Board Elections 

Board of Director Voting Opens October 26, 2023!

We are thrilled to announce the 2023 slate of candidates for the SACNAS Board of Directors. The Board is responsible for setting strategic direction, providing oversight, and ensuring fundraising and resources to foster the success of SACNAS. Please email with any questions you might have. 
Voting for board leaders is an important way to contribute your voice to how we move our mission and vision forward. As stated in our SACNAS Bylaws, all dues-paying SACNAS members are eligible and encouraged to vote from October 26 - November 27, 2023, for the following offices:

  • President-Elect
  • General Board Members
  • Student Board Members

Voting Information:

  • Student Members will vote for a President-Elect and a Student Board Member.
  • Professional Members (including Postdoc and Lifetime) will vote for a President-Elect and three General Board Members. 

As an active member, you will receive an email to the email address associated with your SACNAS membership account. The email will come from via Survey Monkey with a link to your board voting ballot (please check your spam/junk folders if you don't see the ballot in your inbox). For questions about your membership profile email

Continue below to learn more about each candidate before placing your vote!

President-Elect of the Board of Directors Candidate

Healani Chang, DrPH

Title: Program Director and Associate Research Specialist Faculty

Institution/Company: University of Hawaiʻi at Manoa  

Affiliation: Native Hawaiian 

How long have you been a SACNAS member? Lifetime member; 7 or more years





Personal Statement

For 20+ years as a member of SACNAS, I have been preparing to assume an executive leadership role. I didn't realize I would choose this opportunity, however, I am confident and ready to seek the nomination for the position of SACNAS President-Elect.  I am excited to serve and work alongside the board, the ED, and SACNAS staff whom have been implementing the strategic imperatives. 

Highlight SACNAS experiences that qualify me to serve include 3 previous terms on the Board; serving as advisor for our ʻIlima SACNAS chapter; LPSLI alumna; Chair/served on numerous committees; and Chair of the Local Committee that hosted the 2019 NDiSTEM Conference in Honolulu, HI. In partnership with SACNAS, we secured a $250 investment for the conference from the University of Hawaiʻi System. My values have aligned with the SACNAS vision and mission for 20 + years. I have DEI experience from the SOEST Dean's Council, the Search Advocate Program, and an NSF ADVANCE project on gender equity in STEM professions. Collectively, these experiences and commitment align with SACNAS.

SACNAS/ STEM Diversity & Inclusion Experience

2018-2019, Chair, Local Organizing Committee, hosted the 2019 NDiSTEM Conference in Hawaiʻi, the Largest diverse STEM registrants count to date: 5,189).  Participated with SACNAS to secure a large university funding investment. SACNAS mission aligned.

2018-2022, Member, NIH Advisory Committee to the Director-Working Group on Diversity (ACD-WGD). ACD-WGD is charged to assist the ACD with developing effective diversity-related strategies for NIH. Committee deliberations culminated with an ACD-WGD Report on Racism in Science. The ACD unanimously accepted the report and forwarded it to the NIH Director for implementation.

2019-21, Member, SOEST Dean’s Council on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI). Worked on the 'draft' code of conduct (COC) document.  The council then forwarded it to the Dean’s office for wide distribution. The COC was adopted in Fall 2021.

2021 -, Search Advocate, The Manoa Provosts’ Search Advocacy Program to promote more equity and inclusive recruitment and hiring processes for faculty and staff positions. Served on two STEM college faculty search committees.

July 2022 -, Co-PD/PI, NSF ADVANCE Catalyst, Advancing gender equity in STEM.  Advised on the process and oversaw focus group recruitment and connections with women and Hawaiian STEM scholars. Currently reviewing UHM policy and data reports and websites. Liaison to search advocate program for advancing inclusive excellence.


Leadership Style

Member, Board of Directors, Ke Ola Mamo, Native Hawaiian Health Care System, Provides leadership to address healthcare needs and wellness through a system of culturally sensitive services, interventions, advocacy, outreach, and education. At one particular community meeting an agenda topic was being hotly contested by several board members. Feeling uneasy with the rising tension, I firmly interrupted and called for a biology/restroom break. The chair agreed and declared a 10-minute break. The tension dissolved. Upon reconvening, I asked to address the situation, and the chair agreed. I acknowledged the passion, expertise, and value of everyone working to achieve our mission. However this topic was nowhere near a resolution, therefore I suggested we 'tabled' the item until the next meeting, and schedule ample time for discussion. I recommended the board return to the remaining agenda items because some were time-sensitive and required board discussion, and a vote. The council agreed, and the meeting continued with civility to complete our tasks. Members can be very passionate and set on their way to resolve problems.  I diverted away from negative energy and focused on the completion of our tasks & and agenda items. My style is collaborative while acknowledging everyone's value at the table.

Fundraising Experience

2005 & 2008 Chair/Host, Local Organizing Committee of the NIDDK, NIH STEP UP Undergraduate Research Conference, $10,000 raised each year.

2014 & 2015 - Advisor, ‘Ilima SACNAS Chapter, For each year, the chapter members raised ~$50,000. Includes campus RIO club award; national conference costs, research supplies & and small equipment, fresh flower lei donations, and in-kind donations. In addition, the national office provided funds to host the Regional Student Conference ($10,000).  In 2016, $6,000 was raised to host a Nobel Laureate keynote speaker.

2018 – 2019 Chair, Hawaiʻi Organizing Committee for the 2019 NDiSTEM conference. Working with the SACNAS president and ED, we secured a sole 'Presenting Partner' investment of $250,000 from the University of Hawaiʻi System. Largest in-person registrants to date: 5,189. Local media outreach via 15 SACNAS stories across the morning networks, a publicity value of $26,000.  Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority (HTA) reported the conference contributed an additional $23 million to the state economy.


Board Leadership

A core responsibility of a board member is governance and implementing the strategic plan. An organization is only as good as its foundational structure. Having a good working relationship and trust with the organization's executive director is critical. It's important the Board knows their roles and responsibilities which are separate from the operational responsibilities of the executive director. The board sets the big picture and the ED with his staff operationalize the tasks for carrying out the board directives.

Organizational Governance

2017-2019, Board of Director, Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), General Member. Chair, Native American Affairs Committee.

2001 – Founding Member, Kuali‘i Council of Native Hawaiian Programs, UHM. Served several times as the Kualiʻi representative at the Puko‘a Council, University of Hawai‘i System-wide Level. Council members (15) are program directors of Native Hawaiian serving programs that advocate for student, staff, and faculty advancement in academia and positions of leadership across disciplines.

National Engagement

2017 - 2019, Member, SACNAS Board of Directors, Chair, Native American Affairs Committee. 2018-2019, Chair, Hawaiʻi's Local Organizing Committee, 2019 NDiSTEM Conference, Hawaiʻi Convention Center, Honolulu, HI. Serve as a general member on several additional SACNAS committees.

