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For Director-At-Large: Willem R. Leenstra

September 14, 2015 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 93, Issue 36

ACS director-at-large candidate Willem R. Leenstra.

Green Mountain Section. University of Vermont, Burlington

Academic record: California State University, Hayward, B.S., 1969; University of Washington, Ph.D., 1979

Honors: ACS Fellow, 2015; Kroepsch-Maurice Teaching Award finalist, University of Vermont, 2012–15; E. Ann Nalley ACS Northeast Region Award for Volunteer Service to ACS, 2009; Emerald Award, ACS Green Mountain Section, 2006; Graduate Teaching Award, University of Washington, 1974

Professional positions (for past 10 years): University of Vermont, associate professor, 1986– , special assistant to the provost, 2002–03, department chair, 1999–2002, 1991–92; Endyne Environmental Testing Laboratory, cofounder, 1987

Service in ACS national offices: Committee on Budget & Finance, 2014–16, 2013, Program Review Action Group, 2008–09; Council Policy Committee (voting), 2010–12, (nonvoting), 2007–09, Task Force on Duties & Responsibilities, 2012; Committee on Meetings & Expositions, 2004–09, chair, 2007–09, ReACT Task Force, 2005–07; Committee on Local Section Activities, 1998–2003, committee associate, 1997

Service in ACS offices:Green Mountain Section: councilor, 1996–2016, 1985–89; chair, 1993–95, 1984–85; chair-elect, 1992–93, 1983–84; alternate councilor, 1990–95; secretary, 1982–84. Northeast Region: board vice chair, 2014; board secretary, 2005–07. Northeast Regional Meeting: 35th Northeast Regional Meeting (NERM), general chair, 2008; 24th NERM, general chair, 1994

Member: Member of ACS since 1975. ACS Divisions: Chemical Education, Inorganic Chemistry, Physical Chemistry

Related activities: University of Vermont, General Chemistry Assistance for ALANA & Diversity Students, organizer, 2014; Committee on Budget & Finance, Subcommittee on Program Funding Requests, 2013–14; Council Policy Committee (CPC), Subcommittee on Long-Range Planning, 2011–12; CPC, Subcommittee on Constitution & Bylaws, 2010–12; 43rd IUPAC World Chemistry Congress, “Materials Science” symposium, invited speaker, San Juan, P.R., 2011; NERM, “Layered Materials,” symposium organizer, 2008; NERM, “Layered & Optical Materials,” invited symposium organizer, 2007; 4th International Conference on Porphyrins & Phthalocyanines, invited speaker, Rome, 2006; Committee on Meetings & Expositions, Regional Meetings Subcommittee, chair, 2006; Pearson Publishing, consultant

Leenstra’s Statement

Fellow Councilors: I am honored to have been invited to stand for election as a candidate for director-at-large. I accepted the candidacy because I feel that my background and experience, both within ACS as well as outside of it, compose just the right preparation to take on this call to serve. Since this would be my first term on the board, I will not be presumptuous and recommend changes in the way the board conducts itself. Instead, I ask you to please consider my condensed record of experience, in addition to some broad ideas I would like to pursue if elected director, as outlined below.

Professional background. My academic history covers a diversity of institutional types, and having appreciated what each has to offer, I feel that I can weigh in on matters of chemical education whenever such should present itself. Currently I am a chemistry professor at a small research university with a vibrant graduate program.

Academic leadership. On two separate occasions, my departmental colleagues and the dean, respectively, asked me to lead the department as chair when unanticipated vacancies occurred. More recently, the university provost appointed me as special assistant serving on our institution’s first contract-negotiating team after the faculty voted to unionize.

Entrepreneurial experience. Since ACS membership consists of only about 50% academic chemists, it is valuable to have some “real world” experience. I have that: I was the cofounder of an environmental testing laboratory. The experience left me with an appreciation for the challenges that a small chemical business faces.

Diversity initiative. Our university has invested substantial resources in attracting ALANA [African, Latino(a), Asian, and Native American] students to diversify its student body. Many of these students are underprepared coming out of high school and have difficulties in the sciences in particular. To retain these students, I put into place a science-targeted, organized tutorial effort in which ALANA students are invited to spend a once-a-week, two-hour session in the ALANA Student Center’s home.

ACS leadership experience. I have been involved with ACS governance since the mid-1980s, serving as my local section’s secretary and as its chair for two terms. More pertinent to this candidate’s statement, I have been my local section’s councilor for 25 years. After seven years on the Local Section Activities Committee, I joined the Committee on Meetings & Expositions (M&E). You may remember me standing in front of you during ACS Council meetings when I was M&E chair for three years giving updates on improving the national (and regional) meetings as well as reporting on hard decisions I had to make to continue the financial viability of the national meeting. After a term on the Council Policy Committee, I currently serve on the Committee on Budget & Finance (B&F). Being a joint board-council committee, B&F has a large overlap of interests, and joint meetings, with the board. It has been an extremely valuable training ground in preparation to a potential position as director.

The future. ACS is a magnificent example of a professional organization “done right.” In reaction to constantly changing economic and social landscapes, we are regularly reconstituting membership benefits, and we are perpetually reviewing financial models by which to ensure fiscal health. This drive to always advance our society is only possible because of the exquisite partnership between an excellent staff and a dedicated group of councilors plus other volunteers. In that spirit of continual improvement, a couple of broad-stroke ideas come to mind that I would like to work on if elected director-at-large.

(1) My many years of being in active governance leadership positions leave me no doubt about the fact that the rank-and-file ACS members do not know, let alone appreciate, what the ACS Board does, nor how important its decisions are as they impact the lives of chemists. I would like to explore the idea of “Councilors as a Bridge” in which we devise a mechanism for councilors to take a proactive role as representatives that will make our society’s governance more transparent.

(2) In my role as vice chair of the ACS Northeast Region Board, I am very close to a recent idea that sprang from our executive committee: to develop an Atlantichem meeting similar to Pacifichem, which convenes in Hawaii every five years. Thus, I will push the board to support this idea as fully as was done for Pacifichem.

In conclusion, I believe that my extensive professional, leadership, and governance experience positions me well for effective contributions to the ACS Board of Directors. And I respectfully ask you for one of your votes for that position.

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