From the Chair, Cathy Middlecamp, Fall 2016

Cathy MiddlecampTwo F-words
By Cathy Middlecamp, Chair of the Division of Chemical Education

In 2004, when Frank Torre turned over the reins as the incoming CHED Program chair, he gave me one piece of advice: “Be fair.”
I never forgot his words. 
What did Frank mean by being fair?  Fair has several meanings, including

  • free from bias, dishonesty, or injustice1
  • in accordance with the rules or standards; legitimate2
  • treating people in a way that does not favor some over others3

 Over the course of my three-year term, I learned the wisdom of his advice.  Fair meant that speakers in a symposium could not be favored over other speakers (Long-winded folks need to be stopped when their time speaking is up).  Fair meant in accordance with the ACS even-programming rules (Oh did I get scolded once by an NSF program officer who thought otherwise).  And fair meant that I legitimately requested of ExComm that the Program chairs be given a per diem for as many days as they remained on site to shepherd the program (I didn’t benefit from this, those after me did). 

Most importantly, though, “fair” meant that I kept my word and did the job entrusted to me.  It would not have been fair to the Division members to have taken the reins from Frank and done otherwise. 

Serving as your CHED program chair for six national ACS meetings (seven if you count an extra that came my way) hit the top of the charts for time-on-task as a CHED volunteer. But I loved it!  I got to work with a group of smart and can-do meeting co-chairs:  Koni Stone & Cinzia Muzzi, San Diego 2005; Conrad Bergo & Vic Shanbhag, DC 2005; Stacey Lowery Bretz, & Renee Cole, Atlanta 2006; Boyd Earl & Joe March, San Francisco, 2006; Wayne Jones & George Bodner, Chicago, 2007; Ingrid Montes & Maria Oliver-Hoyo, Boston, 2007.  The symposium organizers and members on the CHED Program Committee were super.  Couldn’t have asked for a better team. 

Now, a decade later, I’m at the mid-point of my three-year cycle as Chair of the Division.
What advice would I give to an incoming chair?

Before I answer this, again serving as a member of the chair succession is hitting the top of the charts for time-on-task as a CHED volunteer.  Again it has been rewarding to work with a group of smart and can-do people:  Marcy Towns, MaryKay Orgill and Don Wink as fellow chairs, Resa Kelly as Secretary, Anna Wilson as Treasurer, and Heather Johnson as our CHED executive assistant.  Couldn’t have asked for a better team.

Being fair still strikes me as good advice.  We all – your officers and committee chairs – need to perform the tasks entrusted to us.  Some of these tasks, as I have come to learn, require expertise outside of our own.  As a result, Marcy, MaryKay and I have teamed up with others in the Division to hire professionals to perform these tasks.  Look for a parliamentarian, for example, at our next Executive Committee meeting (actually, Jordan Harshman IS one of our own, co-chair of YCES, Younger Chemical Education Scholars Committee). Also at Philly, look for an announcement that we are signing a contract for the BCCE to tap the expertise of LaTrease Garrisson’s team at the ACS in order to employ MAPS for the abstracts and program.  On the heels of the Philly, look for discussions of hiring a meeting planner, also for the BCCE.

As your chair, I have come to learn another f-word:  fiduciary. Down the line, if an incoming CHED chair were to ask me for a piece of advice, my response would be “Be fiduciary.”

Hmmm.  Fiduciary is both a noun and an adjective.

So this works as well: “Be a fiduciary.” Frankly, neither sentence just rolls of my tongue.  I’m not good at fugacity either.

As I came to learn, I wasn’t the only one who needed to better understand the fiduciary responsibilities of our CHED Executive Committee.  So at the 2016 spring meeting in San Diego, we held an afternoon workshop to better understand the meaning of this f-word. Hey, none of us on the Executive Committee are lawyers! 

But we knew a lawyer.  Thankfully, in San Diego we had the help and expertise of Dave Smorodin, ACS legal counsel, to guide us.  Dave pointed out that “Fiduciary duty is a legal duty to act for another’s benefit.”  In bullet points:

  • It is a legal duty.
  • It places reliance on us to act.
  • And the benefit is accrued by another.

As Jon Hockman, our facilitator at the meeting in San Diego pointed out to those assembled: “The Division was feeling vulnerable because practices were missing that needed to be in place.”  He added: “All fiduciary responsibility with the Executive Committee.  Crystal clear.”

We, the Executive Committee of your Division, are working to put needed practices in place that have been missing.  Thanks to the work of several folks (stay tuned), we are revisiting our Ops Manual and our By-Laws.  Check out the helpful article in this Newsletter by incoming chair MaryKay!

We also have the resources to hire professionals; we are deploying these resources. We have a great set of people who are volunteering their time.  These professionals will support your work and allow you to better carry out the responsibilities entrusted to you.

Be fair!  Thank you Frank, for your words of wisdom. 

Be fiduciary!  Thank you good colleagues in the Division, for helping me to learn why this word is key to the work of our Division.

Thanks for reading.

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