General Board Member Candidates

Efrain Rodriguez, PhD   

Title: Professor  

Institution/Company: Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Maryland

How long have you been a SACNAS member? 3 - 6 years

Efrain R




Personal Statement

I seek the opportunity to serve on the SACNAS Board of Directors because I believe deeply in the SACNAS mission and want to leverage my experience with national scientific organizations to better serve SACNAS on a national scale. We find ourselves at a national and critical moment when new challenges arise for organizations committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). I want to apply my leadership skills and knowledge in the scientific research enterprise to meet those challenges and ensure future generations of SACNISTAs will always find success and inclusivity in any STEM field. My talents go beyond my scientific research portfolio; they also consist in establishing genuine relationships with all people involved in the research infrastructure. I believe that science progresses more by collaboration than by competition. This philosophy has allowed me to establish long-term national and international collaborations on scientific research. I also know how to build successful teams where the synergy within the team makes the whole larger than the sum of its individuals. I want to apply this team-building experience at a national level within SACNAS. Finally, I want to ensure that our young people have better opportunities than I had as a student from a rural community in West Texas in the 1990s. I met many challenges and many naysayers too, but I always had great mentors to see me through. Now as an established and successful researcher in my own field, I want to ensure key opportunities reach all the young people from our communities.

SACNAS/STEM Diversity & Inclusion Experience

For the past 11 years as faculty, I have attended the SACNAS NDiSTEM meetings to recruit students to our graduate programs at UMD. I became much more involved in the organization, however, in 2021. That year, I wrote an internal proposal to raise nearly $30,000 to reboot our local chapter. The pandemic had devastated student groups on campus, and SACNAS was no different. Along with my colleague in Entomology, Prof. Anahi Espindola, we were able to raise funds from our college and various departmental units. As co-advisers to a dedicated group of students and postdocs, we became an officially recognized chapter this year. Within my own department, I have been a member of the newly formed Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Climate (CDEC). My role as a faculty member on the committee has been to work with the staff, students, and postdoc members to improve the climate within the department. One of the concrete ways in which we have done this is by having CDEC interview all faculty candidates this past year. It was a great experience for all involved and demonstrated our organization's real commitment to DEI efforts.

Leadership Style

A good example is from my experience on the Board of Directors at the American Institute of Physics (AIP). AIP is best understood as a society composed of other scientific societies. As such, AIP’s Board consists of Directors from a variety of sciences--from the American Association of Physics Teachers to the American Meteorological Society. There are overall 10 societies represented by AIP, so the Board of Directors consists of outstanding individuals all with different perspectives, experience levels, and leadership positions within their respective organizations. When I first joined the Board, I spent my time in the meetings really getting to know the how organization works. I would listen to all the different voices at the table. Once I understood enough, then I engaged through questions that revealed the most information to me, i.e., the research phase. Through relevant and effective questions, one gets a better sense of the organization’s mission. I learned how to help move the agenda along and not detract from it while listening to a wide array of opinions and perspectives. In summary, my leadership style is to first observe, then research, and finally offer the most useful guidance to the team.

Fundraising Experience

As the principal investigator for my research group, most of my fundraising has focused on grant proposal writing. I have won 2 single-PI grants from the National Science Foundation along with a new grant to lead a multi-PI, multinational center called the Global Center for Carbon Cycle Studies. I have also won 3 single-PI grants from the Department of Energy and more than 5 combined multi-PI grants from the Department of Commerce and the Department of Defense. Overall, I have a good sense of how to diversify one’s research portfolio in order to have strong funding levels across multiple federal agencies. I have successfully leveraged this diversification strategy to keep my research group well-funded for the past 11 years. Fundraising from private donors is a new venture that I would like to explore more as a Board member at SACNAS. I believe the SACNAS mission is a strong one, and I would be interested in exploring how tech companies throughout the US can contribute more to meeting this mission through their financial support. Working through foundations, I would focus on student success in STEM as a way to strengthen partnerships with current and potential donors.

Board Leadership

The Board’s primary duty to the organization it serves is to practice its fiduciary responsibilities and oversee the organization's long-term stability. It is important that the organization is run in a financially sound manner and that it adheres to its governance structure. Our role as Board members is to serve not only our current members but also the future generations of SACNISTAs. We must pass on an organization that is modern, adaptable, and thriving no matter what the circumstances.  To ensure the long-term stability and health of the organization, Board members must exercise their fiduciary responsibilities and this entails engagement with the organization, its staff members, and its committees. Board members also have the unique role of being thought leaders within the organization. We must have a good understanding of where SACNAS fits in the ecosystem of scientific societies and affinity group associations. We must also be aware of local, national, and international events, and offer our guidance in light of such external forces to ensure that the organization can readily adapt. Finally, Board members should offer new ideas and directions for the organization to ensure that it grows year-by-year to the needs of its members.

Organizational Governance

I was appointed to the AIP Board in 2019, and I will complete my final term in 2024. The AIP Board consists of Directors from 10 different scientific societies and my appointment was made by the American Crystallographic Association Council. At AIP, I join three in-person board meetings per year, an annual retreat, and two virtual board meetings per year. I also serve on the membership committee and the bylaws committee. At the Neutron Scattering Society of America, I serve as the Membership Secretary, which is a 3-year appointment. I send out messages on conferences, scholarships, and other neutron science news to our 1,200 members. I curate our membership roster and try to keep it up to date. We meet virtually every month. In 2020 I was elected to the US National Committee on Crystallography, and I am up for reelection this year for another 3-year term. At the USNCCr, I was the chair of the public relations committee, which was a new committee formed to tackle how we utilize various media to reach the wider American public and related scientific societies. We meet virtually 3 times a year and for the subcommittee meetings more than that. 

National Engagement

I have served on executive teams and leadership positions at a national level for the past 4 years. I am currently a member of the Board of Directors at the American Institute of Physics (AIP). There, I learned about fiduciary duties the Directors must exercise to ensure the non-profit organization remains financially stable and relevant to the physical sciences in the long term. I have also served as Membership Secretary for the Neutron Scattering Society of America and as a member of the US National Committee on Crystallography, which is a committee appointed by the National Academy of Sciences. I was elected nationally for both positions. In these roles, I think strategically about the organizations and the communities of scientists it serves. We listen to them on topics of membership, conferencing, publishing, scholarships, mentorship, diversity, and inclusion. I help come up with solutions for improving the public’s appreciation of the science we do and why it remains important to keep investing in these fields. As a national representative, I also find myself several times interfacing with our international colleagues, doing my best to represent US research in my respective fields.

Shannon Manuelito, EdD   

Title: Residential Biology Faculty  

Institution/Company: Maricopa Community Colleges, Estrella Mountain Community College

How long have you been a SACNAS member? Not sure



Personal Statement

Over the course of my career, I’ve honed my skills as a leader and educator and have the skills, knowledge, and qualifications to serve on the SACNAS board. I have served in various leadership roles and worked with diverse populations. For example, as Faculty Senate President and Division Chair, I worked to align the interests of different groups while working to support the mission of the college. As chair of the Native American Heritage Month and United Way committees, I worked to create interest, engagement, and financial support for a special interest group to benefit the campus community. As Curriculum Development Facilitator I facilitate collaboration to coach teams working to create quality assessable curriculum guided strategically by learning outcomes. Throughout my career, I have made it a priority to support underrepresented minorities in their educational and career goals. As a Native American woman in science, I can empathize with my students, and my personal mission is very much aligned to the SANCAS mission. Furthermore, I am grateful for the support I have received along my educational journey and work to reciprocate this support for future generations. In light of recent broad attacks on the ideas of our communities, I want to be a part of navigating these challenges.

