INSIGHT Into Diversity is proud to recognize leaders from underrepresented groups who are making a difference in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) with the 2017 Inspiring Leaders in STEM Award. These men and women work to motivate and encourage the next generation of young people to pursue STEM education and careers via teaching, mentoring, research, and groundbreaking discoveries and innovations. Using the challenges and triumphs they have faced as members of underrepresented groups to motivate themselves and others, they have successfully spearheaded STEM initiatives, engaged in community outreach, and made significant and lasting contributions to their fields as researchers, educators, and advocates.
[Above: Stephanie Dance-Barnes, co-chair of the Department of Biological Sciences at Winston-Salem State University]
At Florida A&M University–Florida State University (FAMU-FSU) College of Engineering, Shonda Bernadin, PhD, is the only African American woman in her department, where she serves as an associate professor of electrical engineering. Having had to overcome the obstacles of race and gender on her professional journey, she places great emphasis on supporting black and Hispanic female engineering students. In collaboration with other researchers, Bernadin has worked to identify factors that contribute to the success of underrepresented engineering students and to develop effective strategies to address the motivational and emotional factors affecting their academic performance. In 2014, she created the “TECH-tastic” workshop series, which includes STEM events to increase K-6 students’ awareness of STEM fields, and in 2016, she received a two-year grant from the U.S. Army to design and implement a summer program for underserved and underrepresented high school students; called AEOP (Army Education Outreach Program) UNITE, it offers information on STEM careers, academic preparation, professional development, and college- and career-readiness activities. Because of the program’s success, the Army awarded Bernadin an additional grant to create an engineering research apprenticeship program.
Thesla Berne-Anderson’s efforts to increase access to medical education and professions for underrepresented minority students has helped Florida State University (FSU) College of Medicine become one of the most diverse medical schools in the country. In her role as director of Undergraduate Outreach and Pre-College Programs, she oversees several successful pipeline programs that she created, including Science Students Together Reaching Instructional Diversity and Excellence (SSTRIDE), which inspires middle and high school students to pursue college and graduate school; Undergraduate SSTRIDE, which provides advising, mentoring, tutoring, and academic support to college students studying medicine; and the Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students (MAPS), which encourages participants to mentor others and perform community service while pursuing medical school. Berne-Anderson also leads the college’s Summer Institute, providing opportunities for youth to learn about the college application process, interact with medical students and faculty, and gain hands-on experience in medicine. FSU and the National Council of Negro Women have recognized Berne-Anderson for her work, and she recently became a member of the Florida Physician Workforce Advisory Council.
Dennis Bonilla serves as executive dean of the College of Information Systems and Technology at the University of Phoenix, overseeing curriculum and program development and ensuring successful student outcomes. As the child of immigrants and as a U.S. Navy veteran, Bonilla has had a prosperous career in the tech industry and currently works to promote STEM, information technology, and cybersecurity education. In 2016, Bonilla co-founded the University of Phoenix’s RedFlint Experience Center, which provides advanced technology training and hands-on learning experiences for community members, including area K-12 students. He is an advocate for Latinos in STEM and regularly writes about issues related to minority participation in tech for the publications Mi Mundo and Los Hispanos. Additionally, Bonilla is a member of the Microsoft Higher Education Advisory Board and the Hispanic IT Executive Council.
Miriam Chavez, PhD, teaches biology as a Regent’s Professor at the University of New Mexico-Valencia (UNM-Valencia) — a title awarded for her tireless dedication and service to the university. Throughout her 25-year career, Chavez has led efforts to create robust STEM programs that have resulted in 28 percent of UNM-Valencia’s student population — which is composed primarily of Hispanic and underserved students — to pursue a major in general science. She currently serves as principal investigator of several STEM grant programs supported by the U.S. Department of Education and the National Science Foundation and is the STEM Project Research Director for the university’s undergraduate research program. In addition to her service to the students of UNM-Valencia, Chavez serves as a science tutor and mentor at local elementary and middle schools. She is a three-time winner of the university’s Instructor of the Year Award and has been recognized by the New Mexico State Legislature and the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science for her commitment to supporting Latinos, women, and other underrepresented groups in STEM.
