The 2019 conference welcomed a record 5,100+ attendees to Honolulu, Hawai’i — America’s most ethnically diverse state, a wellspring of STEM research and opportunity, and a living legacy to indigenous knowledge. The opening keynote was delivered by H.E. Hilda C. Heine, EdD, President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the first head of state to address the SACNAS community and a leader in the international movement for climate action. In her talk, she detailed the deep interconnection her people have with their land, how it is the basis for their culture, identity, and traditional scientific knowledge, and how the Marshall Islands are literally sinking under rising seas due to climate change. “Our challenge, as indigenous researchers in science,” pressed President Heine, “is to continue interrogating the limits of existing methodologies because we need to create new ones that will be inclusive of our traditional frameworks and ethos.”
Following this theme, conference programming was carefully crafted to encourage attendees to bring their whole selves to STEM, and push toward solutions for problems affecting communities of color, including climate change. Workshops like “Effects of Climate Change on Pacific Islands, their Indigenous Peoples, and Resources”, “Indigenous Scientists: Navigating from the Past into the Future”, were among 125 total breakout sessions, which included featured tracks for Indigenous Science, Climate Change, Science Communication, and Inclusion in STEM. Over 800 students presented their research, with 82 receiving awards, and 340 professionals volunteering to serve as mentor-judges.
Throughout the conference, Hawaiian culture was woven into the very fabric of the event by way of everything from the traditional Hawaiian kīpaepae (welcome ceremony), to the food, music, and even plenary session voice overs which were bilingual in Hawaiian and English.
In the spirit of helping attendees grow their networks and access opportunity, the sold out Graduate School and Career Expo Hall provided unparalleled access for attendees to connect with over 430 booths representing top STEM institutions, agencies, and companies including Amazon and Google. With an expansion in corporate presence, these partnerships were critical to what ultimately became the largest National Diversity in STEM Conference in SACNAS’ history, injecting $23 million into the local economy. In recognition of these partners, as well as other speakers and awardees, SACNAS planted 30 King Koa trees (native to Hawaiʻi) through a partnership with the Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative.
Following the conference, attendees returned to their local communities and institutions equipped, empowered, and energized for the road ahead.
Thankful for the chance to attend #2019SACNAS! I saw the undergrad I supervise @MalaneyFinn work the conference floor like a champ, reconnected with a former mentee and mentor, and worked with an amazing team from @UW_M3D and other @UW depts. pic.twitter.com/EBdwy5uczz— Arianna Gomez (@gomezae_) November 5, 2019
Science & culture! Before SACNAS, I spent my whole academic career being told culture had to be separate from my science. #2019SACNAS shatters these myths, supports its diverse members, & continually adapts to make an inclusive environment! #TrueDiversity #InclusionInSTEM pic.twitter.com/yedNSAZVxU— Ray L. Allen (@Ray_L_Allen) November 1, 2019
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