The Society for Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science, better known as SACNAS, hosted an interactive workshop on Jan. 19 to help foster effective communication in the scientific community. This event launched the UT Health SACNAS chapter, which is returning their presence to campus in hopes of empowering underrepresented minorities to pursue success in STEM fields with the mission of one day achieving true diversity in professional and academic settings alike.
“The Hispanic population is estimated to reach almost 30 percent of the total population in the United States this year. This is hugely under represented by the 6 percent of Hispanics that have an achieved an advanced degree in a STEM field,” said the SACNAS president Shaimar Gonzalez.
Liliana Espinoza, secretary of the SACNAS chapter, spoke next and explained what SACNAS means to her.
“I was the first to graduate high school in my family, let alone go to college or pursue a graduate degree. Throughout my collegiate career I had amazing mentors who understood the importance of diversity. They pushed me and encouraged me to pursue my dreams, no matter how big they were. One of my mentors was a SACNAS member, she not only led me to this organization but played a pivotal role in my decision to pursue a professional degree.” Liliana went on to say, “This is why societies like SACNAS are extremely important. We are here to lead by example and show future leaders of tomorrow that they too can pursue careers in the STEM field.”
SACNAS aims to help in the advancement of minorities in science by providing platforms where peers can network, engage in research, find a mentor or learn skills through workshops such as this one. For this particular event Dr. Bernadette Hamilton-Brady, a theater professor from St. Mary’s, came to share her expertise on effective communication.
Looking in on the Holly Auditorium on Friday around 6 o’clock would have led many to see an unusual sight. Dr. Bernadette Hamilton-Brady started out the night by loosening everyone’s muscles, minds and inhibitions by encouraging this group of serious young professionals to wiggle, stretch, grunt and even stick their tongues out at each other. After everyone had stretched, slapped, jumped and even poked him or herself it was time to partner up.
“Put your hand in front of your partner’s face and pretend there is a string about four inches long connecting their face to your hand. Now move your hand around and your partner’s face should follow where ever you lead your hand, now go crazy!” said St Mary’s professor Hamilton-Brady. Though at first reluctant and shy, the confusion of the group soon collectively softened into laughter and comfort.
Now that this group of strangers was a little more relaxed, the sights were shifted to group activities. Possibly the most easily translatable exercises was this: once split up into two groups, the people in each group spread out far from one another and tried to successfully throw a tennis ball around to each other as many times as possible without anyone dropping it. In order it do this effectively, the teams quickly learned that making a intentional connection with the person you were going to throw the ball to or receive the ball from drastically increased the success of the group’s passing.
Ultimately, Dr. Hamilton-Brady wanted to drive home the point that human connection fosters effective communication. Although many people here at UT Health are medical professionals and scientists, they are first and foremost humans. Dr. Hamilton-Brady left with the sentiment that being able to effectively communicate your findings with a target audience or patient will not only result in more successful interactions but could also contribute to improving societies overall relationship with the science community.
The SACNAS chapter here in San Antonio is striving to be a positive influence in the UT Health community. All the appointed officers believe in the importance of SACNAS’s mission statement, and are here to help make it a reality. Through career development workshops such as this, or through future and networking events, members will get the opportunity to nurture the skills necessary to pursue job opportunities and succeed in the STEM field.
SACNAS plans to continue hosting outreach events that will encourage the young children in the community, as well as educate the population about the science that is happening right here in San Antonio.
Thank you Dr. Bernadette Hamilton-Brady and SACNAS for putting on such an educational and fun event!
About the Author
MaryAnn Hobbs is currently a research assistant in the Cellular and Integrative Physiology department, with hopes of attending a Biochemistry and Structural Biology graduate program in fall 2018.