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Strengthening partnerships with our sister societies

by Ingrid Montes, ACS Director-at-Large
October 3, 2020 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 98, Issue 38

 

A photo of Ingrid Montes.
Credit: Peter Cutts Photography
Ingrid Montes

Without a doubt, 2020 has transformed our routine and way of life in the broadest sense. The COVID-19 pandemic has been a major challenge for everyone, and the loss of so many lives gives us all a feeling of uncertainty and powerlessness. Another challenge has been the historically prevalent lack of respect for and inclusion of Black people and other underrepresented groups in the US.

One of the American Chemical Society’s core values is diversity, inclusion, and respect. ACS has taken many steps to ensure an inclusive environment among members, staff, and the broader chemistry community. Among these actions is the creation of a new section on the ACS website devoted to this core value. Another action has been to strengthen ongoing relationships with our sister societies, such as the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE), the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), and the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS). In this ACS Comment, I’d like to focus on our partnership with SACNAS.

According to its website, SACNAS “is an inclusive organization dedicated to fostering the success of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans, from college students to professionals, in attaining advanced degrees, careers, and positions of leadership in STEM.”

In celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month, which takes place Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, I want to remind you of the many ways SACNAS supports ACS’s core value of diversity, inclusion, and respect.

ACS has taken many steps to ensure an inclusive environment among members, staff, and the broader chemistry community.

Last year, ACS and SACNAS signed a Chemistry Enterprise Partnership (CEP), which builds on the existing memorandum of understanding between the two societies. The CEP is a 3-year agreement between ACS and SACNAS to achieve objectives that align with the United Nations sustainable development goals, particularly goals 4 (quality education), 5 (gender equality), and 10 (reduced inequalities).

ACS invited representatives from SACNAS to ACS’s 2019 fall board meeting to discuss future steps. From that discussion, an ACS-SACNAS Joint Board Task Force was established to develop short- and long-term goals and to evaluate partnership potential. ACS’s board chair appointed ACS board members Paul Jagodzinski and me; Ann Kimble-Hill, chair of the ACS Committee on Minority Affairs (CMA); and Victoria Fuentes, ACS staff liaison to CMA, to the task force. SACNAS appointed board representatives Patricia Silveyra, Diana Azurdia, and Ronald E. Hunter Jr., and Eben Lindsey, SACNAS director of education and leadership.

The task force identified several potential areas of collaboration at ACS and SACNAS meetings and other venues, including on trainings and scholarships.

Through an effort by the ACS Education Division, for example, one SACNAS member completed the ACS Outreach Training Program, which provides training for members who are passionate about science outreach. The Education Division is discussing opportunities to offer the ACS Outreach Training Program to other SACNAS members as well. Next year’s SACNAS conference will be in Kansas, and the society is interested in expanding outreach to the Native American community in Kansas through the ACS Outreach Training Program.

Since last year, representatives of SACNAS have participated in the ACS Diversity, Inclusion, and Respect Advisory Board. ACS and SACNAS hosted a joint webinar titled “Interviewing in a COVID-19 World” in July and are planning additional joint webinars.

For many years, ACS and SACNAS representatives have participated in each other’s national conferences. ACS has always had a presence at the SACNAS national conference, hosting a booth, offering leadership courses and career development workshops, and organizing a special reception.

This year, the SACNAS national conference, like the ACS virtual national meeting in August, will be held virtually, Oct. 19–24. ACS will have a virtual booth with participation by ACS’s diversity program and education staff, as well as ACS on Campus. ACS will present workshops titled “Improving Your Chemistry Outreach through Improving Participant Attitudes” and “Individual Development Plans, Your Strengths, Your Career, and Your Professional Identity.” ACS will also participate in SACNAS’s Virtual Conversations with Scientists program. During the ACS virtual meeting in August, SACNAS president Sonia Zárate participated in a panel discussion titled “Diversity in STEM.”

In the area of scholarships, and as an ongoing initiative, winners of the chemistry poster presentation at SACNAS’s national conference participate in the ACS national meeting by presenting their research at the diversity reception, meeting with members of the ACS Diversity, Inclusion, and Respect Advisory Board, and receiving recognition at the CMA luncheon. This year, at SACNAS’s virtual national conference, ACS will sponsor five undergraduate chemistry awards and four graduate chemistry awards.

The strong collaborations between ACS and other professional societies are critical to inclusion by expanding the network of members and increasing opportunities for underrepresented groups. These interactions and collaborations are particularly important in this historic moment.

I welcome your comments and ideas at i.montes@acs.org.

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

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