SACNAS/STEM Diversity & Inclusion Experience

I first became a member of SANCAS when I was in college. I gave an oral presentation (2009) at the National Conference and have kept up my participation as a professional. I was a faculty recruiter at the National Conference (2009-2012) as part of my work on our Faculty of Color Recruitment and Retention Committee. I was part of a SACNAS panel, “Academic Faculty Jobs at Primarily Undergraduate Institutions" (2012) organized by Dr. Alberto Roca.  I am also a LPSLI alumni (2017) which led to my most recent SANCAS presentation, a collaboration organized by Dr. Tracie Delgado, “STEM Mamas: Balancing Motherhood and a Career in STEM” (2020). As a faculty member, I continually work to increase diversity and equity in STEM. I served as Title V Equity Gap Research Project Faculty Coordinator (2020) and conducted research to identify and address equity gaps that negatively affect underrepresented minority students at EMCC. I continue to help create policies to best serve our students and make a tangible impact on student success. Additionally, I chair our Native American Heritage Month events and partner with our STEM center of excellence to include a career panel and science talk showcasing Native American STEM professionals.

Leadership Style

I would describe my leadership style as transformative. I listen, identify the strengths of individuals, and keep opportunities for growth in mind which allows for efficiency and effective management. For example, as division chair one of my responsibilities was to ensure faculty fulfill their service requirements and one faculty member needed a committee. She teaches our pre-nursing students and serves as an advisor. I helped her create a committee partnering with nursing faculty and advising, called the Allied Health Team, and last semester they launched a HESI prep course. I’ve learned a lot from leading diverse teams. As the Faculty Curriculum Development Facilitator, I lead teams from across the District to create and modify curriculum. The participants have a variety of backgrounds, experiences, and world views. I use neutral facilitation and empathy to create an environment conducive to collaboration to produce a quality curriculum. During a contentions curriculum design session, I created time and space for faculty to voice their concerns. Though I could not change the policy parameters, they were very thankful to be heard and we were able to complete the project. These experiences along with experiences I had growing up on the Navajo reservation have shaped my leadership style.

Fundraising Experience

My fundraising experiences range from raising money as a student to attend conferences to raising money for my college to help students pay their expenses. During the United Way campaign, our strategy to increase participation and giving was to make it clear how the funds were directly used by our students and to make the activities fun and easy to access. For example, we partnered with agencies most used by our students and created student testimonials. We hosted a silent auction and to increase auction items, we created a competition between departments for the best basket. We also held online voting for several events to increase participation. I am also a Board Member of the Maricopa Faculty Association Foundation. We distribute emergency scholarships to students. In addition to donations, we raise funds with corporate partnerships such as Amazon Smile and Fry’s Rewards. We encourage giving through transparency and a shared mission to help our students complete their educational goals. A couple of fundraising ideas for SACNAS could include an event where chapters can compete for the best dance that aligns with the conference theme and perhaps a mixer event to solicit donations from the company representatives at the career fair.

Board Leadership

I believe a core responsibility of a board member is twofold, a commitment to the vision and mission of the organization and an understanding of the organizational goals and strategic plan to be an active member. These are essential to being a productive and effective board member. Being committed to the vision and mission provides a sense of belonging and motivation, both of which are needed to support a collaborative and efficient team. When members of a governing board have intentions that are not aligned with the mission of the organization can lead to a dysfunction and in extreme cases can lead to a lack of trust, lower morale, and the creation of policies that inhibit progress. Having an understanding of how to operationalize the vision and mission through the strategic plan makes it possible to participate as a board member. I am committed to the mission of SACNAS and have experience working to support underrepresented minorities in STEM.

Organizational Governance

I was elected to serve as Faculty Senate President for my college. The Faculty Senate Presidents comprise the Council of Presidents and Faculty Executive Council of the Maricopa Community College Faculty Association.  I served as President-Elect for one year, President for one year, and Secretary/Past President for a total of three years in a shared governance position. Key responsibilities included communicating college-specific issues between faculty, administration, and district faculty leadership and ensuring Residential Faculty Policy provisions were followed. As a member of the Faculty Executive Committee, I shared the Faculty Executive Council (FEC) vision and was responsible for communicating FEC decisions, understanding policy changes, serving on FEC committees (FEC Officer Election Committee, Membership Committee, Council of Presidents), and communicating EMCC specific issues to FEC.  My contributions included completion of the following college-wide initiatives: EMCC Senate Constitution revision, EMCC College Plan revision, Faculty Staffing Procedures update, creation of the Peer Assistance Review Committee, IDP Rubric, and PAR Process, and co-chairing the hiring committee for the Vice President of Academic Affairs.

National Engagement

I have much experience creating partnerships and relationships to best meet the needs of our organization. I have served as a Tri-chair of the United Way campaign for my college. In order to promote engagement and giving, we worked to identify and create partnerships with community agencies specific to our college community to create ownership and in turn increase participation for a successful campaign. In my role as Native American Heritage Month committee chair, I created relationships with Native American community members, artisans, researchers as well as other Native American employees. These relationships are pivotal for successful programming. During my time as Title V Faculty Coordinator for Engagement, I worked with campus departments and companies, and professionals in the community to create a student mentoring program. Creating these partners provided much-needed support for the program. The program not only provided one-to-one mentoring for our students but also started a career shadowing program to further support student success. Additionally, as division chair, I worked across colleges to establish a relationship with other biology division chairs in the district. These partnerships were crucial for navigating district policies as well as a resource for adjunct faculty recruitment.

Elena Hernandez Ramon, PhD

Title: Director of Premedical Program

FacultyInstitution/Company: National Institutes of Health (NIH)

How long have you been a SACNAS member? 7 or more years



Personal Statement

SACNAS has given me a lot; it is my turn to give back. I am planning to bring my cultural background, knowledge in the medical and research fields, organizational skills, perspective, and experience as a leader to continue SACNAS's growth and fulfill its mission. As a postdoctoral member and LPSLI participant, SACNAS has had a huge impact on my career. I have been a judge, abstract reviewer, mentor, exhibitor, and speaker at SACNAS conferences. I have trained dozens of mentors and still follow up with my SACNAS mentees and continue supporting them. I have experience supporting the NIH-SACNAS Chapter, with more than 300 members. I have the perspective of someone who is first generation and is now out in the community supporting K-12 Spanish speakers and inspiring them to see the beauty of the STEM field. SACNAS has also taught me that I don’t have to leave my identity at the door, but bring it with me to the table, embrace it, and be proud of it.  It is now the time to have a bigger impact on the SACNAS community. I am living probe that SACNAS fulfills its mission: SACNAS fostered my success as a Mexican descendent, in attaining growth in my career and positions of leadership. I am equipped and ready to give back. 

