I am running for the Student Board Member position at SACNAS (Society for Chicanos/Hispanics and Native American in Science). SACNAS is an inclusive organization dedicated to fostering the success of underrepresented communities, from college students to professionals, in attaining advanced degrees, careers, and positions of leadership in STEM. SACNAS runs the largest diversity in STEM conference in the United States. I had the opportunity to speak at SACNAS 2020 – The National Diversity in STEM Conference, where my candidacy was officially presented, representing both UT Health San Antonio and the NIH Graduate Partnership Program. There I was able to talk about my background and what I will bring to the organization if elected.
What does SACNAS mean to me?
SACNAS has been an important part of my life. During my master’s degree, I experienced a lot of discrimination inside and outside the school. Outside school: people were yelling at me to leave their country and go back to where I came from, not being allowed to take money out from my own bank because according to them my identification must be fake, having security called on me at the airport because according to them, I had fake identification and was illegally in their state, etc. Inside school: being the only one in the class who was Hispanic, faculty racist jokes targeting Hispanics, students’ offensive comments, people leaving space between me and them in the classroom and in the cafeteria like I had a mortal plague emanating from me, doing the job of three teacher assistants just because, and many other events. Luckily, I had a great PI that stood-up for me in many of these discriminations. However, I still felt isolated and contemplated leaving the school due to everything that was happening. It was at that time that I received a SACNAS Travel Award and went to my first SACNAS National Conference. I finally felt at home. I didn’t have family close by, but for the first time since entering the master’s program, I felt like I did. At the conference there were people that were willing to share their stories with me, listen to mine, and provide guidance on how to navigate these difficult situations. It gave me a community when I didn’t have one and a confidence to standup for myself. It was at one of their conferences that I met Dr. Blake who told me about the IBMS Ph.D. program and about the school. It was there where I also learned about two fellowships that I later earned. If it wasn’t for this organization, I probably would not have finished my master’s degree, come to UT Health San Antonio for a Ph.D., or been the first student at UT Health San Antonio to be awarded a Ford Foundation Fellowship.
Why was it so important to establish a SACNAS Chapter at UT Health San Antonio?
As I mentioned above, SACNAS is like a family away from home, a community that was there to lift me up at my lowest point and that continues to celebrate my successes. I made it my mission to lead the efforts to re-instate the chapter and work with a group of equally passionate students. I wanted to replicate what I felt at that conference and share the community with others, to make them aware of the great opportunities that can be discovered at their national conference: funding, internships, job opportunities and sharing the science.
Why am I running for the board?
I think SACNAS and their community have given a lot to me and I think now is the time for me to give back on a large scale.
What do I bring to the position and what do I propose?
If elected to serve on the SACNAS Board of Directors, I will bring the training I received from the NSF BIO I-Corps Program, which I will apply to identify potential donors. I will also use the training I received from the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) Biotech Course to build networks to benefit SACNAS and explain the benefits of their investment to donors. In addition, I will bring my training in leadership, conflict management, mentoring relationships, and managing teams, from both the NIH and the New York Academy of Sciences. I believe that the training that I have received so far in conjunction with my experience with the Society for In Vitro Biology, the ASCB, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Research Mentoring Network, and the Code2College and Ciencia Puerto Rico initiatives, show that I am serious in this endeavor and that I am dedicated to helping students get into STEM fields, become successful individuals and leaders in their fields, and that I am committed to creating changes towards achieving TRUE diversity in STEM. I would like to see SACNAS provide more opportunities to explore different careers. One way this can be achieved is through broader representation from sectors other than academia at the national conference. I believe that this will increase attendance of graduate student and postdoctoral trainees and provide career insights and potential internship opportunities for undergraduate students. I would also like to see more representation from disabled scholars in the main sessions. As a disabled student myself, I think is very important for students to see someone like them as leaders in the field.
Who can vote for the Student Board Member position?
All dues-paying SACNAS undergraduate and graduate student members can vote for graduate student board members. Members will receive a link to their election ballot via email. Voting opens on Tuesday, October 20, 2020. The email will come from firstname.lastname@example.org via SurveyMonkey (if you don’t see it, check your SPAM folder).
Special thank you to Charlotte and UT Health San Antonio to allow me to share this story with you. If you want to learn more about my leadership style, diversity and inclusion experiences, national engagement, etc. you can visit the link below. Don’t forget to vote here: https://www.sacnas.org/take-action/elections/board-candidates/