Starting an ACS Student Chapter

Ashley Springer of the Indiana Wesleyan University ACS student chapter tells how her chapter got off to a strong start.

Last updated 6/15/2021

Ashley Springer, student at Indiana Wesleyan University
Ashley Springer, from the ACS Student Chapter at Indiana Wesleyan University.

What inspired you to start an ACS student chapter at your school? What was the main thing you hoped to accomplish?

I was inspired to start a chapter because I thought it was important to become part of something bigger and be involved on a bigger scale. I also thought 

it would be a good inspiration for our school and other clubs. The main thing I hoped to accomplish was to get our club more exposure and to connect with other schools so we could learn from each other.

Tell us how you established your chapter. What were the steps in your process?

First, I researched what it meant to be an ACS student chapter and what it entailed. Second, I talked to my faculty advisor and officers about what we would need to accomplish to become an ACS student chapter, types of events to schedule, and trying out new experiments at events before becoming a chapter. Once it was decided that we wanted to become an ACS student chapter, I talked to the student members of our club about joining ACS to become ACS student members and helped them complete that process. Finally, I made sure that the club met all the requirements, planned for the future of the club, and filled out an application.

What role did your faculty advisors have in helping you establish the chapter? In what ways (if any) do they guide your chapter?

Our faculty advisor, Dr. Stephen Leonard, helped me understand and go through the requirements for an ACS student chapter, find members to be ACS student members, and plan for our club events. Our faculty advisor helps plan, coordinate, and figure out experiments for events. He also helps advertise to students, gives advice, and helps me connect to the right people to get everything coordinated.

Tell us about your chapter officers. Who are they, and what are their responsibilities? How were they selected?

The chapter officers are Ashley Springer (president), Rebekah Hoffmann (co-vice president), Megan Ferris (co-vice president), Megan Bernth (marketing), and Kyle Pessefall (secretary). The officers have a love of science and volunteering. 

We work well together and enjoy exposing other people to science. Officers are members of the club who volunteer themselves for a position, and the current officers decide on who they think would best suit the position and help further and benefit the club.

How did you recruit members? What strategy got you the most new members?

We recruit members through our marketing techniques and events. To get members and increase attendance, we use social media, personal emails, campus-wide emails, posters, word of mouth, chapel slides, T-shirts, and large signs, and we offer people opportunities to volunteer at events. We hold many fun events throughout the year. Some are aimed at college students to bring in members, and others are volunteer events that give our members the opportunity to be involved in the community. Our events are the strategy we use the most to get new members.

What was your first event? How did it go, and what did you learn from it?

Our first event was the Fire & Ice event. During this event, we used molecular gastronomy techniques to make liquid nitrogen ice cream. To ensure safety, we had a trained faculty member, and members were trained to properly use all of the equipment and techniques. We repeat the safety precautions to all participants and, depending on the experiment, we inform campus police. We hosted the Fire & Ice event to generate excitement about science and our club and to build community at the beginning of the year. The event was very successful because a lot of new students and existing members came to participate. We learned the best way to advertise for our events, the time and days that worked best for students, and what type of experiments students and members like.

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What ACS resources did you use to get the chapter started and continue its activities? What other resources do you use?

We received an ACS Student Chapter Starter Grant, which allowed us to purchase needed materials for events and improvements. Our club is also supported by our school’s Student Government Association, which gives us a budget to use to run our events. They also help expose our club to different resources.

What has been your biggest challenge so far, and how did you work through it?

The biggest challenge we face is making sure our attendance is up and our members are staying involved. We work through it by advertising our events, changing things up, and adding new experiments to events to keep everyone interested and bring in new students.

What advice would you give someone trying to start a chapter?

I would advise them to never give up, have fun with it, use your resources, and make sure you are keeping everyone involved and up to date on the process. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from people or other clubs.

Has your chapter collaborated with other groups  (e.g., university clubs, ACS student chapters, ACS Technical Divisions, or other professional societies)? 

We have had the great opportunity to collaborate with different university clubs at our school and the local public library. With the other clubs, we put on experiments and different booths at homecoming, the Riley Children’s Hospital Dance Marathon, the greenhouse plant sale, and the new student orientation. We also have been involved with the local public library’s Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM) event, where we set up kid-friendly experiments that community kids come in and participate in, which exposes them to the world of science.

What do you hope to achieve next year?

We hope to continue expanding our membership and outreach programs. We would also like to collaborate with different ACS student chapters on different events. Also, we will be working on expanding professional development opportunities to officers and members by trying to attend ACS conferences and allowing our members and officers the chance to lead planning committees for events.