SACNAS/STEM Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Experience

After being a postdoc SACNAS member, I started my leadership journey as one of the co-founders of the NIH-SACNAS Chapter in 2011. I later became a president and continued working as an advisor liaison to the chapter that has now more than 300 members. Providing an environment that has been critical to trainees to advance and feel welcome was one of my goals. As a co-liaison, I guide and provide help and resources to the NIH-SACNAS Chapter board members. In 2021 I participated with the SACNAS National organization as a member of the SACNAS Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Subcommittee. Although brief, that was a great opportunity to learn more about the SACNAS committees, logistics, and goals.  I am now participating in the SACNAS Membership Committee, where I have been working on the recruitment subcommittee. In 2012 I became a member of the Hispanic Organization of Toxicologists (HOT) SOT and then started my leadership experiences by participating in the HOT executive committee as a secretary, vice-president elect, VP, and president.

At NIH, I have been a member of the Hispanic Employment Committee, and since 2021, and the Hispanic Engagement Committee where we discuss strategies for recruitment and retention of Hispanic employees.

Leadership Style

I had the opportunity to participate in the 24-hour Diversity in a Multicultural Society course. Although I started the course with a clear awareness of the challenges the Hispanic population faces, I learned in-depth about what other communities also face, such as Native Americans, African Americans, LGBTQ members, deaf or hard of hearing, mobility, and learning disabilities communities, among others. Hearing about and from these communities was an eye-opener experience that changed my concept of diversity and definitely changed my leadership style which is now much more inclusive and appreciative of different perspectives.

Fundraising Experience

Although at NIH it is not allowed to work on fundraising activities, my involvement in HOT was fundamental to understanding this important aspect and being able to provide travel scholarships for our members. I had the opportunity to expand my network and establish relationships with toxicology-related companies and fundraise money for scholarships and awards ceremonies. One can learn from every single experience. Being the secretary of the Marshall Orchestra Parents Association (MOPA) has also taught me that there are other strategies that can be very effective for fundraising, like online donations and reaching out to local companies.

Board Leadership

I believe that a core responsibility of a board member is to offer a tangible contribution, that can come in the form of strategic guidance, expertise, or insights, to ensure SACNAS mission is fulfilled. I believe that board members need to have a genuine interest in fostering and advocating for Hispanics, Native Americans, and other minoritized communities in order to contribute better. I think that setting an example is the best way to show SACNAS members how together can make an impactful change in our society. In my opinion, contributions, in whatever form they are, empower our members to fulfill their duties (not only financially, but also as mentors and advocates) and ensure our organization's continued impact and success. 

Organizational Governance


  • NIH, Director of the NIH Premedical Program, starting in 2017 to present. Specific contributions include the formal establishment of the Premedical Program and the Virtual Premedical Office to serve remote trainees (that eased the transition during the pandemic time). New courses for premedical trainees such as the personal statement online course, the MCAT CARS workshop series, setting up electronic files for trainees, formalizing and organizing the annual group interview sessions (more than 50 sessions per year)
  • NIH, Co-director of the NIH Academy on Health Disparities, starting in September 2021. We developed a new curriculum, doubling the number of trainees who benefited from this training.
  • Society of Toxicology, Hispanic Organization of Toxicologists, 2012-2018. As an executive committee member of HOT, especially in my role as President, I had the opportunity to lead a team and expand the HOT Sister Organizations and relationships with different toxicology-related organizations’ leaders, including new organizations in Peru and Mexico.

National Engagement

I am part of a very relevant national organization in my current job: the National Institutes of Health. This job has given me the opportunity to witness the impact both the intramural and intramural NIH sections have on the scientific field. I have also been part of the Society of Toxicology, as a membership committee member, and as the secretary and president of its special interest group Hispanic Organization of Toxicologists.

I am a member of the National Association of Advisors for the Health Professions and recently facilitated the BIPOC advisors session.

I am the Chair and founder of the Educando con Amor-Ciencia en Español Section.

Esequiel "Zeke" Barrera, MS

Title: Office of Research Safety Director

Institution/Company: The University of Georgia

Affiliation: Zapotec 

How long have you been a SACNAS member? Lifetime member; 7 or more years

Zeke Board


Personal Statement

The opportunity to serve a second, 3-year term on the SACNAS Board of Directors (BoD) is sought.  First BoD year, we learned about the functions and responsibilities as part of the SACNAS executive leadership team. Next, we volunteered to chair or be a member of the various oversight committees, engage in dialog, help set short-term objectives, and develop an action plan in agreement with the overarching strategic plan and the SACNAS mission statement.  Third year, we established priorities of projects given the limitations of staff bandwidth and financial resources. Fourth year, the action plans and institutional knowledge developed will be transferred to a colleague for follow-up. In a better scenario, if a 2nd term is granted, the leverage gained with the BoD member's experience may help extend the works in progress a bit further in order to measure the benefits to the organization and its membership. I often refer to any personal contribution of time, effort, or money to the SACNAS organization as paying it forward. However, greater personal satisfaction comes when the positive results of a team-crafted plan are observed and verified. For example, a proposal with the potential to add value for each member is the customized resource/benefit information packaging and active advertisement plan to be linked to each membership tier. Get the most relevant information upfront as your career unfolds!  We all can confirm the needs of an undergraduate member are vastly different from that of an established professional. This proposal may address this situation.

SACNAS/STEM Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Experience

After many years attending the annual NDiSTEM conference and sharing my STEM story with students, in 2018 I became a Life Time Member.  Although involved with other non-profit organizations, SACNAS is my priority commitment and devoted my hours to mentoring students, judging scientific posters, and participating in STEM-related events both within SACNAS and at The University of Georgia.  In 2021, elected to serve on the SACNAS Board of Directors.  Now finishing my third year on the Board and SACNAS involvement includes: SACNAS Executive Director Search Committee member, Audit Committee member, Chair of the NDISTEM Code of Conduct Committee, Chair of the Membership Committee, Finance Committee member, Diversity, Equality and Inclusion task force member and several NDiSTEM conference meet and greet socials.  Continued involvement with student mentoring opportunities. 

Leadership Style

Leadership style relies on allowing, promoting, and listening to dialog from the team/interest group/community in order to analyze the crucial elements and offer comments.  Often in my profession, I was the only minority representative and often expressed my thoughts address issues impacting underrepresented groups.  Working with the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC),  we would discuss activities involved in an emergency not just affecting the university, businesses, and service organizations but also the residential community.  How to effectively communicate and organize populations some of which English is not their primary language.  Learned to problem solve the attributes of patience, fortitude, temperance, and positive rapport go a long way toward solutions.

Fundraising Experience

As a Board Member, we have been engaged in a number of strategies to diversify the SACNAS investment and fundraising opportunities.  On the local level,  I work with church parishioners, business owners, non-profit organizations, and the general public to collect donations.  Every year we collect tens of thousands of dollars for: Special Olympics, Walking with Moms, Food Pantries, Habitat for Humanity, and many other charities. At the national level, an advocate for the University of Georgia to support the NDiSTEM conference by purchasing exhibit booths and donating to the student scholarship fund.

Board Leadership

Part of a team which defined, advertized and launched the current strategic plan.  We monitor progress and initiate /address/remove concerns related to the plan implementation and oversight.

Fiduciary responsibility to maintain non-profit organizational status, operate within acceptable parameters identified in law, policy, best practices and risk management, help secure and diversify funding sources, build partnerships, invest in SACNAS staff talent, update and improve centralized databases for dashboard reports and metrics, set and set priorities.

