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Changing The Future Of Local Sections, Changing The Future Of ACS

by Will E. Lynch, Chair, Local Section Activities Committee
July 23, 2007 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 85, Issue 30

Even with these challenges, we believe that local sections provide value to the membership that cannot be achieved by any other means.
Even with these challenges, we believe that local sections provide value to the membership that cannot be achieved by any other means.

AS WE LOOK TO THE FUTURE of local section presence in the American Chemical Society, we can look to the past to see the power of local action on the chemical enterprise. Some 130 years ago, a group of chemists from "local" societies united their individual activities into an alliance known as the American Chemical Society. The society began with the recognition of the first local section and has now grown to 190 local sections throughout all 50 states.

These local sections have pioneered many of the outstanding programs that change lives in the chemical enterprise and society at large. From regional meetings to the intense growth in outreach efforts—notably championing National Chemistry Week and Chemists Celebrate Earth Day activities—to extensive career development opportunities and grassroots opportunities for leadership growth within the society, the local sections are unique and strong components of ACS.

It has been said, "If you can dream it, you can become it." Since spring 2006, the Local Section Activities Committee (LSAC) has been dreaming about how local sections could evolve, become stronger, and contribute even more to the growth and success of ACS. The committee sought input from focus groups at the 231st national meeting in Atlanta and from a broad spectrum of stakeholders at Local Section Summits held in the Washington, D.C., area in May 2006 and in March 2007.

Through these activities, LSAC recognized many of the challenges local sections face: developing new activities to interest members; maintaining a volunteer base that is being limited by members' numerous professional and personal commitments; meeting the career needs of members as increasing globalization impacts employment security; offering activities with the help of modern technology while continuing to deliver value to seasoned members; and overcoming a perception by some that local sections—and professional associations in general—may be obsolete.

Even with these challenges, we believe that local sections provide value to the membership that cannot be achieved by any other means. We are local and therefore can have face-to-face conversations with one another, deliver customized activities that meet the particular needs of our local area, and reach out to teachers and students striving to teach and to learn chemistry in our community's schools. This uniqueness is a call to articulate the future.

Our discussions in 2006 led to defining a vision for local sections???"ACS Local Sections Connect Chemistry and the Community"???and identifying six priority areas (highlighted in bold) of focus to better serve the ACS membership and the public. For ACS members, local sections must provide community-building opportunities through real and virtual networking and mentoring and leadership opportunities for younger chemists to help them establish their careers and achieve their goals.

In a rapidly changing world where knowledge quickly becomes obsolete, ACS local sections must also provide professional development opportunities for members and continuing education in both technical and nontechnical areas such as career management and development services. In the public realm, our local sections must be advocates for chemistry by supporting science education, promoting science-friendly government policy, and working to increase understanding of and appreciation for the sciences through public outreach.

As a result of the vision for local sections, the committee modified the annual report questionnaire, submitted each February by the respective local sections, to reflect the six priority areas of focus for the future. Furthermore, to strengthen public outreach to local communities, the committee implemented the Science Café project and made grants available to local sections to conduct the cafés.

The 2007 summit attempted to take the broad concepts discussed during the 2006 summit and develop them into new activities and programs for local sections to implement. LSAC is using the summit activity as a springboard to help sections implement activities around our six focal points. Later this year, anticipate a program to help your local section celebrate the 20th anniversary of National Chemistry Week. LSAC is also encouraging the continuation of Science Cafés this year.

In the months and years ahead, look out for other new initiatives rolling out as ACS local sections continue to "connect chemistry and the community." Remember, although chemistry is global, we must act locally to have the greatest impact in our community, through our local sections.

Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of ACS.


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