Grinnell Students Attend SACNAS

May 06, 2020

Students Attend SACNAS

In the fall of 2019, the Wilson Center for Innovation and Leadership sponsored six students to attend the annual SACNAS conference. This included Alicia Ledesma Alonso ’20, a mathematics major; Breana Concepcion ’21, a biochemistry and Spanish major; Luz Helena Alfaro-Alvarado ’22, a sociology major; Daniella Butler ’20, a biology major; Rande Nieto ’21, a chemistry major; and Ruby Romero ’21, an anthropology and biology major.

SACNAS (Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science) National Diversity in STEM Conference is an annual 3-day conference that seeks to catalyze the passion for STEM in Chicano/Hispanic and Native American students and inspire them to be leaders in their areas of expertise. According to the White House Initiative for Education Excellence for Hispanics, less than 2% of the STEM workforce is Hispanic while almost 20% of the country’s youth population is Hispanic. During the conference, students are provided with a variety of resources such as professional development sessions and a community of mentors.

Students gained a number of benefits from attending. Concepcion says that one of her biggest takeaways was that anyone can be a leader in STEM and, “although we all come from different backgrounds and have faced our own struggles, we can still keep pushing through and make a difference in the world and in the lives of others.”

Romero reinforces this idea by saying that, after speaking with current graduate and medical school students of color, she felt incredibly motivated to continue studying sciences. “Seeing and hearing proof that we are needed in the sciences helped reaffirm my decision to pursue a medical career,” she emphasizes.

For Nieto, the most insightful event was “New Initiatives for Improving Undergraduate STEM Education,” in which professionals talked about their innovations in Science and how LatinXs can be leaders in STEM fields.

Similarly, Ledesma Alonso says that the conference was helpful in the sense that it allowed students like herself to build a strong “foundation of people” to help her succeed in the future. She says that “through mentorship of workshops and speaking with older students, I was able to resonate and reflect with many others on my current struggles trying to figure out what I want to do with my life.”

Having attended the conference as campus leaders, the students will now bring some of the lessons back to Grinnell. Alfaro-Alvarado notes that “the experience is priceless, and I am truly grateful.” She intends to bring the positive energy that she felt during the conference and all the lessons she learned to Grinnell by incorporating them in the campus SACNAS chapter programming and sharing the knowledge and experiences she acquired at the conference with the rest of Grinnell College science community.

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