Now and in the future: help assure the SACNAS mission of providing resources and membership value to the Native American, Chicano/Hispanic, and Indigenous populations seeking or inquiring about STEM careers, Summer internships, graduate school programs and student mentors, employee leadership skills and advocacy opportunities.  Goal to witness increases in the number of SACNISTAS earning advanced educational degrees and measure the anticipated stronger voice impact at the local, state and national levels.


Organizational Governance

Supervision experience in chronological order beginning in 2001.

Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) Assistant Director, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas. Responsible for Select Agent Program, Biological Safety, Chemical Safety, Environmental Management, and Emergency Response.

EHS Director, University of Texas at Dallas, Richardson, Texas.  Responsible for all aspects of EH&S, 25 programs.  Founding Director with additional duty to oversee and foster IBM partnership with campus clean room facility for microchip processing.

EHS Biosafety Officer, University of Pittsburgh specialized hire to oversee entire campus and add a competitive edge to be the first of the US National Regional Biocontainment Laboratories to receive CDC approval to work with pathological agents.  Pitt team was the first to gain permission.

Assistant Dean, Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, responsible for all STEM laboratories, observation centers, marine fleet, and waste facilities.

Office of Research Safety Director, The University of Georgia, part of the Senior Management Team responsible for Research Integrity and Safety reporting to the Associate Vice President of Research.

National Engagement

As an Environmental Health and Safety professional, I have held or currently hold membership and leadership positions for: American Biosafety Association (ABSA), American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), Spcoetu pf Toxicology (SOT), National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and Campus Safety, Health and Environmental Management Association (CSHEMA).  Highlight in 2022, CSHEMA student scholarship, one of three slots reserved for underrepresented applicants and advertized in the SACNAS student resources outreach program.

Romie Morales Rosado, PhD

Title: Line Manager and DEI lab level co-chair

Institution/Company: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Affiliation: Taino

How long have you been a SACNAS member? 3 - 6 years



Personal Statement

In seeking the opportunity to serve on the SACNAS Board of Directors, I am driven by a profound gratitude for the organization's pivotal role in shaping my journey. SACNAS has been instrumental in connecting me with life-changing opportunities, and I am now eager to give back and contribute to an institution that holds immense value in my life.

As my career progresses, I am increasingly focused on making a lasting impact, particularly in providing access to underrepresented and underserved communities. The transformative experience of participating in the Linton- Poodry SACNAS Leadership Institute solidified my commitment to fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Having served on the board of directors for a non-profit, managed diverse teams, and fostered lab-level DEI efforts, I bring valuable experience in driving positive change. My strategic thinking and passion for promoting a WE culture will further enhance SACNAS' efforts at an organizational level.

As a leader, I possess strong collaborative ethics, networking prowess, and the ability to make strategic decisions that align with SACNAS' mission. My advocacy and ambassadorship will ensure SACNAS' message and impact reach a wider audience, further advancing its mission. With past experiences in setting up a one-of-a-kind mentorship program, I am prepared to contribute to teams that celebrate diverse perspectives and strategic thinking.

Aspiring to give back to SACNAS for its profound impact, I am a dedicated candidate for the Board of Directors. With aligned experiences, skills, and vision, I aim to champion the mission and empower STEM students, researchers, and professionals.

SACNAS/STEM Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Experience

Participating in SACNAS as an undergraduate reshaped my STEM career outlook, dispelling isolation. Presenting research on a national stage led to valuable conversations and opportunities. Engaging with recruiters provided fee waivers, shattering inaccessibility myths.

I serve as the Lab-wide co-chair(2019-present), shaping the strategic vision for inclusive efforts and cultivating a WE culture. This enables me to connect with employee resource groups and advocate for their needs at the lab level.

As a line and program manager, I recommend SACNAS to incoming students, post-bachelors, post-masters, and post-docs for its tremendous professional opportunities and as a nurturing professional home.

Aside from SACNAS, I remain actively involved in other inclusion-driven efforts, such as serving as a relationship manager for various programs and integrating participation from minority-serving institutions. Notably, I contribute to the National Graduate Fellowship program (2018-present), Minority Serving Institution Participating Program (2019-present), Emerging Technology and Innovation (2019-present), and Motion Technology and Innovation (2019-present). My role involves engaging with students from MSIs, and educating them on available opportunities and consortiums with other institutions.

Finally, since 2020, I have consistently brought a GEM fellow, ensuring continued connection and support.

Leadership Style

Since 2009, I have actively engaged in diverse, multidisciplinary teams, embracing the value of collaborating with individuals who hold different perspectives. As a line manager and lab-level DEI co-chair, I connect with team members from various backgrounds, appreciating their diverse viewpoints. In such roles, I take the opportunity to educate on biases and communication, avoiding becoming bystanders, actively listening, connecting, and supporting my direct reports and the leadership team.

One crucial lesson I've learned is the importance of empowering myself to share my thoughts. Initially, as a faculty transitioning to work at a national laboratory, I faced doubts about my presence in certain settings due to my gender or race. Instead of staying silent and frustrated, I realized the significance of speaking up, educating others about the impact of seemingly harmless remarks or questions that can profoundly affect someone else's life.

I believe that individuals are the greatest asset of an organization committed to progress and positive change. My leadership approach encourages active dialogue, creating a space where everyone's voice is valued, respected, and appreciated. By nurturing an environment that values diversity, I aim to empower teams to unlock their full potential and collectively strive towards a better world.

Fundraising Experience

In my previous fundraising experience, I have successfully collaborated on various initiatives, including setting up a giving gala, seeking network donations, and organizing virtual giving events. One of the standout achievements was the giving gala, which raised an impressive $100,000. Additionally, through virtual giving and securing recurring donations, we were able to raise a steady $10,000 per month for three consecutive years.

For SACNAS, I propose a novel fundraising idea that harnesses the strength of all its chapters across the United States. The SACNAS Giving Gala would take place on a designated day, allowing all chapters to participate simultaneously at their respective institutions. This unified effort would create a powerful impact, garnering nationwide attention and support for SACNAS's mission.

The primary goal of the Giving Gala at the chapter level would be to raise funds dedicated to supporting student attendance at the yearly NDiSTEM conference. At the organization level, the goal is to raise funds to support all the programmatic efforts focused on access, opportunity, and community.  

Board Leadership

A core responsibility of a board member is effective governance and strategic planning, ensuring alignment with SACNAS' vision and mission. Collaborating with executive leadership and stakeholders, board members drive the organization towards achieving its goals. The impact extends far beyond running a successful non-profit, as SACNAS plays a crucial role in promoting diversity and inclusivity in STEM fields. The decisions made by the board have significant consequences for stakeholders and the broader community. Upholding strong governance principles is vital to operate ethically, maintain public trust, and maximize positive contributions. Strategic planning empowers the board and staff to chart a clear course, allocate resources wisely, and optimize the nonprofit's impact. This approach ensures long-term sustainability, success in fulfilling the mission, and effective service to beneficiaries, reinforcing SACNAS' leadership in advancing diversity and inclusion in STEM across the country.

