UTSA welcomes representatives from SACNAS national organization

event participants

From left are Lisa Firmin (UTSA associate provost for faculty and student diversity and recruitment), John Frederick (UTSA provost and vice president for academic affairs), Maggie Werner-Washburne (SACNAS president), George Perry (UTSA dean of the College of Sciences), Greg Villareal (SACNAS board member) and Mehdi Shadaram (UTSA professor of electrical engineering).

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(March 7, 2013) -- UTSA administrators, faculty and students recently welcomed representatives from the Society for Advancement of Hispanics/Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) to the Main Campus.

The visit comes as the national organization, serving a community of more than 23,000 at 1,000 institutions nationwide, looks forward to celebrating its 40th anniversary at its annual conference Oct. 3-6 at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio. The theme of this year's conference is "Strengthening the Nation through Diversity, Innovation and Leadership in STEM."

UTSA Provost John Frederick complimented the organization on a longstanding relationship with UTSA that has included several College of Sciences faculty among its members.

Biology professor Luis Haro is a former president of the organization and enjoyed mentoring Hispanic and Native American students to introduce them to the scientific pipeline and provide them with exposure to more research opportunities.

"When I first started with SACNAS, we had about 200 attendees at our conferences; now we average almost 4,000," said Haro. "We have really expanded through our partnerships with the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health and other federal departments and entities."

A society of scientists, SACNAS is dedicated to fostering the success of Hispanic/Chicano and Native American scientists -- from college students to professionals -- to attain advanced degrees, careers and positions of leadership.

George Perry, dean of the UTSA College of Sciences, said the October conference will be beneficial to the diverse San Antonio community.

"This really addresses a bigger issue in our community -- to have a broader array of educational opportunities in the technical fields, said Perry. "Most of the high-paying jobs of the future are going to have a technical foundation in either science, engineering or related fields. One of the critical issues for the development in San Antonio is to not be a low labor point, but a destination for a labor force that has broad skills in a variety of different areas."

SACNAS President Maggie Werner-Washburne said the organization has a great deal of experience with mentoring and has different approaches that they think can help empower students to be become strong and self motivated.

SACNAS and its members have won numerous national awards for mentoring including the White House Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM) and the National Science Board Public Service Award.

Werner-Washburne also spoke about the value of and importance of diversity. "When people really honor who they are and where they come from, they bring their experiences and their creativity to the table," she said. "That is when diversity can lead to innovation."

The SACNAS 40th Anniversary Conference will be an economic boon for the Alamo City with several thousand visitors expected to attend the three-day event.