As the first African American to be hired in the Psychology Department at Tulane University, Michael Cunningham, PhD, ensures that programs and attention are dedicated to underrepresented students. In his roles as associate provost for the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies and the Suzanne and Stephen Weiss Presidential Fellow, he has a history of spearheading programs that encourage these students to pursue STEM careers. Cunningham is the principal investigator (PI) for the university’s Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation program, which provides underrepresented undergraduates with research experiences and encourages them to apply to PhD programs. Additionally, he is the PI for the Southern Educational Regional Board’s program to support minority doctoral students at Tulane. In the past, Cunningham has served as chair of the Society for Research in Child Development’s Frances D. Horowitz Millennium Scholars Program, which connects underrepresented undergraduates with mentors. As a developmental psychologist, Cunningham studies racial, ethnic, psychosocial, and socioeconomic processes that affect psychological well-being, adjustment, and academic achievement among African American adolescents and their families, and he has published more than 50 scholarly articles.
At Winston-Salem State University (WSSU), Co-Chair of the Department of Biological Sciences Stephanie Dance-Barnes, PhD, strives to inspire undergraduates to combine STEM and service work. Toward that end, she facilitates volunteer opportunities at local schools, which allow WSSU students to see themselves as STEM educators while also exposing K-12 students to STEM fields. Additionally, Dance-Barnes has fostered partnerships with three area schools; WSSU students regularly visit these institutions to engage children in hands-on activities and provide mentorship. As founder of the university’s Women in Science Program, she promotes a supportive learning environment in which women can thrive in the sciences with the help of mentoring as well as academic and professional resources. Also an associate professor of cell and molecular biology, Dance-Barnes has had approximately 25 undergraduates and four high school students rotate through her cancer research lab. Providing this experience for young people is important to her, as she believes it promotes the desire to pursue advanced degrees and STEM careers. In 2015-2016, the American Association for Cancer Research recognized Dance-Barnes with its Minority-Serving Institution Faculty Scholar in Cancer Research Award.
Anika Daniels-Osaze, EdD, is director of diversity education and research at the State University of New York (SUNY) Downstate Medical Center and president of the National Association of Medical Minority Educators, Inc. (NAMME). As a former biochemistry major, Daniels-Osaze chose to devote her career to supporting minority students in medical and science education. She has developed multiple programs to improve the recruitment and persistence of these individuals, obtaining more than $4 million in grant funding to support STEM initiatives specifically for underserved K-12 and college students. In addition to holding numerous roles with NAMME, Daniels-Osaze has been a volunteer mentor for community organizations that help minority youth. She is a recipient of the NAMME Director’s Award, the SUNY Downstate Extraordinary Woman Award, and the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Professional Service.
At Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Kay C Dee, PhD, serves as associate dean of learning and technology and as a professor and interim head of the Department of Biology and Biomedical Engineering. Under her leadership, her department revised its first-year curriculum to center on collaborative, project-based courses to provide learning experiences that motivate a broad range of students. Similarly, Dee is spearheading efforts to ensure the college’s online curriculum complies with Universal Design for Learning principles and is thus fully accessible to students with disabilities. Her commitment to creating engaging, inclusive science education has been acknowledged with numerous awards, including the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching Louisiana Professor of the Year Award, the Tulane University Inspirational Undergraduate Professor Award, and the Graduate Alliance for Education in Louisiana Award for Excellence in Mentoring Minority Researchers. Dee is also a fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering — an honor reserved for the top 2 percent of medical and biological engineers in the nation.
Having only begun his career as an engineering professor in 2013, Tarik Jamel Dickens, PhD, already has two patents, a provisional patent in process, three disclosures, and within the past two years, has received two major external funding awards to increase the role of diversity in high-impact research. However, some of his greatest achievements at Florida A&M University–Florida State University (FAMU-FSU) College of Engineering involve mentoring and supporting students. Dickens oversees the college’s undergraduate experience program; advises two engineering societies — the Society of Manufacturing Engineers and the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineering; and serves as a research mentor for industrial and mechanical engineering research assistants, as well as for the College of Engineering Concepts Institute, the Living Learning Center, and the Program of Excellence in STEM. He is also active in other research mentorship programs at the university, including the FSU Young Scholars Program and the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program. For his work at FAMU-FSU, he was recognized with the College of Engineering’s Outstanding Faculty Service Award in 2017.
