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ACS News

September 11, 2006
Volume 84, Number 37
p. 37


Volunteers As Leaders

E. Ann Nalley, ACS President

Peter Cutts Photography

One of the well-known facts about volunteer-led organizations like the American Chemical Society is that members who volunteer tend to be members who stay involved. Each of us has our own story of how we became involved in ACS. For some of us, it was volunteering at the local section level; for others, it was helping to organize a symposium for a technical division; for yet others, it may have been a request to serve on a committee of the society. Regardless of where we started our volunteer involvement, each one of us has helped make ACS successful in meeting the needs of chemists, chemical engineers, and allied professionals, and we all have benefited professionally and personally from our involvement with the society.

Another well-known fact about volunteer-led organizations is that the vibrancy of the organization reflects the vitality of its leadership. As "The Chemistry Enterprise in 2005" report showed us, the chemical enterprise of tomorrow will be different from today's, as today's enterprise is different from yesterday's. Although filled with unlimited opportunity, excitement, and promise, the chemical enterprise of tomorrow will be a changed one, and ACS will need to meet the evolving needs of its members.

During my year as president, it has become clear to me that to ensure ACS's future, we must do a better job of engaging our younger members throughout the society's volunteer leadership ranks today. We can no longer afford to consider them tomorrow's volunteers. Rather, we must begin making them today's volunteers and leaders in our local sections, technical divisions, committees, council, and board of directors!

Although filled with unlimited opportunity, excitement,and promise, the chemical enterprise of tomorrow will be a changed one, and ACS will need to meet the evolving needs of its members.

Throughout these first two years of my presidential succession, I have used every opportunity to emphasize that the strength of ACS lies in service that our members provide to the society as volunteers. ACS could not operate so successfully without the support of our many generous volunteers who share their time and talents.

Our volunteers lead the society by serving as local section and division leaders, as members of the council, as student affiliate sponsors, as members of our many committees, and as the volunteer force that makes our National Chemistry Week the envy of every other scientific society. In addition, our editors, associate editors, reviewers, and members of editorial boards, while not strictly volunteers, provide the leadership in making ACS publications the pride of the society.

Our regional meetings remain strong and continue to grow through the outstanding leadership that organizers and steering committees provide, and we must not forget divisional program chairs and symposium organizers, who are responsible for the outstanding programs at our national meetings. Our tour speakers and other community outreach volunteers enhance our programs at the local level and provide links to the community to remind the public that ACS is working with its members to change people's lives through the transforming power of chemistry.

Thomas Jefferson said, "Every human mind feels pleasure in doing good for another." I believe many of our members maintain their membership because of the connections they build in the society through their dedicated volunteer service. At the ACS national meeting in San Francisco, I am asking the council to examine ways we can involve our younger members to enable this commitment during the early years of their membership. We can identify the characteristics of volunteers such as commitment, enthusiasm, time-management skills, skills in working with people, friendliness, ability to function as both a leader and a follower, and so forth, but it is difficult to identify that magic ingredient or spark that inspires our members to become volunteers and to spend many years of their lives in dedicated service to the society.

In San Francisco, a special feature of the presidential plenary session on carbon nanotubes will be focused on our younger members and students, who will serve as chairs of all the sessions during this four-day symposium. At this meeting, we will also be providing a new type of opportunity for our members to offer their services as volunteers. For the first time, ACS is sponsoring a community service program. I hope community service activity will be a regular part of future ACS meetings, next spring in Chicago and beyond.

The project was undertaken in conjunction with Hands On Bay Area, a San Francisco community service organization. Project sites include the San Francisco Zoo, and activities include cleanup, gardening, painting, and construction.

In addition to the recognition of the value of volunteer service to the society, I have taken every opportunity to thank and honor our members as volunteers. Four years ago, the board created a national award that honors one person each year for contributions made to the society through volunteer service. In an effort to expand this recognition, I created a regional volunteer service award this year to recognize an outstanding volunteer in each of the regions. I have encouraged local sections to create a volunteer service award if they do not already have one.

My efforts to recognize and honor volunteers will be a highlight of the San Francisco national meeting. There will be a reception on Tuesday afternoon prior to the presentation of the ChemLuminary Awards that will honor all ACS members for their volunteer service. The ChemLuminary Awards represent the society's annual focus on recognition of our dedicated volunteers. I hope to greet each of you at the reception in San Francisco and to have the opportunity to thank you in person for your volunteer service.

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

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