News from the Exams Institute, Fall 2015

Greetings from ACS Exams where there are many changes underway as we round the corner on 2015.

As of July 1st, Tom Holme has concluded thirteen years as the ACS Exams Director.  Tom has provided leadership for the Exams Institute and the Chemical Education community that has helped transform what the Exams Institute is and how it is able to operate.  Under his Directorship, ACS Exams has become solid financially, a leader in Chemical Education Research and an integral component in many professional development and volunteer endeavors.  Tom has been an outstanding leader, mentor, colleague, friend and advocate joining an elite group of past Directors of great caliber.

Due in part to the leadership from Tom, ACS Exams is a solid business, both operationally and financially.  The financial stability in particular has allowed for new, exciting opportunities. One such opportunity that has been implemented due to the dedicated efforts of DivCHED Chair, Marcy Towns, is the sponsorship of the “ACS Award for Achievement in Research for the Teaching & Learning of Chemistry” through an endowment such that this award will enjoy stable funding in perpetuity.

2015 is also the final year of Stacey Lowery Bretz’s tenure on the Board of Trustees.  Stacey has served on the Board since 2003 and as the Chair of the Board from 2009-2014.  Stacey has shown excellent leadership and guidance in all of her time on the Board, and she will be truly missed around the board table.

As suggested by the changes noted above, new faces and new positions at ACS Exams are numerous.  I took over as Director as of July 1st.  I recognize the challenges and responsibilities we face, and the exciting new possibilities we have.  Starting at the beginning of the year, Alex Grushow has been serving as the Chair of the Board of Trustees.  Alex has already shown excellent leadership through the many changes that have taken place this year.  Starting July 1st, Jeff Raker of the University of South Florida is the new Associate Director.  Tom Holme has agreed to remain with ACS Exams for one year as the Assistant Director of Business Operations.  Julie Adams remains as the Assistant Director of Online Operations.  Finally, Kristie Romsdahl joins us as the new Office Manager, and Jana Taylor joins us as the new shipping clerk.

The transition of ACS Exams to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee delves into new changes as well.  As of July 1st, operations are split between UW-Milwaukee and Iowa State University where the fulfillment center remains.  This arrangement will be in place for one year as new business operation models are considered by the Board of Trustees.  Regardless of the location of ACS Exams or the fulfillment center for ACS Exams, all operations have transitioned smoothly so far with no interruptions or disruptions to operations. Users can still reach us by email at and by phone at 1-800-854-1672.

While there are new faces and many changes at ACS Exams, we continue to face issues related to maintaining the security of the intellectual property of ACS Exams.  Although security issues such as illegal postings of scans of the study guides are not new, new challenges related to technology are arguably becoming a more prominent concern.  In the past six months, there has been an increase in the number reports to us about images of released exams taken by students with their cell phones.  There is also evidence that students may have been using or circulating these images with classmates while they “prepare” for their exams.  We are happy to report that our investigation of all of these instances indicate that the possible circulation and/or use have been local and mitigated through working with instructors and personnel at the local institutions.  However, these events do provide a motivation to consider altering some of our practices related to security.  Additionally, because it is common practice that a department may purchase exams for a course that is taught by many instructors, we anticipate creating an exam use document of clear rules and guidelines to help departments coordinate security efforts of all local users of purchased exams.  We are in the process of trademarking ACS Exams for a greater increase in the visibility and identity of our brand.  Finally, we are looking into what we’ll need to accomplish the goal of decreasing the time gap on exam production for high-use exams.  For example, the organic chemistry (full year) exam is released on a four-year cycle.  This will likely be reduced to a two-year cycle.  Concurrent to this, we will also continue to enhance the online exam delivery capabilities for all secure exams.

As always, ACS Exams would not function without the numerous and dedicated board members, exam committee chairs and members and the focus group participants.  The highest quality work that ACS Exams has the honor of producing is only possible due to the many, many people who contribute to this work.  It continues to be a humbling and extraordinary experience working with you all.  And, if you are interested in working with us on exam committees or through development projects, please let us know.  For this and all other concerns or matters related to ACS Exams, please feel free to contact me at

We thank you all for your continued support of ACS Exams and look forward to an exciting future!

Best to you all,
Kristen Murphy

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