As a female physicist in a male-dominated field, Casey Durandet, PhD, uses her experiences to inspire and mentor young women interested in pursuing STEM careers. In her position as a professor of physics at Paradise Valley Community College (PVCC), she helps students perform real-life experiments, conduct hands-on research, and present their findings to their classmates. Durandet has also coordinated the college’s STEM/STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) Summer Camps for underrepresented high school students since 2012; the PVCC North Valley STEM Expos for the last three years; and the Annual Mancini Science Symposium since 2013. Additionally, she is a chair of PVCC’s STEAM Advisory Committee and oversees the STEAM Student Club for minority and international students. Every summer, Durandet continues her research on particle physics at the federal government’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab), where community college students have the opportunity to participate in summer research internships. On PVCC’s campus, she established a cosmic rays lab, with equipment donated by Fermilab, for students to engage in particle physics research.
Katherine N. Elfer has been fearless in her pursuit of her goals despite the obstacles she’s faced having a hearing disability and being a woman. While working toward a PhD in biomedical engineering at Tulane University, she’s demonstrated a commitment to STEM education initiatives for underserved students. This work has included volunteering with the Perry Initiative to increase female leadership in the fields of orthopedic surgery and engineering, Girls In STEM at Tulane and Boys At Tulane in STEM to provide biannual workshops for middle school students to experience college life and academic laboratories, FIRST Louisiana-Mississippi to enrich science and technology learning among rural and disadvantaged students, and FIRST Robotics to assist high school students with designing and building robots. Through these experiences, Elfer has helped inspire nearly 2,000 middle and high school students. She also co-founded a gender-identity inclusive group called Women+ in Science and Engineering for graduate and postdoctoral students at Tulane. In addition, she has been the recipient of numerous fellowships and awards for her service and scholarly work.
As a French-Canadian coming to the U.S. in 2007 without mastery of the English language, Marie C. Fortin, PhD, has since become a great leader in STEM. In addition to her dedication to protecting the health of workers and patients as senior manager of toxicology at Alcami Corporation, she is also passionate about teaching and mentoring students who are pursuing STEM degrees, as well as early career scientists. As a member of the Society of Toxicology, Fortin has held a number of leadership roles, including in the Women in Toxicology special interest group, the mentoring Subcommittee, the Career Resource and Development Committee, as well as a Regulatory and Safety Evaluation Specialty Section (RSESS). In these roles, she is working to promote and foster the development of budding scientists through a variety of initiatives; organizing webinars on the job-search and interview process; developing scoring criteria to evaluate the effectiveness of mentoring efforts, as well as managing the Matching Fund Program to support these activities; and organizing RSESS’s mentoring lunch-and-learn sessions. Additionally, Fortin is an adjunct faculty member at Rutgers University and has published a number of peer-reviewed studies on topics such as air pollution, pesticides, occupational hazards, and stress, including their effects on humans.
In his role as associate professor of marine science in the School of Natural Sciences at California State University, Monterey Bay, Corey Garza, PhD, serves as a mentor and role model for students. Having successfully navigated and overcome challenges as a STEM scholar of color, he understands the experiences of students from historically underrepresented groups and is deeply committed to the recruitment and career development of these individuals in ocean sciences. Toward that end, he serves as the principal investigator on several grant projects: the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Educational Partnership Program with Minority-Serving Institutions, which supports and prepares students to engage in NOAA-related careers; the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s Ocean Opportunities program, which supports minority undergraduates pursuing an education and careers in ocean science; and others. For the last 12 years, at the annual meeting of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science, Garza has chaired and organized scientific symposia and career and poster sessions centered on ocean science.
Medeva Ghee, PhD, serves as the executive director of the nationally renowned Leadership Alliance at Brown University, which supports individuals from historically underrepresented groups pursuing PhDs and careers in STEM. Under her leadership, the program has garnered funding from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, allowing it to expand beyond its flagship Summer Research Early Identification Program to support the faculty development and curricular needs of Minority-Serving Institutions in the alliance. As a first-generation college student from rural Virginia, Ghee understands how difficult it can be for underrepresented students to pursue doctoral degrees and thus provides mentorship to support undergraduates who aspire to earn a PhD in STEM. In addition to leading the consortium, she is an assistant professor of the practice of behavioral and social sciences at Brown and is a member of the Diversity Advisory Council and the Initiative to Maximize Student Development Advisory Board. Furthermore, Ghee serves on the American Physiological Society Advisory Board and the Minority Health International Research Training Advisory Board. She has published extensively on the topic of HIV/AIDS and drug resistance.
