Diversity

My goal is to see our classrooms, conferences, and laboratories reflect the true diversity of our community. My commitment to diversity developed during my early professional experiences, when I was employed at Stanford University in residential education. I volunteered for a student affairs group to hold dialogues on race and campus diversity. Unfortunately absent from these dialogues were professors and researchers. As I have returned to academia, I have prioritized seeking opportunities to engage in these important conversations, and to improve diversity in the STEM fields.

As a graduate student, I was active in community outreach through science. I volunteered for BOOST (Building Opportunities and Overtures in Science and Technology), a Duke University outreach program targeting low-income Hispanic and Black students. I worked on a team to develop learning activities for these students. In addition, I mentored two Chicana sixth graders and helped them prepare for the annual science fair. The experience challenged me to evaluate my own thought processes about the scientific method, which truly made me a better scientist.

In addition, I was an active committee member for WiSE (Women in Science and Engineering), a graduate student group dedicated to building community among female scientists. As co-President of WiSE, I organized a large-scale  (200+ participants) Women in Science Research Symposium, spanning a wide community of undergraduates to academics and professionals. Building a support network among women scientists was a rewarding personal experience.

Currently, I am an NSF SBE Postdoctoral Research Fellow with the Human Origins Program at the American Museum of Natural History. This was funded through the Broadening Participation track, and thus I have responsibilities to mentor and inspire the public. The museum hosts over five million visitors annually, including many minorities from the greater New York City metro area. The AMNH “Meet The Scientist” program in addition to several afterschool education programs facilitate museum scientists spending time with visitors, sharing specimens, and talking about new discoveries. This process has enhanced my desire to engage in public scientific talks.

In addition, I am a member of the Committee on Diversity through the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (AAPA), and part of the organization for Increasing Diversity in Evolutionary Anthropological Sciences (IDEAS). IDEAS is dedicated to providing mentoring and networking opportunities for underrepresented students. The inaugural workshop was a rich personal experience and participant evaluations were extremely positive. I currently manage the social media for this organization, and keep in contact with several of the student participants. I look forward to continuing to support and connect with students of diverse backgrounds and interests.

Finally, I bring my personal experiences as a Mexican American woman. I am too aware that I am an underrepresented minority in science and especially paleoanthropology, a particularly homogenous field with few prominent minority scientists. As a professor, I will continue to seek advising relationships with underrepresented students interested in science, so that I may mentor as well as inform them of the breadth of opportunities and resources available to scientists. Through my efforts, I hope to encourage a diverse range of students to follow their curiosity and explore STEM coursework and careers.

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