Belonging in STEM
January 16, 2020 11:03 AM   Subscribe

SACNAS (Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science) is "an inclusive organization dedicated to fostering the success of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans, from college students to professionals, in attaining advanced degrees, careers, and positions of leadership in STEM." Recently they've run a special series of articles called "Belonging in STEM" as part of their "STEM and Culture Chronicle". "Belonging in STEM" is described as "6 incredible stories from our community about belonging in STEM, covering the struggles, the triumphs, and everything in between". Individual links and excerpts inside!

- "Sense of Belonging: Extending Beyond the Self for Success in Academic Spaces by Tatiana Elisa Bustos: "What it means to be Latina in predominantly white spaces: you are the spokesperson for all Latinx communities in class discussions, regardless of whether it’s in your research realm. Anything about the “barrios” is in your expertise...Herein lies a challenge as minoritized identities in academic spaces. It is critical for us to convey our experiences of overcoming obstacles of racism and feelings of alienation. It is in silence that we feel so alone. But we also must give equal voice to our struggles, successes, and strategies."

- Where Do I Belong in Science? by Ash Alunan: "We perceive science as being “objective.” However, scientific practice is clearly not objective because science reflects human culture. Science does not operate in a vacuum. Therefore, science is inextricably tied to the extensive history of racism, colonialism, ableism, and sexism...Diverse scientists are made to feel as though the lack of belonging in STEM is our fault. It does not surprise me when my peers and I experience impostor syndrome."

- At The Story Collider, Reimagining What Science Can Be by Maryam Zaringhalam, Katherine J. Wu, Erin Barker, and Liz Neeley: "Science has opened our minds to the wonders of our universe — from the gravitational waves that ripple through the cosmos to the microbes thriving deep within our Earth. But our collective imagination around who makes those discoveries, and how that process unfolds, remains limited...Our intent is not to “give people a voice”; they already have them. Rather, by highlighting the people and perspectives that have been historically ignored, erased, and even actively silenced, our producers, storytellers, and audiences are helping to reclaim and expand the definition of “science.”

- Blooming Where Planted in West Texas by Pamela Hallock, PhD: "A few years later, when I was pursuing my PhD in Oceanography, one of my dissertation committee members argued that I was “wasting government money” because, as a married woman, I would never do anything with my “expensive” education. Even after I had written and defended my dissertation, my major professor lamented that I wasn’t really qualified for any academic position...I was clearly a “token woman” candidate in some searches; that was obvious when the Search Committee Chair would tell me that “I should be honored that they would even interview someone with my pedigree.”

- Belonging in Industry — Building My Network from the Ground Up by Xiomara Perez: "How many times have you heard, “you are only here because of affirmative action” or “it will be easier for you to get an internship because you are a minority woman”? I hear it from professors, advisors, and even close friends...Almost every other intern in my group got their position via an internal recommendation (i.e. parents that work in the company or family friends). Needless to say, I didn’t have any prior connections like that, but I knew that for me to feel like I truly belonged in industry as an engineer, I had to find an internship in the biopharmaceutical industry on my own, not because I am a first-generation Latina, but because I am a well-qualified scientist and engineer."

- Lessons Learned — 5 Tips to Help you Remember that You Belong in Science by Renato Aguilera, PhD: "I know from personal experience that early research exposure empowers us to feel like we belong, that we can be part of the scientific community, and most importantly, that we can succeed in doing what we love...Many of us do not feel we belong in science due to subtle and overt discrimination. Even after 30 years as a professor, I sometimes feel the same as I did in my early years — like I need to prove my existence. In addition, the current political environment does not help minorities feel accepted or included. "
posted by primalux (4 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
Full disclosure: I have been a dues-paying member of SACNAS for several years, but I am not affiliated with anyone in these links other than us all being SACNAS members. As a Chicana first generation college student with a STEM degree, I have found my membership invaluable, even if it's only for supporting an organization that is putting out great, helpful things like this.
posted by primalux at 11:05 AM on January 16 [9 favorites]

In a similar vein, look at the work of NOBCChE (National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers).
posted by lalochezia at 11:18 AM on January 16 [4 favorites]

I am a biology professor at a US Minority Serving Institution and a huge fan of SACNAS. Thanks for a really cool post!
posted by hydropsyche at 2:52 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]

I'm a SACNAS member because I want to support and learn from the impressive SACNAS community. Great post, thanks!
posted by ChuraChura at 3:40 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]

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