Darrick Hamilton, PhD, is an applied micro-economist who specializes in examining and understanding group-based inequality. His work regarding the causes and consequences of racial and ethnic disparities — and the remedies to address these inequalities — has earned him the reputation as a social scientist. Hamilton’s experiences as an African American economist, as well as the loss of both of his parents when he was in high school, have pushed him to persevere and inspired him to assist other young people from underrepresented groups pursuing STEM careers. In his role as associate professor at The New School, he has mentored and advised minority students enrolled in economics doctoral programs for more than a decade through the American Economic Association’s (AEA) Mentoring Program; he also previously served as co-associate director of the AEA Summer Training and Minority Fellowship Program. Currently, Hamilton is the associate director of the National Science Foundation-funded Diversity Initiative for Tenure in Economics, a mentoring program for minority junior faculty that aims to increase their representation among tenured faculty.
As dean of the College of Engineering at Tennessee State University (TSU), S. Keith Hargrove, PhD, leads a student population composed of approximately 1,000 underrepresented students. He also serves as director of the TSU Interdisciplinary Graduate Engineering Research Institute, through which he has personally contributed to research in cybersecurity, advanced energy systems, and manufacturing. Raised in a family with six siblings, Hargrove learned the importance of succeeding even when resources are limited, and he has used his experiences to help others succeed as well. He has worked to engage underrepresented students in STEM fields by hosting the National Science Olympiad and the Regional STEM Expo for middle and high school students to promote STEM education; conducting summer pre-college programs to highlight STEM careers and prepare high school students to enter college as engineering majors; and coordinating community projects in which engineering students perform technical work. Hargrove also serves on the advisory boards of three schools and is a founding board member of a charter middle and high school in Nashville called STEM Prep Academy.
Jerrod Henderson, PhD, has dedicated his career to increasing the number of students, particularly those from underrepresented groups, pursuing STEM fields. In his positions as an instructional assistant professor and director of the Program for Mastery in Engineering Studies at the University of Houston, he leads efforts to provide a specialized curriculum for selected freshmen and sophomore engineering students to increase retention through the use of innovative academic success strategies. Having grown up in poverty, Henderson had to overcome many obstacles on his path to success and, as an adult, has often been the only African American faculty member in his department. Yet, he has used these experiences to help others. He co-founded the St. Elmo Brady STEM Academy, an educational intervention aimed at exposing underrepresented fourth- and fifth- graders to hands-on, inquiry-based STEM activities. Henderson is also the adviser for the university’s National Society of Black Engineers student chapter. His research has examined how cross-curricular design projects affect students’ interest, engagement, and perception of chemical engineering and how out-of-school STEM programs affect K-12 students’ interest and engagement in STEM.
Understanding the value of partnerships, Veronica Henry, EdD, established the first-ever STEM Diversity Roundtable and Summit on Long Island, which brings together State University of New York (SUNY) campuses, area school districts, businesses, community organizations, and other colleges and universities to form a collaborative network. SUNY’s Farmingdale State College hosted the inaugural STEM Diversity Summit in 2011, and Henry has organized seven consecutive summits for all Long Island communities with representatives from each STEM field. She has also secured grants and sponsorships, enabling SUNY Farmingdale to purchase two STEM A+ Mobile Labs, which expose underrepresented K-12 students to the world of STEM. Immigrating to the U.S. in 1968, Henry placed great value on higher education and worked hard to get where she is, currently serving as executive assistant to the president, chief diversity officer, and Title IX Coordinator at SUNY Farmingdale.
An inspiring leader with a strong drive to give back to the community, Rigoberto Hernandez, PhD, reminds people that a supportive community is the key to success. At Johns Hopkins University, he serves as the Gompf Family Professor in the Department of Chemistry, as well as leads the Open Chemistry Collaborative in Diversity Equity (OXIDE) initiative. OXIDE supports workshops, research, and a network of academic leaders in order to redefine the academic infrastructure of chemistry to support diversity at all levels. This work led him to be recognized by the American Chemical Society in 2014 with its Award for Encouraging Disadvantaged Students into Careers in the Chemical Sciences. The primary focus of Hernandez’s research is chemical dynamics, and he applies a range of theoretical and computational methods to investigate problems in biology, chemistry, nanotechnology, and energy applications. Hernandez has garnered national and international recognition for his research and outreach from the National Science Foundation, the Research Corporation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, among others.
