University News

Minority mentoring group finds home at U.

Contributing Writer
Thursday, April 26, 2012


A new chapter of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science is now accepting members on campus and awaits national approval within the next three weeks. The group’s goal is to provide mentorship to minority students in science, technology, engineering and math fields, said Natalie Chavez ’14, national liaison for the chapter.

The new chapter’s first priority, Chavez said, will be to obtain funding from the University to send students to the 2012 SACNAS National Conference in Seattle this fall.

Chavez also expects the chapter to contribute to a “greater presence” of science in local high schools. For students, she said, “it helps just having someone outside the home they can reach out to.”

Despite the name, SACNAS is open to students of “any and all cultural affiliations,” Chavez said. The group welcomes undergraduate, graduate, post-doctoral and faculty members, wrote Teresa Ramirez GS, president of the group, in an email to The Herald.

Once approved, Brown’s chapter can officially begin the work of providing students at Brown and throughout Providence with the tools they need to reach their scientific goals.

The SACNAS at Brown team has explored working with other STEM support groups such as the Society of Mexican American Engineers and Scientists, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and the Women in Science and Engineering program. 

Chavez said she was “quite shocked” to hear that no other members of the Ivy League – aside from Cornell – are home to a chapter of the organization. The organization has 70 chapters at colleges and universities across the country.

SACNAS is committed to improving diversity within the nation’s scientific workforce. “A group like (the) SACNAS chapter at Brown is needed to motivate and provide different opportunities for students interested in pursuing careers in STEM fields,” Ramirez wrote.

SACNAS was founded in the early 1970s – and, according to legend, in an elevator. There were few Native American and Hispanic or Chicano scientists in the United States at the time. According to the story, which is featured on the organization’s website, many of them met after a networking event at an American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting and stepped into an elevator together. One of them joked, “If this elevator crashes, it will wipe out the entire population of Chicano and Native American scientists.” 

Today, SACNAS has grown to include 25,000 students and professionals.

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