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Home » NOAA engages diverse students at SACNAS

NOAA engages diverse students at SACNAS

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More than thirty NOAA staff members from all Line Offices and several staff offices descended on San Juan Puerto Rico from October 28-30 for the first in person meeting of SACNAS (Advancing Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science) National Diversity in STEM conference since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly 7,000 participants from diverse backgrounds, the majority of them undergraduate and graduate students, attended the three day meeting to learn about the latest research across all STEM fields, connect with their peers, meet future employers, participate in professional development and mentoring, and promote training and employment opportunities.


The NOAA team was enthusiastically led by Lonnie Gonsalves, Division Chief of the Stressor Detection and Impacts Division in NOS/NCCOS. OAR was represented by DaNa Carlis (GSL), Renellys Perez and Kayelyn Simmons (AOML), Todd Christenson and Andrea Miralles-Barboza (CPO), Suzi Webster (TPO), Adi Hanein (PMEL), and Maddie Kennedy, Amara Davis, Amanda Lawrence and Ana Sosa (Sea Grant). 

The NOAA booth was well staffed throughout the conference and with good reason! The booth attracted large crowds and everyone who volunteered was engaged continuously by students seeking opportunities at NOAA. A formal 2 hour session on student opportunities, attended by approximately 100 participants, was presented by staff from NOAA, AGU, USGS and UNAVCO and OHCS staff provided a presentation on the process for applying through USAJobs. Todd Christenson, Wilmelie Cruz (NMFS) and other NOAA staff also participated in the Geofutures Mentoring Program by which they were paired with a student to help navigate the meeting, facilitate networking, and provide advice on career development and graduate school.

Lonnie Gonsalves, Natasha White and Todd Christenson met with staff from NSF EPSCoR and Geosciences Division and faculty from University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez to discuss opportunities for future collaboration in climate science and services and student training. The recent MOA between NSF and NOAA as well as regional initiatives such as the Climate Adaptation Partnerships (formerly RISA) may provide vital frameworks for collaboration. 

Taking advantage of the proximity to the diverse student talent nearby, a smaller team spearheaded by Natasha White (Office of Education) spent a full day prior to SACNAS engaging with faculty and a group of approximately 50 students at the University of Puerto Rico Rio Piedras to discuss education and training opportunities at NOAA, including the Educational Partnership Program with Minority Serving Institutions, the Ernest F. Hollings Scholarship. 

While these discussions were preliminary and open, they laid the groundwork for future strategic engagement. An informal cross LO working group is being assembled to keep the momentum from the meeting going. 

For more information, contact Todd Christenson.

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