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Local SACNAS Makes National Waves for STEM Diversity

By Sara Isenberg
Founder, Publisher, Editor-in-Chief, Santa Cruz Tech Beat

(Photo above: SACNAS executive director, Dr. Antonia Franco (center), met up with Digital Nest student, Alejandro Chavez-Guerrero (right) and another native Watsonville student, Rigoberto Perez Hernandez (left), who is now a student at Cornell University. Credit: SACNAS/Lisa Helfert.)

November 5, 2015 — Santa Cruz, CA

SACNAS (Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science) is a national organization sacnas-logothat happens to be headquartered in Santa Cruz. Although located here for 20 years, last May SACNAS opened new headquarters in downtown Santa Cruz.

SACNAS recently produced the largest multidisciplinary and multicultural diversity in STEM gathering in the U.S., with special focus on Native American and Hispanic students. High level speakers included Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz and Deputy Secretary of the Interior Mike Connor.

On October 29-31, SACNAS brought together students and professionals of color in Washington, D.C.
for three days of cutting-edge research, mentoring, networking, and professional development – all in support of STEM diversity.

This national effort was all planned in Santa Cruz by the SACNAS staff of 20.

According to Teresa Ruiz Decker, SACNAS Communications & Marketing Manager, “The work we do puts Santa Cruz on the map as a place where STEM diversity thrives and provides leadership nationally.”

Here are some of the Santa Cruz highlights of the SACNAS event, themed Interdisciplinary Collaboration: The Role of Diversity in STEM Innovation:

From left to right: Dr. Allyn Kaufmann a scientist at Proctor & Gamble, Inc., Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, Dr. Ahna Skop, associate professor at University of Wisconsin Madison, and Austin Shelton, doctoral candidate at University of Hawaii. SACNAS Board members present Dr. Ernest Moniz, U.S. Secretary of Energy with a Pendleton blanket during a traditional Native American honor ceremony. Secretary Moniz presented a keynote address to the SACNAS audience. Contributed.

From left to right: Dr. Allyn Kaufmann a scientist at Proctor & Gamble, Inc., Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, Dr. Ahna Skop, associate professor at University of Wisconsin Madison, and Austin Shelton, doctoral candidate at University of Hawaii. SACNAS Board members present Dr. Ernest Moniz, U.S. Secretary of Energy with a Pendleton blanket during a traditional Native American honor ceremony. Secretary Moniz presented a keynote address to the SACNAS audience. (Credit: SACNAS/Lisa Helfert.)

  • 3,400+ attendees, nearly 90 of them from Santa Cruz/Monterey BayArea
  • DJ Patil, chief data scientist for White House and former member of the Provost’s Council at UCSC, delivered the conference convocation
  • Jacob Martinez, Executive Director of Digital NEST presented a professional development session
  • SACNAS executive director, Dr. Antonia Franco, met up with Digital Nest student, Alejandro Chavez-Guerrero and another native Watsonville student, Rigoberto Perez Hernandez, who is now a student at Cornell University

Students from local universities also represented well in the student presentation program where they competed against over 1,000 students for best scientific research presentation.

UC Santa Cruz:

  • Rolando Cruz Perez, undergraduate award in Bioengineering/Biomedical Engineering
  • Santiago Sanchez, undergraduate award in Cell/Molecular Biology
  • Jose Armando Oviedo, graduate award in Engineering

CSUMB:

  • Aidan Shands, undergraduate award in Cell/Molecular Biology
  • Jesse Yamagata, undergraduate award in Cell/Molecular Biology

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For more about SACNAS: http://sacnas.org

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