2022 AIChE President’s Letter: Advancing AIChE — What Is Our “Next”

Happy New Year! As we enter 2022, I would like to pose a question: What happens when dedicated individuals come together to empower one another collectively toward excellence in chemical engineering? 

Answer: They create a thriving, economically viable ecosystem that promotes multidisciplinary interactions, identifies global solutions to engineering’s grand challenges, and educates the next generation of engineering leaders while “doing a world of good.” I am excited that AIChE continues to thrive and exceed expectations — ensuring that our constituents’ needs in industry, academia, and government are met with relevant initiatives. 

And then there is the pandemic.

The world-changing events of the pandemic have resulted in a series of paradigm shifts in decision-making, short- and long-term planning, and economic forecasting for individuals and organizations alike. As of this writing, COVID-19 variants are looming, and we face many unknowns in 2022 and beyond. Many of us have changed our working configurations; most of us have experienced job-related disruptions, working full- or part-time from home. Some have even bravely pursued entrepreneurial ventures. 

As an organization, AIChE continues to address these shifts, paying close attention to the projected changes that will impact us all. It is vitally important that we leverage our Center for Chemical Process Safety (CCPS), the RAPID Manufacturing Institute, and our other innovative entities. As we foster adaptation to new systems of learning that link industry and academia, AIChE continues to develop mechanisms to provide training, certification, and new opportunities for our constituents in the global workforce.

While we cannot predict the long-term financial, supply chain, and education impacts on our endeavors, we must work together. At this stage, I believe that the critical elements facing our profession are related to how we emerge from the pandemic — as a profession, as organizations, and as individuals in the global community. We have the chance to determine what our response will be to the changing needs of our profession in the realms of biotechnology, sustainability, manufacturing, and education.

The good news.

AIChE has a robust strategic plan that touches all segments of the Institute. The key to strategic planning in uncertain times is to be clear about our values and goals while figuring out what has changed, what has not changed, and what is still uncertain. While the pandemic has been disruptive, we are well-positioned as an organization to move into our “next.” Our approach includes a reevaluation of the strategic plan, a determination of our common values and interests, and consideration of the suitability of the current components. This will provide a framework for our “next.”

In economic terms, AIChE’s revenue in 2021 exceeded 2020’s actual revenue, and the 2021 total change in net assets significantly exceeded expectations.

On another front, we continue to celebrate AIChE’s adoption of the new IDEAL (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Anti-racism and Learning) path (IDEAL). As IDEAL permeates the organization, we are seeing our entities and members actively pursue a culture of change. 

Also, AIChE’s Institute for Learning and Innovation (ILI) is developing innovative programs that enable learners of all ages (and career stages) to keep pace with the profession’s evolving skill requirements — from college to the workplace. We invite you to engage with ILI and find the entry point to empower your own learning and career growth. 

Celebrating success: Appreciating our members, staff, and key partners.

AIChE’s dedicated and resourceful staff work diligently to execute conferences, generate scholarly publications, and provide professional development opportunities for students and AIChE professionals. The Institute’s recent series of virtual conferences required the AIChE team to pivot to delivering program content online, reconfigure the registration structure, and redefine program elements. The virtual meeting venues enabled many conference attendees to participate for the first time — in particular, our global student and professional members who may have been constrained in the past by travel limitations. 

However, there is “no place like home,” and in November our 2021 Annual Meeting convened in person in Boston, MA, with an online continuation of the meeting a week later. 

AIChE is also contributing to society through the individual and corporate supporters of the AIChE Foundation. In December, we were able to gather in person again at the 2021 AIChE Gala. At this amazing event, more than 200 participants gathered in New York City to celebrate the groundbreaking leadership that launched the Future of STEM Scholars Initiative (FOSSI) — which provides four-year scholarships to students attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). The associated programs in mentoring, internships, and career development are further evidence that we are “doing a world of good.”

Also, as we enter a new year, AIChE has begun a search for a new Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer to succeed June C. Wispelwey, who is retiring in spring 2022. Speaking for all of us, I want to express our profound thanks to June for her extensive service, innovative leadership, and dedication to growing our thriving organization. Our search committee is working to ensure a strong cadre of candidates and planning for a smooth and effective transition.

Our collective “next.”

Your engagement with AIChE drives our organizational growth. Through AIChE, we have an incredible opportunity to connect with each other, outside of our immediate circles. Those who are outside your “comfort zone” may serve as beneficial connections as you pursue new areas of technology and even new job opportunities. 

How can you interface with people and organizations who may become part of your professional life for the long term? Student members who become member professionals have an opportunity to participate in AIChE’s Young Professionals Community, interface with local sections, and glean knowledge via the vast array of conferences, seminars, and workshops delivered annually. For established professionals, we invite you to renew your membership and engagement in the organization whose purpose is to help you to achieve your “next!”

Christine S. Grant, 2022 AIChE President

Become an AIChE member or renew your membership today.