SACNAS, the Society for Advancement of Hispanics/Chicanos & Native Americans in Science, recently announced the election of its 15-member National Board of Directors. Among those elected was University of New Mexico Regents' Professor of Biology Maggie Werner-Washburne as president of the board. Werner-Washburne's three-year appointment began Jan. 4. The first two years as president and the third as past-president.
Based in Santa Cruz, Calif., SACNAS is a nonprofit corporation that fosters the success of Hispanic/Chicano & Native American scientists, from college students to professionals, to attain advanced degrees, careers and positions of leadership in science.
Werner-Washburne has several goals as president including one that should interest UNM and the state of New Mexico which is to improve outreach to students like those who come to UNM as freshmen.
"I am humbled and excited to be the new president of SACNAS," said Werner-Washburne. "My leadership philosophy is to build teams, bring as many voices to the table as possible and develop creative solutions to important challenges. I think my biggest goal is to make SACNAS a better team. I want to help provide regional workshops that lead to improvements in skills, what students know about career options early on, and give the students the tools and the lift they need to be successful.
"Being president of SACNAS at this time and at UNM is very meaningful to me for many reasons. This (UNM) was a key birthplace for SACNAS, so it feels like we have come full circle and I am humbled to be a part of that."
Werner-Washburne says she's been told that at the rate the United States is going, it will take 160 years to diversify the sciences.
"I think there are different ways to deal with chronic, hard problems like student success and science education that can lead to solutions that we have not thought of before," said Werner-Washburne. "There is a concept of 'emergent properties' in data – unexpected results that come from putting new types of data together or looking at complex data in new ways. I hope that we can begin to see emergent properties in some of the chronic, hard problems that face our country and, especially, in the ones that concern SACNAS."
SACNAS is celebrating its 40th Anniversary in 2013. What was started by Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in New Mexico, including many UNM faculty, and elsewhere who believed in the importance of providing opportunities to Chicanos/Latinos and Native Americans in science, technology, engineering, and math, has grown into a society with about 20,000 members worldwide. Currently, SACNAS is researching and finding ways to bring in many other disciplines that relate to what the organization does.
The organization has 6,000 paid members and serving a worldwide community of 23,000 at more than 1,000 institutions. There are 70 SACNAS chapters at colleges and universities throughout the US and Puerto Rico, and a professional chapter at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). SACNAS and its affiliated groups have made major advances over four decades in opening the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) to underrepresented minorities and in diversifying the nation's scientific workforce.
"I've worked in science and diversity all of my career, here at UNM and in Washington, D.C.," said Werner-Washburne. "I have been a SACNAS member for almost 25 years. SACNAS is, in my mind, a key leader in diversity and the sciences, and education the issues of diversity, mentoring, and the frontiers of science, math and engineering. Beyond it's leadership, SACNAS is a family. The national meeting is the place where so many of us go each year to restore ourselves, energize and focus our students, and strengthen and grow the vision and networks within the organization. Don't let the name fool you, SACNAS welcomes everyone – and we work with students and professionals of all races and ethnicities and the science is as real as the mentoring."