At the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV), Karen Lozano, PhD, serves as a role model to the university’s student body — which is 90 percent Hispanic and 56 percent female — for not only being a Hispanic woman in mechanical engineering, but also a tenured professor. As founding director of UTRGV’s Nanotechnology Center of Excellence, she mentors junior faculty and supervises undergraduate, master’s, PhD, and post-doctoral students in cutting-edge research. Lozano has achieved a 100 percent retention and graduation rate, and many of her past students now hold important industrial and academic positions. Her accomplishments also include exposing more than 10,000 K-12 students to the wonders of STEM careers through her “Magic Show” and launching a one-day conference, called NEURONS, where many of her past students discuss careers in industry, academia, and government with high school students. Additionally, Lozano has published and presented over 280 peer-reviewed journal articles and has more than 30 patents and patent applications. In 2015, she was named U.S. Engineer of the Year by the nonprofit organization Great Minds in STEM.
As the principal investigator (PI) for the Interdisciplinary Coaching as a Nexus for Transforming How Institutions Support Undergraduates in STEM (iCAN) project, Matthew Marino, PhD, utilizes coaching and mobile technologies to help undergraduates with disabilities succeed in STEM. Using the small Landmark College for students with disabilities as a model, he and his team plan to replicate its successful STEM program — adding a special education virtual tutoring component — at the University of Central Florida (UCF), where Marino serves as an associate professor. Having a disability himself, Marino has dedicated his career to assisting the next generation of special education teachers while researching methods to help students with disabilities succeed in STEM. The Institute of Education Sciences, the Office of Special Education, and the National Science Foundation (NSF) have supported his research, which concentrates on the implementation of technology-enhanced STEM curricular materials. Additionally, Marino is the PI on an NSF-funded grant project focused on Universal Design for Learning (UDL), and he serves in leadership roles on several committees dedicated to UDL.
Estralita Martin, PhD, assistant dean for student affairs in the College of Sciences at San Diego State University (SDSU), is dedicated to ensuring that African American students in STEM have every opportunity to succeed. As a professor of biology, Martin has focused on helping this group understand the connections between the African diaspora and the underrepresentation of African Americans in medicine by leading annual study abroad experiences that center on minority health disparities in Ghana. She is known for her passion for encouraging historically underrepresented students to defy expectations and become leaders in the fields of biology and medicine and often serves as an adviser and mentor to these individuals. As director of the Center for the Advancement of Students in Academia, she leads SDSU’s efforts to level the academic playing field for minorities in STEM and to prepare these students for the rigors of postgraduate studies in order to build the pipeline of the next generation of diverse STEM leaders. She has been named an Outstanding Faculty Member by SDSU and an Outstanding Black Educator by the national Phi Delta Kappa sorority.
As the director of field placement and certification and an adjunct professor at New York Institute of Technology (NYIT), Luz C. Minaya develops innovative programs that make technology and STEM training accessible to underserved students in the U.S. and abroad. As a former K-12 technology instructor and a mentor to countless NYIT students, Minaya serves as an advocate and role model for minorities in STEM, particularly for Latinas in tech. Her many accomplishments include the development of a successful model for creating student-staffed technical support teams in underserved New York City schools and the establishment of a partnership that enables NYIT students and instructors to provide technology training to public school teachers in Nicaragua. Minaya has been honored by the United Federation of Teachers, the City University of New York Dominican Studies Institute, and the Office of the President of the Dominican Republic for her commitment to providing quality education to underserved students.
For his efforts to mentor and support underrepresented students in his role as associate professor of biomedical engineering at Tulane University, Michael J. Moore, PhD, has been recognized by his students as “Teacher of the Year” three times. As a past recipient of the National Science Foundation’s Faculty Early Career Development Award — which recognizes junior faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education — Moore has mentored minority undergraduates in New Orleans through a summer research experience. In addition, he has mentored underrepresented students in his lab through the university’s Summer MAterials Research at Tulane (SMART) initiative; the majority of these individuals went on to pursue graduate or medical school. Moore’s own research has centered on multichannel scaffolds for nerve repair, as well as the development of biodegradable, multichannel nerve implants. Also an inventor, Moore has a Mayo Clinic patent that has been licensed to a startup company.