Organizational Governance

During my governance experience, I served on the Board of Directors for Communities in Schools for 4 years. As a member of the accounting committee, I ensured the nonprofit's financial stability through monthly budget reviews and presentations to the board. Additionally, I actively participated in organizational and strategic meetings to sustain the nonprofit's operations and conducted performance reviews for the executive director. Finally, as an event committee member, I actively collaborated in organizing a pivotal annual fundraising gala. This significant event revolved around hosting key donors for a memorable dinner and engaging them in an exciting silent auction.

For 6 years, I engaged with the SIAM chapter, holding various positions such as secretary, treasurer, Vice-president, and President, before becoming the advisor. Organizing events to enhance technical knowledge for participants' research was a primary focus. Initiatives included inviting speakers, conducting technical workshops for applicable skills, and arranging meet and greets with potential employers. My contributions involved developing action plans and seeking consensus from organization members.

National Engagement

During my tenure as a board member of Communities in Schools, I fostered a unique multi-year mentorship program that connected underserved high school students in Tri-Cities, Washington, with mentors from a national laboratory. This strategic partnership provided these students access to invaluable guidance throughout their academic journeys. We've successfully served dozens of students, establishing lifelong connections that support their academic pursuits.

Moreover, I played a key role in advocating for strategic collaborations with affinity non-profits like SACNAS and SHPE within my current institution. As a result, SACNAS gained recognition as a potential partner institution, leading to our participation in the upcoming SACNAS conference.

My experience in forging strategic relationships and partnerships has allowed me to bridge organizations, create opportunities for underserved students, and facilitate connections with reputable institutions. I am committed to expanding these efforts and leveraging my network to advance SACNAS' mission of empowering diverse students, researchers, and professionals in STEM fields. By continuing to foster meaningful collaborations, I aim to enhance SACNAS' impact on the communities we serve and support the growth of talented individuals in STEM careers.

Graduate Student Candidates

Faith Bowman

Title: Graduate Research Assistant

Institution/Company: University of Utah

Affiliation: Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohicans

How long have you been a SACNAS member? 3 - 6 years



Personal Statement

I want to serve on the SACNAS Board of Directors because I am truly passionate about SACNAS’s mission and vision. SACNAS is celebrating 50 years of service, and I want to be part of shaping the next 50 years by helping SACNAS cultivate greater influence on the STEM enterprise. My experiences as an active advocate for increased EDI in STEM will be an asset in accomplishing SACNAS’s strategic plan. My experiences as a leader in the UofU SACNAS chapter, as a council member for The National Council of Urban Indian Health, and as a mentor for multiple diversity programs (e.g., NARI and Ciencia Latino) have given me a foundation to be an effective community builder preserving SACNAS’s goal of network and membership growth as well as increasing its impact on individual members. Currently, I am a doctoral candidate with ambitions to work in science policy. I am training to become an expert in energy metabolism and cardiometabolic disease. With this expertise and the additional training I’ve received as a fellow for the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Advocacy Training Program and the American Association for the Advancement of Science Local Science Engagement Network,  I believe I can be an asset to strengthening SACNAS’s Influence. I’ve gained skills in recruiting, training, and mobilizing diverse cohorts of scientists to serve as science advocates; elevating the visibility of and trust in science with community and policy stakeholders; and, lastly, ensuring evidence-based research remains a tool utilized in public decision-making.

SACNAS/STEM Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Experience

I have been involved with the University of Utah (UofU) SACNAS Chapter for five years and have held multiple positions on the executive board. I served as the communications officer (2019-2021),  marketing content and managing our chapter’s image while effectively communicating diverse science topics and helping to bring culture and community to our chapter through various events - Vamos a Charlar, Native Beading workshops, and Pass the Plate. In 2021, I was successfully elected as the UofU SACNAS President (2021- 2023). Receiving significant funding from UofU research admin, I established a Travel Scholarship to send more international & URM SACNAS members to conferences. We’ve successfully funded eight URM graduate students to present their work at conferences like NDiSTEM. Furthermore, I guided our chapter to expand beyond graduate and post-doc trainees to form a sub-chapter specifically for undergraduates. As well as helping to build a professional chapter with our local alumni to accomplish the vision of a true pipeline of support here in Utah. The work I’ve done aided our chapter in receiving Chapter of the Year in 2021. This experience taught me how to successfully draft and implement budgets, build a network, and turn ideas into actions to serve a greater mission.

Leadership Style

I believe that leadership is an action-oriented endeavor that transcends beyond a role, position, or level of authority. A great leader is constantly learning. As a passionate and creative leader, my strengths are in my  1.)  Authenticity, I believe in bringing your whole self into an experience. I create spaces where everyone can be themselves and know their ideas are valued. This is evident by the switch in UofU SACNAS programming from primarily professional development to more community-building events where we showcase our members' strengths.  2.) Empathy & Reliability, I put myself in people's shoes and listen. I focus on learning an individual's background, interests, and work styles. By understanding their ambitions, I can provide the proper support needed to thrive. This helps in conflict resolution.  There have been situations where unclear communication led to conflict with advisors, but because I knew the intentions of each party, I was able to validate everyone's feelings and resolve the conflict regarding spending.  3.) Innovation, I enjoy envisioning the growth of a person and organization. I believe we must be intentional about the future, and inclusive engagement and co-creation when working with diverse groups to accomplish a shared vision is key to innovation.

Fundraising Experience

My experience with fundraising comes from a student perspective. I’ve always tried to be creative or to lean/ build beneficial partnerships to attain funding. An example of a fundraising event I did with the UofU SACNAS Chapter was partnering with the dance team to host a Salsa Dance workshop. Here community members could join us for an entry fee and learn how to Salsa. My goal in this was to highlight the unique cultural capital of our chapter and utilize our culture to build community while earning money for our organization. Before my term ended with the UofU SACNAS Chapter, I was in the midst of building connections to host a Bachata and Horchata workshop since everyone loved the Salsa fundraiser. The bulk of my experience in raising funds comes from tracking our chapters’ impact (e.g. community engagement, stratified programming attendance) and reaching out to organizations and offices with similar missions to garner investment into our chapter. We’ve had investment from the Health equity, diversity, and inclusion office, Vice-President of research offices, and various departments at the University of Utah. In addition, taking advantage of giving days, promoting our chapter, and reaching out to alumni to invest in our chapter.

Board Leadership

I believe the core responsibility of  SACNAS Board members are: 1.)  to uphold the mission and vision of SACNAS. We must lead by example and be the catalyst for the change we want to see. By upholding the mission and vision of SACNAS, we set the standard, we build trust, and we create the environment where our membership can thrive. 2.) Always carry the best interests of SACNAS to help pave the pathway to success by sparking creativity and driving innovation with an equity mindset. The diversity on the SACNAS board and the unique personal, professional, and cultural capital we all bring allow our differences to be our strengths. Together we all help set the direction in which we can accomplish the shared vision of true diversity and strengthen SACNAS’s influence on the STEM enterprise. 3.) To be a good relative and uphold the seven grandfather teachings (Love, Respect, Bravery, Truth, Honesty, Humility, and Wisdom) and the SACNAS code of ethics (Integrity, Excellence, Honesty, Diversity, Respect, Responsibility, and Compliance). I believe these three core responsibilities as board members allow us to honor our past, nurture our present, and invest in our future.

