The why and how
The decision to offer an ACS Recognition of Global Programs had its roots in the widening of the ACS’s worldwide visibility: The number of international student chapters has surged, the ACS on Campus program has greatly expanded its reach, and more and more international institutions have indicated their interest in an ACS endorsement for their chemistry bachelor’s degree programs, according to Jodi Wesemann, Ph.D., ACS Assistant Director for educational research. “At the same time, the world is becoming more global in the ways we collaborate, in the multi-institutional research opportunities, and in the movement of students and post-docs across borders.”
Those factors played into several years of consideration and exploration, including extensive ACS discussions and focus groups with representatives from international schools, and finally a pilot program. That work not only demonstrated that a global recognition program was a good idea, but also steered its development so it would be “beneficial to and respectful of people in other countries who have different educational systems and cultures,” she explained.
ACS Recognition of Global Programs is now active and open to applicants. The application process has two main parts: a self-assessment; and an ACS review of the program.
For the self-assessment, international schools take a comprehensive look at their program to identify strengths and weaknesses. “This gives our colleagues around the world an indication of where they might make a request for more resources or infrastructure, perhaps rethink the curriculum, or make other changes, and it can be really helpful even if they’re not quite to the level of fulfilling the guidelines across the board,” Wesemann said.
The ACS review uses a subset of the guidelines it employs for its domestic ACS approval, said Michelle Brooks, Ph.D., who is currently managing the global recognition program, in addition to her duties as senior manager of the ACS Undergraduate Education Office. “This review is a way of evaluating a department’s program from beginning to end, we look at the curriculum to make sure it covers all the fundamentals, check that they have things like modern instrumentation and access to chemistry literature, determine whether faculty have a reasonable amount of teaching and also have time to conduct research, for example,” she described. “And if the department meets all of those requirements, we confer the ACS recognition.”
Already, three departments have received the new ACS recognition: Universidad del Valle, Cali, in Colombia; Swansea University, in Swansea, Wales; and Mahidol University International College in Nakhon Pathom, Thailand. In addition, ACS is in conversation with several more departments that are interested in applying and is looking forward to hiring a full-time staff member to expand the global-recognition program even further.
The benefits of the global recognition program are many. For the institution, an ACS recognition works similarly to global validations already offered by the Royal Society of Chemistry in the UK and other professional societies, helping to build a school’s program and therefore reputation, which in turn can help attract students. “The idea is not to duplicate or replace efforts by other professional societies, but to offer schools multiple recognitions that together indicate they are doing the right thing for their students,” Brooks said.
Although graduates of the society-recognized programs do not receive an ACS-certified degree, their program’s ACS recognition can smooth the path to admission to graduate schools, including in the U.S., Brooks added. “Domestic graduate programs receive applications from international students, but unless someone in the department really knows the institution that they came from, it can be difficult to assess the undergraduate education the applicants received. ACS recognition can help with name recognition by showing that the applicant’s education is aligned with ACS guidelines.”
Another benefit for U.S. departments is that they now have a parameter for determining which international programs are good choices for their students seeking semesters abroad, noted Carroll. “In the past, it has been difficult to do that evaluation, because you often have no idea if the courses will translate back well. If a department has been recognized by ACS, however, you know that you’re sending your students to an adequate program.”
Beyond the advantages to already-existing international programs, the global recognition guidelines can be useful to forthcoming programs as well. “The ACS is comprised of members from across the globe, and we've have tapped into that expertise to develop the guidelines for both domestic approval and global recognition,” Brooks said, “so if an institution is starting from scratch to develop a chemistry undergraduate program, these guidelines can serve as a roadmap for incorporating best practices.”
For the ACS, the new recognition expands the organization’s impact around the world, providing even more opportunities to engage and learn from educational communities around the world, Wesemann said. “When we all work together, we’re all going to do a better job of educating our students, supporting our programs, and figuring out how we can prepare students better for careers in the global chemical enterprise.”
Brooks likewise saw the new recognition as a positive step forward. “It brings the ACS into the global education space, which is important as the world becomes smaller,” she remarked. “We want to be able to offer the same kind of opportunities to chemistry students globally, because, ultimately, we all benefit from that global mindset”
Designing and then refining the new global-recognition program has been a long process that has required many hours of dedicated work by ACS staff and committee members, and will require many more, but it is time and effort well-spent, said Carroll. Now that it is up and running, he added, “We welcome people to take note of the new Recognition for Global Programs, and come kick the tires with us.”
More information about the ACS Recognition of Global Programs, including a description of the international guidelines and a link to the apply for recognition, is available at Global Recognition Program, or by contacting the ACS Approval Program via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone at (202) 872-4589, or via mail to Office of Professional Training, American Chemical Society, 1155 16th St., NW, Washington, D.C. 20036.