A nationally renowned labor economist, Marie T. Mora, PhD, conducts research on the socioeconomic outcomes of Hispanics, other minority groups, and women. In her role as a professor of economics and associate vice provost for faculty diversity at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV), she has spearheaded and led numerous initiatives that have inspired and supported students and faculty in STEM; these have involved professional development, mentoring, and networking opportunities for groups historically underrepresented in these fields. Mora is co-founder and chair of the Women’s Faculty Network, which had an 80 percent participation rate for STEM tenured and tenure-track female faculty in 2016-2017, and serves as director of the university’s National Science Foundation-funded American Economic Association Mentoring Program, which supports minority students pursuing PhDs in economics. She is the first woman to receive tenure in her department. Additionally, Mora is a research fellow with the Institute for the Study of Labor in Bonn, Germany, and has been invited to share her expertise with leaders of several U.S. government agencies and initiatives.
Dedicated to ensuring gender equality in STEM professions and higher education, T. Annelise Nguyen, PhD, strives to increase the representation of women and underrepresented minorities in STEM. Nguyen currently serves as the K-12 outreach representative for the Central States Society of Toxicology (CSST), as well as president-elect for the chapter, which attempts to bridge the gap between scientists and K-12 science education. In her position as associate professor of toxicology at Kansas State University (KSU), her efforts to inspire young people to pursue STEM careers have included producing several publications with three of her students, developing an outreach program for CSST called Developing Toxicology Concept Experiments for K-12 Students, designing and facilitating Girls Researching Our World activities to support and increase girls’ interest in STEM, serving as founder and adviser for the American Association for University Women chapter at KSU, and more. During her time at the university, Nguyen has mentored or advised more than 85 students and scholars. As a molecular toxicologist with an emphasis on cancer cell biology, she has authored or co-authored over 35 peer-reviewed publications.
Cordelia Ontiveros, PhD, PE, a professor of chemical engineering and former interim dean of the College of Engineering at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Cal Poly Pomona), has led multiple endeavors to increase the representation of women and girls in STEM. Her achievements include founding the Cal Poly Pomona Women in Engineering program, which, through its recruitment and retention efforts, has helped lead to a 50 percent increase in female student enrollment. Ontiveros is also co-founder of the Cal Poly Pomona Femineer Program, which has been recognized by U.S. News & World Report and the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for its effectiveness in encouraging and engaging female K-12 students in STEM project-based learning. Under Ontiveros’ leadership, the College of Engineering partnered with the national organization Project Lead the Way to bring STEM teacher training to area schools that serve primarily Hispanic and other underrepresented students. She is a recipient of the university’s Administrator Award for Excellence in Civic Engagement and the Women in Engineering ProActive Network’s University Change Agent Award.
In her role as associate professor of engineering at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Cal Poly Pomona), Monica Palomo, PhD, PE, has been recognized on numerous occasions for her dedication to underrepresented students. Palomo designed and led the National Science Foundation-funded Sustainable Sanitation through International Research Experiences program, which provided an opportunity for Hispanic and first-generation undergraduates to study water conservation in South Africa. Palomo has also spearheaded collaborative sustainability projects between Cal Poly Pomona and nearby Pasadena City College (PCC) — a two-year school — which resulted in an increase in PCC students transferring to the university to pursue advanced STEM degrees. She serves as faculty adviser to the university’s Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and Engineers Without Borders, and she advocates for water conservation at home and abroad through the organizations Water for People and the California Water Environmental Association. Her commitment to students has been recognized with numerous institutional teaching awards and by the Northrop Grumman Foundation Excellence in Engineering Education Award.
Yvette Pegues, MEd, is a thriving advocate for underserved and underrepresented groups in STEM, as well as a professional speaker, life coach, and author. She has made a successful career for herself with the confidence she’s gained from her experiences as a woman of color, a person with a disability, and a first-generation high school student, college graduate, and PhD candidate. As founder and chief transformation officer for Your Invisible Disability Group, Pegues advocates for people with disabilities, the elderly, and veterans as a corporate disability/diversity consultant, providing ADA advisory and workplace culture cultivation to integrate people of difference into the workplace, marketplace, and academia. She is also the host of #disAbilityLifeTV and provides mentoring through local hospitals and the nonprofit organization STEM Atlanta Women. In her previous position as worldwide program delivery manager at IBM, Pegues served on several patent teams, wrote white papers on emerging technology, and helped pave the way for the world’s first cloud-based data and analytics platform with cognitive business intelligence. In 2016, she was named Ms. Wheelchair USA.
