WWU Students Attend National SACNAS Conference in Salt Lake City

Students from Western Washington University’s chapter of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) attended the 2017 SACNAS national conference in Salt Lake City, Utah last month.

SACNAS is an inclusive organization dedicated to racial and ethnic diversity in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). The organization supports underrepresented scientists, engineers, and mathematicians throughout their careers from college students to professionals in leadership. The SACNAS conference is the largest annual meeting in the country devoted to inclusion in STEM, with an average of 4,000 attendees each year.

Western’s College of Science and Engineering has funded faculty and student travel to the SACNAS annual conference for the last three years.  Last year, eight students represented WWU in Long Beach, California, along with the club’s senior faculty advisor, Regina Barber DeGraaff.  The 2016 cohort set a new record for WWU’s attendance and visibility at the conference.

 “I am very grateful that our college understands the importance of supporting students of color in STEM and acknowledges the role of conferences like SACNAS in making STEM more inclusive and welcoming,” said DeGraaff.

The WWU SACNAS students who participated in this year’s conference were Celida Moran, Erik Faburrieta, Natasha Hessami, Jessica Reyna, Daniella Navarro, Lia Cook, and Alexandra Trejo. Several WWU faculty also attended the meeting such as DeGraaff; Kevin Covey, assistant professor of Physics and Astronomy and co-faculty advisor for the club; and Marco Hatch, assistant professor of Environmental Sciences and SACNAS research mentor.   The conference included professional workshops, networking sessions with professionals and students, graduate school information sessions, keynote speakers, research presentations, and awards.

At the conference, Hatch was given the 2017 SACNAS Outstanding Native American student mentorship award. This national award recognizes Hatch’s record of success in working with students to prepare and represent their research, and pursue advanced degrees in STEM.

SACNAS honored 117 graduate and undergraduate underrepresented minority students for their research and presentation skills at the conference. Two of Hatch’s mentored students, Alexandra Trejo and Mariah Holiday, received first and second place for the 2017 SACNAS National Diversity in STEM Conference Presentation Award in Marine Science.

“At SACNAS students can embrace their entire identity in a supportive, welcoming environment. For both of the students I mentored, Mariah Holiday and Alexandra Trejo, this was their first time attending a scientific conference and I can’t think of better place for them to present their research than SACNAS,” said Hatch.

Trejo, a junior majoring in Environmental Science and minoring in Spanish, presented her research on juvenile bivalve analysis of clam gardens that she conducted during her summer internship working with Hatch and Mariah Holiday, a student at Northwest Indian College majoring in Native Environmental Science.

Jessica Reyna, a Physics major from Longview presented on the astronomical research she conducted with Covey to identify multi-star systems in the Milky Way galaxy and help understand how the systems form and evolve over time.

“This experience was amazing. I was able to get feedback on not only my research project but also on my career goals. I learned that the resources for success are at our fingertips, we only need to reach out in order to obtain them” said Reyna, on participating at this year’s conference.

Another WWU SACNAS student, Erik Faburrieta, an Environmental Science major, attended the conference in hopes of receiving advice on how to make the most out of the next steps following graduation.

“I received plenty of tips through the professional development workshops, the presentations that were given, and as well through the conversations that I was able to have with researchers, peers, and employers,” said Faburrieta.

 For more information contact Western’s SACNAS Chapter, go to wwusacnas@gmail.com