By Talie Meza
“CELEBRATION, NOT ASSIMILATION.” The Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) website itself says it all. SACNAS is an organization that is dedicated to achieving true diversity in the STEM field. The organization focuses on helping build a community for a wide array of students from diverse backgrounds with an interest in the sciences.
On Feb. 23 from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. in Room P101 in the Physics Building, the College had its first general body meeting of the newly formed SACNAS chapter.
“I feel like it’s challenging, even at this stage, for students to picture themselves in a professional STEM career,” said Dr. Jennifer Aleman, an alumna who graduated from the College in 2014 with a bachelor’s in biology. “Having a SACNAS chapter at the school, I think, is a place where students can come together and be with other students who look like them.”
Aleman later attended graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania where she earned her Ph.D. in cell and molecular biology. She returned to the School of Science as a science grant writer in July of 2021. During her time pursuing her doctorate, she was an active member of the SACNAS chapter at the University of Pennsylvania and thought it would be a valuable addition to the College community.
Aleman comes from a multicultural background, as she is half Cuban. Taking her own experience from being in SACNAS during her graduate program, she aims to help put other students at ease and help them build a more expansive and supportive community within the STEM field and people who plan on pursuing a career in the sciences.
“I'm hoping with me, they see someone in their shoes, who went to grad school to pursue a Ph.D.,” Aleman said. “So they can find their people, they can find their niche. Showing there are different people in academia. Like if I can do it, they can do it too.”
Dhwani Patel, a junior chemistry major, is one of the students working with Aleman to form the organization on campus.
“Starting a SACNAS chapter here at TCNJ is important, because it truly benefits both the students and the community as a whole,” he said. “By hosting events here to help students achieve an equal opportunity in STEM, while also extending our influence through outreach events, we hope to make a real change in the representation of certain groups in STEM fields,” Patel said.
Anyone interested in STEM, including students from the School of Science and engineering and STEM education majors, are welcome to attend meetings and join the organization. All meetings are applicable to all majors and new and interested member feedback and suggestions will be taken for upcoming activities.