Mizzou SACNAS: creating opportunities for mentorship in STEM

November 14, 2022

Sara Ricardez Hernandez (left) and Amanda Paz Herrera (right) at the 2022 SACNAS National Conference. 

SACNAS is committed to creating opportunities for mentorship in STEM fields
Sara Ricardez Hernandez (left) and Amanda Paz Herrera (right) at the 2022 SACNAS National Conference

Want to become part of a national community of researchers interested in increasing diversity in STEM? Consider the Mizzou chapter of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS).

SACNAS provides mentorship and resources for students to succeed as they work toward advancing their degrees. And the organization is looking for more engineers to join.

“Nationally, SACNAS has a lot of engineering students. One of our goals is actually to recruit for the College of Engineering at our conferences,” said Sara Ricardez Hernandez, Mizzou SACNAS president and PhD candidate in Molecular Pathogenesis and Therapeutics.

“SACNAS was created with the goal of increasing Chicanos and other people from Latinx and Native American communities in science,” she said. “At Mizzou, we’re not just focused on these communities, but also on increasing representation of all minorities and different backgrounds in STEM.”

The group works to bring together undergraduate students, graduate students, postdoctoral researchers and professors with a goal of building a space to provide mentorship to younger students and build members’ professional skills and networks.

“The community we’ve been able to create in SACNAS is one of the most memorable things from my time at Mizzou,” said Amanda Paz Herrera, Biochemistry PhD candidate and vice president of SACNAS. “It’s a little isolating when there are no other people from the same background in your department, but through SACNAS I was able to create relationships with other Latino people on campus.”

In addition to providing the opportunity for people across campus to come together at social events, SACNAS leaders organize workshops and seminars for professional development.

“The workshops are for undergraduates pursuing graduate school and for grad students,” said Arturo Rosete, who is in his first semester of the Prep Scholars program at Mizzou, a program designed to provide more research experience to students looking to pursue grad school.

Rosete shared that one of the events SACNAS is currently planning is an elevator pitch workshop at which students can practice pitching their research to professors. Other events involve bringing in post-doctoral researchers to talk about their projects.

The national SACNAS organization also provides resources to members, including a national mentorship program and annual conference with a leadership retreat and career fair.

Participation in SACNAS varies across academic levels, and much of SACNAS leadership is graduate students. But that shouldn’t stop undergraduate students from participating or wanting to join the leadership team.

“We are consistently creating positions for students who want to be leaders in the organization,” Ricardez Hernandez said.

There are over 80 active members of Mizzou SACNAS, with more regularly attending their social events. And the organization is always looking for engineering students to get involved.

“You can always benefit from just engaging with other engineers or scientists that look like yourself. It’s such a feeling of empowerment,” Paz Herrera said.

Rosete agreed, adding that talking about research from disciplines across campus with members was a valuable experience.

“Students should join us because we’re a group of individuals who love to learn more, are very diverse and seek new perspectives from other people. Most importantly, we get to talk about research,” he said.

Talking about research with people interested in building mentor-mentee relationships is a valuable way to prepare for a career in STEM.

“This SACNAS chapter is born from people who recognized that lack of community, of shared spaces,” said Paz Herrera. “SACNAS members and the exec board are all really involved people, and that leads to meaningful relationships. It’s not the same to go to a CV workshop as it is to learn from someone from your community who is further along in their career.”

Want to earn an engineering degree while learning from other students? Apply to Mizzou today!