I’m Annabelle Lolinco, one of the 16 undergraduate ACS student members who were awarded an unforgettable all-expenses-paid trip to the 2015 ACS Leadership Institute in Dallas, TX. My student chapter already had a presence at national meetings and the like, but coming in as the President-Elect, I wanted to elevate CHEM Club to new heights. I was just starting to get my feet wet as the student representative for my local section, and I wanted to have an even bigger impact on my community. So I applied for the ACS Student Leadership Institute award, and miraculously I was chosen, which changed my life.
This life-altering experience actually began the minute I left for the meeting, since I met several local sections leaders from around the nation while on the airport shuttle. As an undergraduate, I often felt like I would never get the opportunity to meet one-on-one with these types of leaders. Happily, I was mistaken because not only did I chat with them, but I also was able to give them some ideas to take back to their sections, and vice versa!
After that exciting commute, the very first thing I did, outside of checking into the hotel and absorbing reality, was have a late night chat session with some of my amazing peers! [Shout out to Chris Colomier, Seton Hall University (NJ); Theresa Dierker, University of Detroit Mercy (MI); Marco Lopez, East Los Angeles College (CA); and Maria Philip, Birmingham–Southern College (AL).] All of us were connected via Facebook and the ACS Undergraduate Programs Office (UPO) team, and we immediately hit it off in person as much as we did online. Even though I may have been jetlagged from traveling, I was so pumped to meet fellow student leaders. We talked about school, life back home, and our self-proclaimed geeky interests. This interaction made me so stoked for the coming days.
The schedule was jam-packed. The first day we learned about each other and gave input on our ACS student membership benefits. We debated about various subjects, from content in inChemistry—the undergraduate ACS magazine—to utilization of the new Student Chapters Online system, to how the College to Career website can be better laid out for our use. It was a great collaborative discussion. What was also interesting was how well we meshed together, even though we came from so many different regions and our student chapters were all in different stages. Some of us were from 2-year colleges rather than 4-year colleges, and some had just begun to establish the foundation for their clubs, while others were continuing a long tradition of engaging active student chemists. Our interests were also varied, such as environmental chemistry, marine chemistry, chemical engineering, analytical chemistry, and organic chemistry, to name a few. I was so proud to be a part of this wonderfully diverse group of people!
We started bright and early the next morning with Leadership Development courses, which were fantastic. I got to network with local section members, division board members, and international colleagues (and more!) as I honed important leadership skills like engaging and motivating volunteers and collaborating across boundaries. I acquired great ideas and feedback from everyone, and I couldn’t wait to return home with a plethora of new tools to use. The group student leaders got to represent Undergraduate Programming by answering student chapter questions at the ACS Resources Fair and Reception. While we succeeded in communicating to others what student chapters are capable of, we also got to explore different sections of ACS. I had no idea how many different branches make up the entirety of ACS, such as international activities, Chemistry Ambassadors, and Program-in-a-Box events. It was eye-opening!
Finally, the time to say our goodbyes had arrived, although I don’t think any of us were ready to go. I personally did not want this irreplaceable and unforgettable experience to end. I made so many new connections, which included, most importantly, the bonds I fostered with my fellow student leaders after those intense couple of days. Wrapping up was bittersweet, but I was excited to return home and show off what I learned. And of course we couldn’t go without leaving our mark for the Leadership Institute by taking a group selfie!
Beyond those magical days, we all have managed to keep relatively in touch, both online and occasionally in person. Quite a few of us represented our student chapters at the spring 2015 National ACS Meeting in Denver, CO, including resident student leader Jack Henderson from University of Colorado Denver, who showed all the guests student leaders around his university in between all the different ACS events. And a handful of us proudly represented our chapters at the most recent ACS National Meeting in Boston, MA.
If there was one thing I would do with ACS again, it would be applying for the Student Leadership Institute award. It was a wondrous and fulfilling experience, and in the aftermath I made a new set of friends and connections that I would have never known otherwise. The application for this year’s award is due October 19, 2015. Apply today!