As an immigrant from a third-world country, Dil Ramanathan, PhD, has learned to persevere through work, family, financial, and cultural pressures and hardships. Now an assistant professor at Kean University — where she is the only female STEM faculty member — she has mentored over 100 undergraduate and graduate students, with a particular emphasis on paving the way for future generations of female scientists. Ramanathan participates in the Group Summer Scholars Research Program, which allows high school students to conduct research in faculty labs at Kean, helping them develop a true appreciation for the scientific process. With a goal to transform the way in which science and math are taught, she has been working with a team of faculty members to enable students to get firsthand research experience by joining faculty-led teams in labs as early as their freshman year of college; called the Research First Initiative, it is designed to attract and retain students in STEM fields — particularly those from underrepresented groups. In 2008, Ramanathan established the Biotechnology Club at Kean, which has grown to more than 50 members and has been recognized as one of the university’s outstanding clubs for three years in a row.
As an associate professor of science and deputy chief diversity and inclusion officer at Robert Morris University (RMU), Anthony G. Robins, PhD, has led or participated in numerous efforts to ensure an inclusive, supportive campus environment for all students. In addition to his extensive participation in institution-wide efforts to support minority students, Robins serves as co-chair of the School of Engineering, Mathematics, and Science’s Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, a position in which he develops and leads programs focused on the persistence and success of the college’s underrepresented students. Robins also serves as a mentor for female students in STEM and is a board member of the Black Caucus of Public Health Workers, as well as former director of the Healthy Black Family Project. His extensive research interests include African American male student success and diversifying the STEM workforce. He has been included on the New Pittsburgh Courier’s list of 50 Men of Excellence.
Havidán Rodríguez, PhD, has dedicated his career to leading initiatives that address the same issues he has confronted both personally and professionally. He has led numerous efforts to encourage women and underrepresented minorities to pursue STEM professions, as well as aspire to leadership positions in higher education. As provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV), Rodríguez has been a staunch supporter of enhancing faculty development, scholarship, and teaching in STEM. As principal investigator on an ADVANCE grant from the National Science Foundation — which places an emphasis on Latinas in STEM — he established the ADVANCE Leadership Institute, Administrative Fellows Program, Associate to Full Professor Program, and the Women’s Faculty Network at UTRGV. Rodríguez’s research from field projects in places like Honduras, Sri Lanka, and the Gulf Coast has been used to shape public policy related to human rights and social justice, such as improving warning systems for natural disasters. He will begin his new position as the 20th president of the State University of New York at Albany in mid-September.
As a native Spanish speaker from a low-income family in Puerto Rico, Miriam Segura-Totten, PhD, struggled as a freshman biology major at Princeton University and had to work three times as hard as her peers to catch up. However, her hard work and dedication to excellence in education paid off, and she now serves as the Harry B. Forester Eminent Scholars Chair in Biological Sciences and a professor of biology at the University of North Georgia (UNG), where she is committed to helping other young people succeed. Segura-Totten recently served as a judge for The Dream, a private organization that offers scholarships to help undocumented Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals students attend college. Furthermore, she serves on her department’s Council on Undergraduate Research, through which she works to establish strong communities of practice for undergraduate research at the university and national levels. For her efforts, Segura-Totten has received the Distinguished Teaching Award from UNG and the University System of Georgia’s Regents’ Teaching Excellence Award.
Joseph Skrivanek, PhD, has devoted much of his 40-year career as a professor of chemistry at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Purchase to broadening the STEM pipeline. He is founder and director of the Baccalaureate and Beyond Community College Mentoring Program, which has been recognized for dramatically increasing the graduation rates of community college transfer students — particularly those pursuing STEM degrees — and has been replicated across the SUNY system under Skrivanek’s direction. His other endeavors include partnering with community organizations to bring STEM awareness and opportunities to minority K-12 students and developing science curricula and programs tailored specifically to the needs of community college and high school students. He has successfully advocated for more than $4 million in funding from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and other organizations to support programs for underrepresented students. In 2011, he was honored with the Presidential Award for Excellence in STEM Mentoring.
Born in India, Archana Srivastava was raised in a culture where many girls not only struggle to get an education, but also lack the freedom to explore and choose careers in STEM. She credits her parents for her ability to do both and thus places great emphasis on increasing the representation of women in STEM fields. With the unique distinction of being a female leader in a male-dominated profession as the vice president of product and engineering at Trellis Energy, Srivastava has developed an engineering team that brings much-needed gender diversity to both the field of technical engineering and the energy industry. Because of her commitment to diverse hiring and her belief that greater gender diversity in leadership roles is good for business, she has helped make Trellis a model for other companies; under her leadership, women comprise 60 percent of the company’s technical engineering leadership team and 30 percent of its engineering team. Furthermore, Srivastava helped develop an intern program for the daughters of Trellis employees to teach them software development and inspire them to pursue careers in the field.
