Introducing 2021 NDiSTEM Conference Convener Secretary Deb Haaland


September 22, 2021 



Kate Rose, SACNAS Press Liaison 




U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland to Welcome Largest 

 Virtual Convening of Diverse Scientists in the Country 

Nearly 5,000 underrepresented minority STEM scientists expected to participate  

in the National Diversity in STEM Conference from October 25 – 29 


WASHINGTON DC – United States Secretary of the Interior, Deb Haaland, will welcome attendees to the national conference for SACNAS (Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics & Native Americans in Science) during the opening ceremony on Monday, October 25. Sec. Haaland will address the conference via recorded remarks as the entire conference is being delivered virtually to protect the health and safety of SACNAS members and partners. 

The 2021 SACNAS National Diversity in STEM (NDiSTEM) Digital Conference is the largest and most diverse gathering in the United States for underrepresented minority (URM) STEM students and professionals. Nearly 5,000 students and professionals are expected this year for a five-day digital conference centered around science, mentorship, professional development, and networking.  

A member of the Pueblo of Laguna and a 35th generation New Mexican, Secretary Haaland made history when she became the first Native American to serve as a cabinet secretary. 

“It is a deeply meaningful and an incredible honor to have Secretary Haaland welcome our attendees. Throughout her career in public service, Secretary Haaland has broken barriers and opened the doors of opportunity for future generations, which is directly aligned with the SACNAS mission,” says Dr. Pamela Padilla, SACNAS President. “Her historic appointment aligns with this pivotal moment in time where our communities are feeling the devastating toll of the pandemic, climate change, and ongoing racial injustice, and yet we are stepping into our power. Secretary Haaland not only embodies our shared values of diversity, equity, and inclusion, she is an inspiration to our members.”  

Over the course of the event, participants will be immersed in cutting-edge STEM research, professional development sessions, and a digital experience that promotes belonging through SACNAS’ unique blend of science, culture, and community. Attendees will access multicultural celebrations and traditions, sharing time with an inclusive and welcoming community of peers and mentors.  

This year’s conference will feature keynote speakers across academia, government, and the private sector, including Dr. Alfredo “Dr. Q” Quiñones-Hinojosa (esteemed brain cancer neuroscientist), Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein (author of The Disordered Cosmos) and Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer (Director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment). Featured speakers include Dr. Desi Small Rodriguez (Director of the Data Warriors Lab and Co-Founder of the U.S. Indigenous Data Sovereignty Network), Dr. Drew Lanham (author of The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature and Sparrow Envy), and Rafael Alvarez, Director of the San Diego City College (SDCC) Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) Program. Full keynote and featured speaker bios can be found here 

About United States Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland 

Secretary Deb Haaland made history when she became the first Native American to serve as a cabinet secretary. She is a member of the Pueblo of Laguna and a 35th generation New Mexican. Secretary Haaland grew up in a military family; her father was a 30-year combat Marine who was awarded the Silver Star Medal for saving six lives in Vietnam, and her mother is a Navy veteran who served as a federal employee for 25 years at the Bureau of Indian Affairs. As a military child, she attended 13 public schools before graduating from Highland High School in Albuquerque.   

As a single mother, Secretary Haaland volunteered at her child’s pre-school to afford early childhood education. Like many parents, she had to rely on food stamps at times as a single parent, lived paycheck-to-paycheck, and struggled to put herself through college. At the age of 28, Haaland enrolled at the University of New Mexico (UNM) where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in English and later earned her J.D. from UNM Law School. Secretary Haaland and her child, who also graduated from the University of New Mexico, are still paying off student loans.  

Secretary Haaland ran her own small business producing and canning Pueblo Salsa, served as a tribal administrator at San Felipe Pueblo, and became the first woman elected to the Laguna Development Corporation Board of Directors, overseeing business operations of the second largest tribal gaming enterprise in New Mexico. She successfully advocated for the Laguna Development Corporation to create policies and commitments to environmentally friendly business practices. 

Throughout her career in public service, Secretary Haaland has broken barriers and opened the doors of opportunity for future generations. After running for New Mexico Lieutenant Governor in 2014, Secretary Haaland became the first Native American woman to be elected to lead a State Party. She is one of the first Native American women to serve in Congress. In Congress, she focused on environmental justice, climate change, missing and murdered indigenous women, and family-friendly policies. 


For over 48 years, SACNAS has served as an inclusive organization dedicated to fostering the success of Chicano/Hispanics & Native Americans, from college students to professionals, in attaining advanced degrees, careers, and positions of leadership within STEM. Today, the organization serves a growing community of over 28,000 supporters including 8,200+ members and 133 student and professional chapters throughout the United States, including Guam and Puerto Rico. SACNAS influences the STEM diversity movement through STEM outreach & advocacy, promotion of STEM leaders, and The SACNAS National Diversity in STEM Conference.  Learn more about SACNAS at sacnas.orgFacebook, or Twitter. 


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