Organizational Governance

Wunk Sheek, Co-President (2016–2018). This Indigenous student organization helps students gain access to cultural activities and events while at UW-Madison. As co-president, I was successful in acquiring Wunk Sheek, a direct line of financing from The Associated Students of Madison as well as continuous support for the On Wisconsin Powow and other core programming. 

National Engagement

In addition to my involvement in SACNAS, I served on The National Council of Urban Indian Health (NCUIH) Youth Advisory board and Alumni network. NCUIH is a national organization devoted to the support and development of quality, accessible, and culturally competent health services for American Indians and Alaska Natives living in urban settings. The youth council allowed me to connect with Native youth nationally and create content aimed at improving the mental, physical, and spiritual wellness of urban native youth across the country. I served alongside four native youths. We received training and hands-on experience in three broad areas: public health practices and behavior health (e.g., creating campaigns aimed at peer-level prevention of suicide, substance abuse, and mental health), professional and leadership skills (e.g., understanding policy and advocacy, project management, crafting health infographics and webinars), and personal growth (e.g., building presentation skills, networking with SAMSAH, UNITY, and Urban Indigenous Organizations). This experience strengthened my team-building and collaboration skills in an area dealing with inherently sensitive topics. It inspired me to explore a career in Science Policy. I am currently completing a summer opportunity with ASBMB-ATP  and AAAS LSEN to increase the local engagement of scientists in policy.

Lorissa Saiz

Title: Graduate Research Assistant

Institution/Company: University of Houston

How long have you been a SACNAS member? 3 - 6 years



Personal Statement

I believe I can use the experiences I’ve gained as President of the UH SACNAS chapter to help continue uplifting the voices of underserved minorities in science. I will be able to bring indigenous and Chicana perspectives to the board of an organization that specifically aims to support scientists and students with my background. I can also offer insight into the struggles faced by minority graduate and undergraduate students who are just starting their journeys by virtue of my direct connection with my home SACNAS chapter. I have also had the privilege of experiencing bilingual science communication, presentation, and outreach through my work with the UH GalapaGO! Research Learning Abroad Program in coordination with Universidad San Francisco de Quito and the Galapagos Science Center in Ecuador. This has given me a unique opportunity to work with Latin American scientists in Latin America and experience public engagement and community outreach in scientific understanding in Spanish. Finally, I want to actively work to provide a strong support network and community for underserved minority students, faculty, and professionals nationwide just as I have done at my own university.

One of my core values, and the one that aligns most closely with the SACNAS mission is the belief that science is for everyone, including kids, elders, and underserved minorities that are often overlooked. I believe this passion coupled with my knowledge and experience will help to move SACNAS forward in a good way.

SACNAS/STEM Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Experience

I am a founding member of the University of Houston SACNAS chapter, which was recognized by SACNAS as a role model chapter for Outstanding STEM diversity last year, and have served as President since the chapter was founded in 2019. In our five years as a chapter, we have made enormous strides in providing underserved minority students at the University of Houston with a sense of community and belonging.  We have worked to provide these students with professional development tools to assist them with adjusting to life at a large university by developing multiple programs.  Our chapter’s Freshman/Transfer mentorship program pairs first-generation STEM undergraduates with SACNAS chapter mentors to support them in their first year at UH.  We also support upper-division undergraduates from many departments through a senior mentorship program, giving guidance on how to apply to graduate school successfully.  We have worked with industry partners to develop workshops that train attendees in skills desirable to the industry such as machine learning methods.  We have also worked to increase cultural awareness and representation on campus in many events, including a celebration of Hispanic and Indigenous Oral Histories, and a festival in honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

Leadership Style

The University of Houston is extremely diverse, and as a result, the officers, faculty advisors, and student members involved with our chapter come from a wide variety of ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. As president of our SACNAS chapter at UH, I've had several years working with teams that have varying different perspectives because of this diversity. Since our chapter is so diverse, we always aim to host cultural events that will celebrate each culture present in our chapter. Since I am not personally from all of these cultural backgrounds, it is necessary for me to listen and encourage others to take charge of the celebration of their culture and act as support for those students who have been taught that their culture does not belong in a STEM academic setting. This has been a learning process for me, and I have learned how to inspire others to take charge of the things they care about and learn how to lead. These experiences have also taught me that often times in order to lead, you need to make sure you have a good and passionate team around you, and that differing perspectives are extremely valuable.

Fundraising Experience

Our chapter has engaged in a number of different fundraising efforts this year, some of which I have been at the forefront of planning. The big money makers that our chapter hosts are themed bake sales, and our most recent bake sale was Valentine’s Day-themed. Our members would be invited to bake various cultural pastries, and we would sell these to UH students during class hours.

I was also instrumental in securing grant money with our faculty advisors from the UH College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics two years in a row now for our SACNAS UH student mentorship programs. Last year we were awarded $2800, and for the 23-24 academic year we were awarded $8400. Although I was not the person submitting the grant, I was directly involved in much of the writing and brainstorming for the program we are utilizing these funds for. This year we are submitting a grant through Cougar Initiatives to Engage for $19,000 to support undergraduate research for students who have financial need. This program aims to highlight the struggles faced by underrepresented minority students through oral histories of these students and their families through a collaboration with the UH History Department.

Board Leadership

I believe a core responsibility of a board member is to ensure that the activities and engagements that SACNAS hosts and participates in are actively benefitting the people we are serving. Something I have noticed a lot with governing bodies is that they often become detached from the people they were created to serve. Since SACNAS is an organization that was built to serve underrepresented minorities in science and to uplift and support them, it is absolutely crucial that SACNAS is able to continuously and actively serve its members, because we are a vulnerable group of people in STEM. The SACNAS chapter in my university is the only interdisciplinary STEM organization geared towards helping minorities in science, and if we don’t hold to our mission, there is nowhere else for these students and faculty to turn for support. I often felt lost and alone when I began my journey, and now I feel a responsibility to provide support and community to students, and even faculty that feel lost as I used to. This is the same mentality I would approach being a SACNAS board member with but on a larger scale.

Organizational Governance

As an undergraduate, I served on the executive board for the University of Houston chapter of the National Society of Leadership and Success as both Events Coordinator and Chief Financial Officer. In these roles, I was responsible for planning and budgeting events throughout the school year and maximizing the number and impact of these events within our chapter budget. I was in this occupation for an academic year.

I also served as the student representative on the UH College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics Undergraduate Studies Committee. For one academic year, my job was to ensure that decisions being made by faculty representatives of the committee about undergraduate coursework were in the best interests of my fellow students.

I have served as President of our UH SACNAS chapter since we founded it in 2019, and throughout this time I have been responsible for team management, officer and member recruitment, event brainstorming, and most recently social media engagement. I have also taken less active roles in chapter finance and fundraising since our chapter has grown so much in the past couple of years, it has become too big of a job for one or even two people to handle.

