SACNAS national conference celebrates 35th anniversary

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. – The annual conference of the Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science will celebrate the organization’s 35th anniversary in Salt Lake City, Utah, Oct. 8 – 12 at the Salt Palace Convention Center. The conference provides activities for students, postdoctoral scholars, educators, administrators and researchers in many disciplines of engineering, mathematics and science.

This year’s theme is the “International Polar Year: Global Change in Our Communities.” More than 2,500 participants are expected to attend, along with world-renowned keynote speakers. Academics from all scientific fields will engage in discourse on global change – particularly climate change – and its impact on all fields of science.

About 300 academic institutions, as well as national laboratories, government agencies and other organizations, will be recruiting students for fellowships, internships, graduate programs and research/faculty positions at the master’s and Ph.D. levels.

“The conference is focused in a large part to inspire and help individuals throughout their academic development,” said SACNAS Executive Director Judit Camacho. “The largest group of students attending the conference is undergraduates. Students will see other scientists like themselves and be able to connect with opportunities through universities, federal labs and other organizations represented at the conference.”

According to Camacho, this year for the first time SACNAS will be bringing 60 Native students from local communities to the conference. “We have an amazing partnership we were able to develop with some of the Utah tribes. As we know, the number of Native American students is not very large, and to be able to bring 60 from local communities is very significant.”

Photo courtesy Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science More than 250 exhibitors from universities, research institutions, corporations and government agencies and laboratories come to the SACNAS national conference to recruit talented minority students and professionals for research.

The conference, supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation, gives the minority scientific community a voice in the direction and application of research affecting global health. “Universities are eager to attract a new group of individuals from different communities and perspectives. Researchers attending the conference often gain new insight into how they carry out their own research,” she said.

The conference opens with a Native blessing and offers scientific presentations, professional development, mentoring activities and the opportunity to make interdisciplinary connections. People from all cultures and ethnic backgrounds are welcome. Participants are welcome to dance the pachanga on Oct. 10, and participate in the SACNAS 16th Annual Powwow and social dance Oct. 11. Mariachi bands and Latino and American Indian performers all add to the excitement of this year’s event.

“A large percentage of the Latino community comes from indigenous roots. There is a historical connection, particularly in the way the organization was founded. The Chicano movement really identifies itself with its Native roots. Many people have both identities,” Camacho said.

As SACNAS becomes more diverse as an organization representing Latinos, Chicanos, Natives and Mexican-Americans, it is growing to include a strong contingent from Puerto Rico who, according to Camacho, appreciate and connect with the Native identity. “We are trying to make sure our communities become tapped for their incredible potential and talents. It is important to empower our communities to become engaged in science and know this is a really incredible opportunity to find solutions for our country, and the world.”

The conference provides many opportunities for students from underserved backgrounds to become involved in polar research exploring the delicate balance between the poles’ health and climate environmental practices. Students can examine how different scientific disciplines can impact – and are affected by – climate change. Traditional ecological knowledge and the participation of tribal communities in understanding global environmental changes will also be discussed.

The mission of SACNAS, according to its Web site, “is to encourage Chicano/Latino and Native American students to pursue graduate education and obtain the advanced degrees necessary for science research, leadership, and teaching careers at all levels.”

Students are encouraged to bring their resume for internship and fellowship application opportunities. For more information about SACNAS or the conference, visit www.sacnas.org. Next year’s conference will be held in Dallas.

“It is an amazing experience for students and local communities to know there are thousands of participants coming from all over the country that are focused on science and trying to help young people succeed,” Camacho said.