As executive vice president of the Education Division at the American Chemical Society (ACS), LaTrease Garrison has the unique opportunity to oversee both professional development and education. Recently celebrating her 25-year anniversary at ACS, LaTrease has a wealth of knowledge, not only in the world of chemistry, but also in the worlds of learning and development.
In this episode of the Leading Learning podcast, Celisa talks with LaTrease about how her career at ACS has evolved over the years, the important role that learning plays in their organization, and the current struggles and opportunities that exist for them and others in the business of lifelong learning.
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[00:18] – Thank you to YourMembership, the podcast sponsor for the third quarter of 2017. YourMembership’s learning management system is specifically designed for professional education with a highly flexible and intuitive system that customizes the learning experience. YourMembership’s LMS seamlessly integrates with key systems to manage all of your educational content formats in one central location while providing powerful tools to create and deliver assessments, evaluations, and learning communities.
[01:05] – Highlighted Resource of the Week – Adventures in Chemistry – an initiative from the American Chemical Society designed for kids to explain the core concepts of chemistry. This is a different type of learning initiative than what you might normally see from trade and professional associations, with the idea of building knowledge and familiarity within the profession/field/industry you serve.
[03:39] – Introduction to LaTrease and some background information about ACS and her role there.
[05:45] – At the time that you took over as EVP of the Education Division at ACS, there was also a bit of reorganization—the Professional Education group merged with the Education Division. What drove that decision to merge PD with Education? LaTrease explains that many years ago, the professional education group was actually housed in the education division so technically it’s gone back to how it was initially. When you look at the current landscape of the education division—because they have many programs that promote the concept of continuous learning and continuing education—this makes it the perfect home for the Professional Education group. Essentially, she explains that by reuniting education and professional education, you have more resources to draw on to serve their wide range of learners.
[07:50] – Being EVP of the Education Division at ACS is a relatively new role for you but you’ve been at ACS for a long time. It’s my sense that a lot of folks that wind up working in education and professional development don’t have a background in those areas. Is that true for you? And, more broadly, will you tell us about your evolution at ACS including how and why you gravitated to education and PD? LaTrease shares that she recently celebrated 25 years at ACS in June but her journey started very uniquely as a summer intern from Howard University. She talks about how her career progressed from there and that the common thread has always come back to her passion for learning and helping others.
[13:36] – How do you approach your own lifelong learning? LaTrease says that for her, learning never stops and it’s a great way for her to keep things fresh and exciting. She points out that when you’ve been with an organization as long as she has been with ACS, you naturally seek out opportunities to learn creative and innovative ways to get your job done. LaTrease approaches any learning opportunity with an open mindset—her rule of thumb is if she’s going to be engaged in some type of learning opportunity, she thinks of what two things (at a minimum) she can take away to either implement or share with others. She also looks at organizations such as the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) and shares how they have had a positive impact on her growth. And she looks for things that are not necessarily time consuming but things that fit within her timeframe and schedule.
[16:44] – What role does learning playing in the life of ACS and its overarching strategy? LaTrease emphasizes that the role learning plays is actually pretty critical and when you look at the four core values of ACS, one of them in particular speaks to the passion for chemistry and the global chemistry enterprise. This core value includes supporting investments in education, training, entrepreneurship, research, and innovation, which is a clear indication of how important education and learning is to the society. In addition, their strategic plan is comprised of four goals—two of those goals have components that are directly related to education, training, and learning. She adds they are very much in tune to ensuring that chemistry is taught in a manner that everyone can learn, that the research is prevalent, and that they’re thinking from a research-based perspective in terms of how students should learn chemistry. Also, the fact that they have an Education division emphasizes how much they really do value education and learning.
[19:25] – What do you see as the major opportunities and threats for ACS—and maybe associations in general—as a provider of lifelong learning? LaTrease says one of the things they have a careful watch over is how the chemical industry is responding to training for their employees. The target audience for their professional education group was industrial employees but as they’re seeing more instrumentation coming out, new ways of doing certain research, etc. there are other agencies and groups that are providing that training. Because of this, they are thinking about what the right positioning is for ACS in terms of training. The opportunity that correlates directly to this is they are in a unique position to help the chemical industry identify talent gaps with their new hires. The other opportunity they have is related to chemical safety. When she thinks about ACS helping to develop to help the future workforce, LaTrease says they are really looking more at 2-year colleges and how they’re becoming the pipeline for highly skilled employees. And she thinks they can really help to form those partnerships/collaborations to fill the gaps in terms of training that may be missing.
[24:11] – Where do you see organizations or individual leaders struggling the most in the current learning landscape? LaTrease thinks some of it comes down to ensuring you have global-minded and global-ready staff that are really looking for those learning opportunities. For her and other ACS staff, it’s about trying to figure out how to expand what they’re currently offering to the larger audience. As the world expands and evolves, they want to make sure that everyone is trained in the same mindset and playing field in terms of their knowledge base/skill set. They are struggling with how to introduce their partners and other chemists into what it is that ACS offers from a learning perspective. LaTrease points out that most organizations, as they are trying to grow their membership, are likely dealing with what the impact is of being a more global organization.
[26:16] – What’s going on in learning these days that most excites you? This could an exciting initiative at ACS or a trend or development that excites you as an individual lifelong learner. LaTrease shares that for her, because she can just focus now specifically on the learning concept in her new position, it’s given her the opportunity to set a new strategy for the division as a whole. She says she’s really pleased with the services they have been able to provide for learners and acknowledges that is really rewarding to impact, not only the people they’re teaching, but the people they’re teaching—so it’s a great snowball effect. She talks about some of the programs they have that allow them to provide funding and training to a chemist who may want/need to make a transition into a new chemical education type of career which has a lot of great benefits.
[29:56] – How to connect with LaTrease and/or ACS:
- Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: https://www.acs.org/
- If you have children and want to expose them to chemistry, check out Adventures in Chemistry
[31:02] – Wrap Up
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[32:42] – Sign off