National Engagement

I am a danzante with Calmecac Tonantzin Yolilitzyotl - Houston Aztec Dance and Drum. Our Kalpulli has danced twice at UH SACNAS events. Both of these events were aimed at recognizing the indigenous roots of LatAm, bringing awareness to the influential roles occupied by women in indigenous culture, and the importance of indigenous knowledge of the land in science.

I am also working with one of my elders, Lucille Contreras: owner and CEO of the Texas Tribal Buffalo Project, to develop an educational trip for UH SACNAS freshman/transfer mentorship program. Lucille developed TTBP in cooperation with the Lipan Apache Tribe to reintroduce the bison to ancestral homelands in the plains of central Texas. We are working to allow the students to experience this reintroduction effort and learn about Texas tribes and tribal knowledge of the land and animals native to our beautiful state.

I am currently serving on the Houston Holocaust Museum’s Latinx Initiatives Advisory Committee. My connection with LIAC and its members has inspired cultural events our chapter has hosted and inspired a grant to develop a program that supports underserved minority undergraduate students to do research and also record their own oral histories and those of their families.

Jose Zepeda

Title: PhD Candidate

Institution/Company: Vanderbilt University

How long have you been a SACNAS member? 3 - 6 years



Personal Statement

Perhaps the most vital responsibility is for the board member to resonate strongly with the mission of the organization, and to be able to work with other members to push that mission forward as effectively as possible. As a first-generation Mexican-American and first-generation college student, the SACNAS mission to increase the number of diverse scientists resonates deeply with me. This mission will always require efforts on behalf of those who have already started STEM careers, and I believe the challenge is to create programs that enable persons from diverse backgrounds, and especially those from underserved low socioeconomic communities to thrive in the sciences. To this end, one of my core missions in STEM is to instantiate programs which invite URMs interested in obtaining STEM degrees to STEM research programs and provide support throughout their development in STEM, so that they may feel welcomed and secure about their decision to pursue a STEM career. I believe that my skills in public speaking, fundraising, and collaboration-starting are strengths that would allow me to accomplish this. 

SACNAS/STEM Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Experience

I joined the SACNAS Chapter at the University of Massachusetts Boston in 2017 as a general member, and from 2019 to 2020 I served as co-coordinator of our Chapter. I worked closely with leadership to organize our inaugural Ciencia y Arte event. This event centered around the exhibition of spoken, written and painted art produced by various diverse scientists and non-STEM members of our campus community. The event was a hit and spawned a lot of crosstalk between departments which led to various opportunities for collaboration between attendees.

In 2018 I also moved from being the Vice President of our school's American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Chapter to President from 2019-2020. Under my guidance, we hosted biweekly journal clubs held by members, and monthly professional development activities which ranged from crafting a resume/CV, preparing a personal statement, among other topics. These events were often in collaboration with our SACNAS Chapter and we had various members involved in both organizations. I also led a collaboration with the local and underfunded McCormack school, where we invited 7th and 8th graders on campus to perform experiments and interact with diverse scientists.

Leadership Style

My leadership style is one which focuses on honing the strengths of individual members to together create a competent and productive team. I've always made it a point to conclude meetings with tangible action items that could be if not accomplished before the next gathering, at least deconstructed into smaller goals which could be. UMass Boston is the most diverse university in Boston, and during my tenure, I had the privilege of working with people coming from all sorts of backgrounds and experiences. Whenever there was a difference in point of view, I always ensured that the matter of contention would be discussed in a way so that even if solid conclusions were not met, that at least everyone at the table was able to understand the difference in position and appreciate that most things are multidimensional and we should strive to include everyone and agree to find an optimal modus operandus for the group. 

Fundraising Experience

For events held at UMass Boston were fortunate enough to receive funding from organizations that resonated with our mission, such as the The Mauricio Gastón Institute for Latino Community Development and Public Policy. These collaborations were built over the years and stemmed from various SACNAS members participating in other communities such as Casa Latinx, for which I was a general member and served as a keynote speaker for the UndocuGrad ceremony in 2019. Fundraising for attending our poetry event was more difficult, and members of the group created chapbooks that we sold at local poetry shops and venues. Additionally, we created a GoFundMe that we shared on our social media pages that also gained the necessary funds. I believe that my experience in fostering relationships with other organizations and my ability to use my platform as a poet-scientist could help in fundraising activities. Creating events where art can be sold and donations can be made has proved successful, and I believe that providing University Chapters with guidance on how to host these events could prove beneficial. 

Board Leadership

I believe that one of the most crucial responsibilities of a board member is to provide a vision that is accompanied by a strong set of goals and tangibles that will allow that vision to transpire. In my various leadership roles, I have made sure to establish activities and milestones which advance my vision within an organization; all of which to date have centered around combating the evils of racism and colorism in preventing the advancement of URMs in American society. This has been accomplished through various strategies, which include delegating tasks to those who share my vision and wish to aid me in these efforts, as well as by leading by example and putting my money where my mouth is and putting in the extra work and effort always when necessary. 

Organizational Governance

President, ASBMB UMass Boston Chapter                                                                                      2017-2020 American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Contributions: Led biweekly journal readings and facilitates discussion, as well as professional development workshops. Planned Outreach event every semester inviting middle-schoolers from a local underserved middle school to participate in scientific activities and mentoring.


Co-coordinator, SACNAS UMass Boston Chapter       


2017-2020 Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science

Contributions: Planned meetings and diversity in science events throughout the semester.


Vice President, Pharmacology Graduate Student Association, 2022-Present                                                

Contributions: Organization of various Pharmacology Department activities including but not limited to: our annual Vanderbilt/Meharry Pharmacology retreat, Pharmacology student-invited Forum, Pharmacology social events. Servers as liaison for communications between pharmacology student body and Pharmacology leadership.


DEI Committee Member Pharmacology Department, Vanderbilt University              


Spearheaded and manages a monthly luncheon for URM students and other DEI initiatives in the department.


National Engagement

Before taking leadership roles in STEM-related Chapters on campus, I was President of the UMass Boston Poetry Club. In 2018, our club sent a team of which I was part of to the College Poetry Slam Invitational at Temple University, for which our team placed as a semi-finalist among 72 international teams. Our team's poems were strongly centered on political advocacy against racism, colorism, and economic classism against BIPOC persons. Since then, I have participated in interviews held by national and international societies to speak out against discrimination against URMs in STEM. 

It is the policy of SACNAS not to discriminate against any individual or group for reasons of race, color, religion, creed, gender, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, sex, pregnancy or related medical conditions, age, marital status, ancestry, sexual orientation, physical or mental or sensory disability, genetic information, military status or any other consideration protected by applicable federal, state or local laws. SACNAS is committed to providing equal opportunities in all activities including application for Board service.

Diversity and inclusion are more than just words to SACNAS. They are integral parts of our history, culture, and identity. They are the principles that founded our organization, guide our strategic path forward, and help us fulfill our mission. We continually seek to build and maintain a Board of Directors that reflects the rich diversity of our organization and country. We look for and celebrate diverse voices, experiences, backgrounds, and talents to help us approach our work fearlessly, spark creativity, drive innovation, improve constantly, and celebrate our successes. Simply put, everyone is welcome at SACNAS. We believe that an inclusive organization is one where our employees, volunteers, and board members feel empowered to be their full, authentic selves.

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