The national Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) strives to increase diversity in the scientific workforce. This year, the organization found the highest embodiment of its ideals at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.
The CU Anschutz chapter of SACNAS was named Chapter of the Year at the National Diversity in STEM Conference, which drew over 6,000 attendees to Puerto Rico in late October. A contingent of 27 from CU Anschutz witnessed the award presentation, which feted the CU Anschutz group as the pinnacle of 133 student chapters nationally.
CU Anschutz students’ research draws praise
Two CU Anschutz students – Luuli Tran and Arely Diaz – were recognized for outstanding research presentations. Tran, who served as SACNAS chapter president in 2021-22, was also awarded outstanding organization leader at CU Anschutz.
The CU Anschutz chapter received commendations for deep community engagement, breadth of cultural activities and professional development offerings, and strong recruitment and retention of students. Chapter leaders said the award signifies the resilience of the organization in the face of the pandemic and other challenges.
“Our chapter came out really strong with recruitment of students on campus who wanted to find a community and to rejoin communities on campus after the pandemic,” Tran said. “We were also highly successful with retaining those students by providing a large repertoire of activities for them.”
Amy Briggs, vice president of the CU Anschutz SACNAS chapter, said the chapter has also put more emphasis on Native American outreach, including the creation of a Native American Affairs Officer position.
Betzaida Maldonado, current president and a PhD candidate in human medical genetics at CU Anschutz, said the sense of community in SACNAS is important because many members are the first members in their families to pursue a graduate degree. “Our chapter’s goal and mission are to foster the success of Hispanics, Chicanos, Native Americans – and any other under-represented students, faculty and staff members on campus.
Supporting journeys in science
“We want to encourage and support them in their journeys in science,” she added. “Addressing the health inequalities that are seen in communities around the country requires diverse representation in science, public health and medicine.”
In all, three CU Anschutz students presented posters at the national conference, and four SACNAS members were selected to give graduate student oral presentations.
“This national recognition is a reflection of our chapter’s spirit and commitment to our mission,” Maldonado said. “We hope that this award inspires other organizations that work hard to increase diversity and inclusion, thus inspiring and motivating the next generation of leaders. We will continue to build a community where everyone feels welcomed, celebrated and supported.”
Carlos Catalano, PharmD, PhD, professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, noted that the CU Anschutz SACNAS chapter formed in 2016 to foster the success of a diverse population of scientists. “They’ve become a major force and presence on campus,” he said of the student leaders.
Photo at top: From left to right, back row: Antonio R. Porras, PhD; John Aleman, Kayla Medina, Evan Morrison, Erik Serrano and Roberto Castro Gutierrez. From left to right, front row: Daniela Ortiz Chavez, Arely Diaz, Luuli Tran, Amy Briggs, Kilsia Mercedes and Natasia Paukovich.