Chapter officers and faculty advisors share their ideas for obtaining new members
Inter American University of Puerto Rico
People are the heart of any ACS student chapter. Without new members to take on active roles, chapters can languish as older members graduate and move on. New members infuse vitality, skills, and experiences that ca
n benefit the chapter itself, the institution, and the broader community. Recruiting new members for your ACS student chapter can sometimes seem like a daunting challenge on a college campus, but having an active recruitment program is vital for your chapter’s success.
For many successful chapters, the first step is to form a membership committee charged with creating a recruitment strategy (sometimes, this same committee is also responsible for carrying out the planned recruitment activities). Below, chapter officers and faculty advisors describe how they are successfully recruiting new chapter members.
Consider recruiting incoming freshmen as chapter members. While many upperclassmen are over-extended with activities, freshmen are often an eager, but untapped, resource with few extracurricular commitments.
Some chapters begin recruiting freshmen during the summer, weeks before the fall term begins. Recruitment activities at The University of St. Thomas, Texas begin in July during the Science and Mathematics Summer Institute for entering freshmen. The chapter also has a booth at the Freshman Orientation Fair in August, before classes start. At both events, prospective members receive a brochure describing the advantages of becoming a chapter member, a listing of past activities, and planned activities for the upcoming year.
The student chapter at Xavier University of Louisiana also extends the welcome mat to freshmen before classes begin, sending invitations to all incoming new chemistry majors to join the ACS student chapter and participate in the university’s mentoring program for first-year students.
Veteran chapter members at the University of Detroit Mercy (UDM) add a personal touch to encourage freshmen majoring in chemistry and biochemistry to join the chapter by contacting them through Facebook or by e-mail. The members introduce themselves and attach their photo. If the freshmen later attend a meeting, they will see a familiar face and feel welcome. The chapter also teams up veteran members with new members during magic shows and other events. This also helps to break down the “age barrier” between freshmen and upperclassmen.
Believe it or not, sugar can also be used attract freshmen to your chapter. At the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), freshmen are invited to attend the student chapter’s Saccharide Social. This fall event gives freshmen an opportunity to check out the chapter in an informal setting while enjoying sweet treats. Members set up a small fire pit so guests can make s’mores. They also provide caramel apples, apple cider, and a few other treats for prospective members to enjoy.
The UMBC chapter also pairs potential members with experienced members and takes advantage of the ACS Member-Get-A-Member program. Not only do the students enjoy receiving the periodic table of elements blanket throws and backpacks, it’s also a way for members to interact with one another as well as meet some of the chemistry faculty.
Visit chemistry classes
The ACS student chapter at South Texas College begins its membership recruitment activities on the first day of classes each semester. Members visit the general chemistry and organic chemistry classes and talk to the students about the chapter and the benefits of becoming a member. They distribute ACS membership applications and copies of C&EN and inChemistry to the students and pass around sign-up sheets so they can later contact interested students. Because South Texas College is an ACS student chapter at a two-year college, there is a greater student turnover rate than at a four-year institution — making member recruitment an ongoing necessity.
Participate in student involvement fairs
Involvement fairs also provide wonderful member recruiting opportunities. Each fall, the Campbell University student chapter participates in a campus street fair organized by the university. All university clubs and many organizations and companies from the surrounding area participate. The fair primarily serves as a way to introduce incoming students to the various clubs and opportunities around the campus. Chapter members pass out informational flyers and talk with students about joining the chapter. Participating in this event helps to bring in new members and increase the chapter’s visibility among students, faculty, and the community.
Provide incentives to join
Extra credit in chemistry class and food can also lure new members. At UDM, the ACS student chapter holds an annual fall recruitment barbeque, providing free hot dogs, soda, and other treats to passersby. To encourage science majors to attend, students from freshman and sophomore level courses have the opportunity to pick a random number of one-to-three bonus points for attending the barbeque, sign up on the club list server and have a small meet-and-greet with a veteran club member.
Offer a valuable resource
Offering a helping hand to new students when it’s needed most is also an excellent way to obtain new members. The student chapter at the University of Southern Indiana (USI) created the ACS Student Guide to the USI Chemistry Department booklet, which they distribute to new chemistry majors each year. This guide welcomes the students to the university and invites them to the chapter’s first meeting of the year. It includes photos from chapter events; lists benefits of becoming an ACS member; provides biographies and photos of faculty members; and lists important contact information. The guide also includes “A Beginner’s Survival Guide for Chemistry Classes” — tips and guidelines for succeeding as a chemistry major. (to see a copy of the student guide, visit the USI chapter website at http://www.usi.edu/science/chemistry/acs.asp)
Create Good Buzz
When potential members hear good things about a chapter from a trusted source, they are very likely to join. East Stroudsburg University employs word of mouth to spread the word to potential members about the chapter. Chapter members invite their friends to become members and instructors of junior and senior-level courses encourage their students to join the chapter. The East Stroudsburg University student chapter also holds its meetings in a public space, and it has recruited several passersby to join.
Begin chapter activities right away
It also pays to recruit members before they commit themselves to other campus activities. At the start of the fall term, the Xavier University of Louisiana chapter begins its first fund-raising activity: visiting all of the general chemistry lectures and lab courses to sell periodic tables and rules to students. Members introduce themselves to the students and invite them to attend the first chapter meeting. Adding to the momentum, the first meeting takes place the first week of school. Last fall, more than 100 students attended the meeting.
Create a welcoming atmosphere
Veteran members at the University of Arizona actively strive to create a friendly atmosphere for incoming new members. The veterans realize that devising a membership strategy that brings new members into their chapter is just the first step of an ongoing membership process. Every officer is encouraged to “meet and greet” new faces after each meeting is adjourned. This goes a long way toward retaining new and old members alike and keeping the chapter strong and active.
Whether you use some of all of these recruitment activities — or come up with effective ones all your own — it’s important to the health of your chapter to keep attracting new members. Not only will they make the activities you undertake this year more fun and rewarding … they’ll also be there to carry on the momentum you created after you move on to the next phase of your career!
Contributing to this article were Michael R. Adams (Xavier University of Louisiana), Ludivina Avila (South Texas College), Tara Carpenter (UMBC), Ben Dyer (Campbell University), Thomas B. Mall oy, Jr. (University of St. Thomas), Matthew J. Mio (UDM), Brett Stoll (University of Arizona).