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Member Spotlight: Dr. Cristina Villalobos receives Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring

Photo Credit: Ms. Anahi Equivel Cantu

SACNAS congratulates Lifetime member and former Board Member Dr. Cristina Villalobos for receiving the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring!

According to the announcement from the White House, the award recognizes the “critical role mentors play outside the traditional classroom setting in the academic and professional development of the future STEM workforce”, making Dr. Villalobos 1 of only 12 recipients this year.

“I was shocked and elated and filled with many emotions. It’s something you don’t expect but at the same time you’re excited that it occurred. My family was excited for me and now they’re looking forward to visiting the White House! ” said Villalobos, who added that her family joined her for a virtual ceremony in August, to be followed by an in-person visit to the White House at a later date.

“This award is a testament to the many efforts that I’ve been working on for so many years. But most importantly, I think of all of the students who have been mentored and have received PhDs in Mathematics or STEM, in general, and those in the current pipeline. Many of these students are first generation college students, like myself, and with guidance and awareness of opportunities students go beyond their potential to become leaders.”

Dr. Villalobos served on the SACNAS Board of Directors from January 2015 to December 2017, and credits the experience as an opportunity to learn from other leaders as well as collaborate with others to mentor and prepare students be true leaders of the STEM workforce. She also hosts a popular standing-room-only session at the annual SACNAS National Diversity in STEM Conference on “Applying to Graduate School and the Interview Process” with colleagues Drs. Luis Melara, Luis Martinez, and Josef Sifuentes.

“As with any award, it takes many individuals working together to make changes,” said Dr. Villalobos. “I thank my Program Coordinator Ms. Idalia Mejia at the UTRGV Center of Excellence in STEM Education and the faculty and students who I’ve worked with on so many initiatives.”