Serving as a champion for the sciences and a role model for women in STEM, Lynn Stauffer, PhD, became the first female faculty member in the Computer Sciences Department at Sonoma State University (SSU) in 1994. Currently dean of the School of Science and Technology at the university, she leads efforts to inspire young people of all backgrounds to pursue STEM fields. She established the SSU Women in Computer Science group, which has grown to support women across all technical fields at the university, and the SSU MESA (Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement) Center, which is focused on advancing the achievement of educationally disadvantaged students and helping them attain degrees in STEM. Stauffer also established the STEM Certificate Pathway partnership — a program that guarantees early admission to SSU — with Piner High School, which serves a diverse student body in an underserved area. As the lead on a grant from the National Science Foundation, she works to improve the success of students pursuing STEM degrees through the S3: STEPping Up STEM program at SSU. Participants in this program are three times more likely to continue in STEM beyond their freshman year.
As an immigrant and former bilingual elementary school teacher, Alma Stevenson, PhD, associate professor of literacy at Georgia Southern University (GSU), understands the role of language and culture in K-12 classrooms. As such, she has dedicated her career to improving science education for students who are English Language Learners (ESL), Hispanic, or from other underrepresented groups. Stevenson’s widely published research focuses on key elements for creating culturally inclusive STEM pedagogy, including helping teachers understand the importance of linguistic and socio-cultural perspectives of minority students. She has led multiple grant projects and initiatives to improve educational equity in Georgia and nationwide, and she performs educational outreach for many Latino organizations, schools, and communities. As a pioneer in her field, Stevenson is working to prepare the next generation of teachers to be culturally responsive, insightful, and effective in order to lead diverse STEM classrooms.
William F. Tate, PhD, is a pioneer in the study of social determinants affecting the success of minority students in STEM. He currently serves as the Edward Mallinckrodt Distinguished University Professor, vice provost for graduate education, and dean of the graduate school at Washington University in St. Louis. Tate’s prolific career includes serving as senior researcher for the National Institute of Science Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and as president of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), in addition to many other professional and volunteer roles in which he advocates for the advancement of STEM education. His research has consistently contributed to the improvement of math education for underserved students, with a particular focus on educational outcomes for African Americans. Additionally, Tate is a recipient of the AERA Distinguished Contributions to Social Contexts in Education Research–Lifetime Achievement Award and has been named an Anna Julia Cooper Fellow, Patricia Roberts Harris Fellow, and Ford Foundation Fellow.
In his 13-year tenure as program coordinator of the North Carolina State University Mathematics and Science Education Network (NC-MSEN), a pre-college program, Braska Williams Jr. has helped introduce more than 4,500 underserved middle and high school students to the world of STEM education and careers. He has expanded NC-MSEN to include classes focused on engineering, robotics, and college planning in order to provide participants — who are primarily African American and low-income — with opportunities to learn about state-of-the-art technology, compete in statewide math and science competitions, and prepare for postsecondary STEM degrees. A former math teacher and longtime employee of the Cooperating Hampton Roads Organizations for Minorities in Engineering, Braska has been the recipient of numerous research grants from NASA, the National Science Foundation, and other organizations, including several projects dedicated to enhancing opportunities for underrepresented groups in STEM.
At leading geographic information systems software company Esri, Dawn Wright, PhD, serves as chief scientist, a role she uses to advocate for women in science. Through the GeoMentor program, a partnership between Esri and the American Association of Geographers, she works to promote and advance the careers of women and underrepresented minorities in the geosciences. Wright is also a professor at Oregon State University, where she has conducted research on mapping the sea floor, ocean conservation, geophysics, and environmental ethics. As the leading authority on the use of geospatial technologies in understanding the ocean, Wright is regularly invited to present at events at institutions such as the National Museum of Natural History, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Geological Society of America. She also often speaks at local schools in California to inspire young people to consider careers in science and technology. Additionally, Wright is active in the American Association of Geographers and the University Consortium for Geographic Information Science, serving in leadership positions in both organizations.