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Introducing the ACS Institute

by Wayne E. Jones Jr., ACS director-at-large
March 20, 2021 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 99, Issue 10


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

Providing value for chemistry professionals, especially American Chemical Society members, at all stages of their careers is a key strategy for ACS. Bringing together under one umbrella the many ACS learning and professional development resources, including those developed by staff or volunteer units, provides an opportunity to enhance the focus and impact of all our efforts. The new ACS Institute, which came out of the Highly Effective Professionals working group, seeks to do just this. The ACS Board of Directors established the working group in December 2019 to implement the recommendations put forth by the NextGen Task Force on Leadership Development.

The demand for virtual learning increased during the past 12 months as many in-person courses shifted to virtual. While there is no shortage of general learning opportunities online, ACS recognizes that there is a demand for expert and germane training that meets the needs of the chemistry enterprise. As a professional society, ACS is uniquely positioned to provide chemical scientists with learning opportunities that are developed specifically for those working or planning to work in the chemistry enterprise. The society can also help those seeking new skills in an uncertain job market. Meanwhile, companies and organizations are outsourcing their employee training and development to save costs. This creates new partnership opportunities to work with industry.

The Highly Effective Professionals working group and two subgroups—Managing Self and Leading Others—worked with ACS staff to identify competencies that can help learners prioritize professional growth. The competencies are intended to serve as a unifying scaffold across the broad suite of ACS resources. Competencies also support consistency and clarity in the ways we promote, position, and enable learning, training, and development for members and customers of the organization. This type of research is not foreign to ACS, as similar research was conducted when the society developed and launched the ACS Leadership Development System in 2010. At that time, the society selected four core leadership competencies that could identify outstanding leaders: personal capability, interpersonal skills, focusing on results, and setting a clear direction. Additionally, character was identified as the overarching leadership competency.

The ACS Institute will comprise seven learning centers that are being guided by the eight competencies and learners’ needs.

The recent research was conducted via a multiphased approach using three methodologies: a survey of diverse stakeholders, interviews with additional stakeholders including hiring managers, and discussions with focus groups. Through this research we learned of ACS members’ and other chemists’ needs related to learning and how ACS could support them. This information was used to assist with the development of a needs analysis, which led to the drafting of competencies that were tested across various employment sectors within the chemistry enterprise. The iterative process ended with the confirmation of eight competencies: communicating clearly and effectively; building meaningful connections; identifying and applying personal drivers; managing results; participating in or leading a successful team; prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion in every situation; facilitating organizational strategy and operations; and applying specialized and detailed technical expertise.

The competency model is serving as the framework for the ACS Institute, which will launch in May. The ACS Institute will be a comprehensive and authoritative learning platform offering a robust collection of learning and training resources from across the society. It will help ACS members and other chemical scientists learn new skills, develop as individuals and professionals, and excel in their careers. The ACS Institute will comprise seven learning centers that are being guided by the eight competencies and learners’ needs. A learner will be able to consume content related to laboratory safety, professional and leadership development, technical skills, chemistry in practice, and volunteer leadership.

With the establishment of the ACS Institute, ACS is positioning itself within the third-sector training community. This is a growing community that is seeking to complement the traditional classroom experience by providing training that may not be part of standard K–12 or higher education curricula and that serves as a platform to help individuals progress professionally. By entering this space, ACS can also support individuals and organizations in the chemistry enterprise with their professional and leadership development.

The society is committed to providing value for its members and potential members and recognizes the importance of having content that is developed for chemists and, in some instances, by chemists who are experts in specific areas. With your support, the ACS Institute can become the premier destination for chemical professionals seeking continuing professional and leadership development. Together we can support our mission to “advance the broader chemistry enterprise and its practitioners for the benefit of Earth and its people.”

I invite you to join ACS in this endeavor. Sign up to learn more about the ACS Institute at, and keep us informed of courses or training that you would like to see ACS offer.

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



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