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Supporting A Diverse Profession And Inclusive Community

by Diane Grob Schmidt, District II Director and Chair, Board Committee on Professional & Member Relations
December 6, 2010 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 88, Issue 49

Diane Grob Schmidt
Credit: Courtesy of Diane Grob Schmidt
District II Director and Chair, Board Committee on Professional & Member Relations
Credit: Courtesy of Diane Grob Schmidt
District II Director and Chair, Board Committee on Professional & Member Relations

What must the American Chemical Society do to take a greater leadership role in developing a community of chemistry professionals that reflects the diversity of the populace? Is our commitment to these values apparent to our membership and the chemistry community? The Task Force on Implementing the ACS Diversity Reports grappled with questions similar to these during 2009 and made a presentation to the ACS Board of Directors in March 2010. The task force report is available on the ACS website at

Immediately following the presentation, Thomas H. Lane, 2009 ACS president, and Joseph S. Francisco, 2010 ACS president, recommended that the ACS Board Committee on Professional & Member Relations (P&MR) take the lead and respond to the opportunities outlined in the task force report.

As a first step, P&MR prioritized and categorized the task force recommendations and sought input from key governance stakeholders on current and planned activities under way in these areas. The recommendations were categorized into four major themes: programmatic, education, communication, and governance. Recommended next steps were developed, and key governance units were contacted for input and support.

In the programmatic area, the Committee on Minority Affairs (CMA) is considering the establishment of a travel grant program to increase participation and representation of underrepresented groups at ACS national and regional meetings. The Leadership Advisory Board has agreed to take steps to ensure that diversity and inclusion are incorporated into the ACS leadership course offerings.

In support of the education theme, the Committee on Professional Training (CPT) and the Society Committee on Education (SOCED) are working to broadly disseminate successful models to facilitate the transition of underrepresented racial and ethnic students in chemistry between two- and four-year colleges as well as to facilitate their retention. At the past three Biennial Conferences on Chemical Education, the two committees organized joint symposia bringing together faculty from two-year colleges and from institutions that offer bachelor’s degrees to discuss issues of common interest, including diversity.

Supporting the communication theme, CPT and CMA are drafting a joint letter to all attendees of recent CPT/SOCED diversity workshops communicating the outcomes of the Task Force on Implementing the ACS Diversity Reports.

In the governance area, P&MR recommended that the existing Joint Subcommittee on Diversity (JSD) be reinvented and reconstituted to lead the society’s effort to support a diverse profession and inclusive community. The new entity, the Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Board (D&I), is charged with advancing the recommendations resulting from the task force report, including the development of a diversity strategic plan and the completion of the diversity activities inventory developed by the task force.

D&I will report through P&MR and have broad representation from other ACS units. This expansion of what started as a grassroots, self-assembled group acknowledges and builds upon the work that had already been started in the area of diversity and inclusion, but lends those efforts formal authority from the ACS Board of Directors through P&MR. JSD will essentially disband at the end of the year and reconstitute with additional stakeholders.

This new advisory board will be tasked with tracking progress of recommendations resulting from the task force, in addition to developing and sustaining a long-term vision and coordinating with stakeholders.

D&I will also take the lead with key ACS units in developing relationships and partnerships with other like-minded, diversity-related advocacy scientific organizations. For example, the advisory board will look to strengthen existing relationships with organizations including the American Indian Science & Engineering Society (AISES), the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists & Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE), and the Society for the Advancement of Hispanics/Chicanos & Native Americans in Science (SACNAS). We also realize that the organizations engaged will evolve and expand as time goes on.

In developing a diversity strategic plan and outreach efforts, D&I will use the broad definition of diversity consistent with the ACS Statement on Diversity, which can be viewed at The advisory board will share the long-term vision and goals with ACS communities and engage ACS divisions, local sections, and committees to increase the impact of successful programs and activities already in place. The goal is to foster greater involvement from our diverse membership and better represent the chemical enterprise.

We know that building a diverse community requires sustained effort, and the Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Board is just a piece of the effort to move ACS forward. It will take not only a sustained effort but also assistance and awareness in every part of the work that we do on behalf of our profession. We all have a part in ensuring that we stay true to our core organizational values and demonstrating that we are passionate and committed to building a diverse and inclusive community of highly skilled chemistry professionals.

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