with valuable skills to navigate the complexities of the organization and contribute effectively. Over the past 15 years, the Leadership Institute has expanded to serve as a convening of new and seasoned ACS leaders to commit to ongoing leadership learning. ACS courses and leadership tracks have continued to adapt to the needs of the society and our leaders. Recent additions to the Leadership Institute include the Graduate School Readiness and Professional Development Boot Campand the Facilitator Academy. These new offerings focus on inclusivity and ensuring that everyone has an opportunity to learn, grow, and lead.

A leader in every member

I had the opportunity to meet and chat with many students and young professionals during the 2024 Leadership Institute in Atlanta. They were passionate about chemistry and excited to be there. Each attendee was inspired by an ACS member to join ACS and learn what our professional organization is all about. Networking, connecting with professional role models, and learning new skills were expected. But they didn’t see themselves as ACS leaders—neither did I when I presented at my first ACS meeting.

I truly believe we are here today because of ACS’s long-standing commitment to chemistry and to the development of our members as leaders.

Leadership potential resides within every member regardless of their career stage or affiliation. ACS is a wonderful forum for developing and discovering yourself—including your inner leader—as a professional and enhancing your ability to contribute to the broader chemistry enterprise. Whether mentoring a colleague, organizing a local section or division event, chairing a meeting symposium, or advocating for policies that benefit the profession, every member has an opportunity to lead. ACS is also a safe space to develop your leadership skills without worrying about the pressures of annual reviews or exams.

As your professional organization, ACS wants to help you on your leadership journey. The Leadership Institute is one event that does that. We also developed the ACS Institute, a professional development resource with over 100 courses available to help you enhance and develop your skills.

Shaping the future of ACS

ACS is a great place to put your leadership skills into practice. The opportunities and paths are as unique as our global chemistry community. As you read this, we are kicking off ACS Spring 2024 in New Orleans. On March 17, from noon to 1:00 p.m. (CDT), the ACS Board of Directors is highlighting the panel discussion “Pathways for Aspiring ACS Leaders.” ACS leaders Peter Dorhout, Raychelle Burks, Katherine Johnson, and Jarrod Cohen will join us to share their leadership journeys. This session is an incredible opportunity for attendees from every career stage to identify potential pathways for their personal leadership journeys from others who share their passion.

As we look to the future, we seek to ensure that the organization remains inclusive and effective. We plan to continue cultivating leaders by aligning them with opportunities that spark their success. But we cannot do it alone. I invite each of you to shape the future of chemistry and your own career by serving in a leadership role at ACS. Explore our diverse pathways, and find your perfect fit. Engaging the full range of ACS members and all their potential is key to ensuring that we thrive, no matter what the future brings.

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


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