Student society aims to promote diversity, career development in STEM

SACNAS President Malcolm Macleod leads athe first spring semester meeting hosted in the Baylor Science Building Tuesday afternoon. Katy Mae Turner | Photographer

By Emma Weidmann | Arts and Life Editor

The Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in STEM (SACNAS) met Tuesday afternoon in the Baylor Science Building for the first time this semester.

SACNAS is a multicultural, interdisciplinary and inclusive community advocating for representation in STEM. The Baylor chapter is waiting to hear back from the university regarding their status as an officially chartered organization.

Baylor SACNAS president and second-year biology graduate student Malcolm Macleod said he was surprised a major university such as Baylor lacked a chapter of this national organization. That is, until he started the group at Baylor during the fall of 2022.

Because the chapter is so new, faculty advisor to SACNAS, Dr. Karine Gil, said she wants to bring in SACNAS faculty advisors from other universities to help kickstart the group.

“We are going to be starting from zero,” Gil said. “We want the experts so that we have a shortcut to what they are doing.”

Students at the semester’s first meeting ranged in disciplines from biology, chemistry, environmental science and economics and were a mix of undergraduate and graduate students.

Macleod said it is important for SACNAS to be inclusive. With 15% of undergraduates identifying as Hispanic or Native American according to Baylor’s Common Data Set, SACNAS is playing to a large crowd on campus.

But according to Macleod, the group is not just for Hispanic and Native American people: it’s for everyone.

“This is a group that supports anyone who is pursuing a STEM degree,” Macleod said. “It is for all underrepresented minorities [and] not just Hispanics, Native Americans and Latinos, but for anyone else and of course for people who aren’t minorities. We want everyone to feel like they have a community and feel at home here and feel like we’re working toward something that’s bigger than ourselves.”

Gil said one of her goals for SACNAS is to provide students with opportunities they might be unable to access elsewhere; its national conferences open the door for students to further their careers and even earn scholarships for their research.

“I hope that every member will have the experience of working with multicultural students and see the goals that they can achieve at the level of undergraduate, graduate, even at post-doc[toral], even with faculty,” Gil said. “If we can get fundraising activities that support the plans and the goals that some don’t have the money to get what they want, this organization will be strong and grow fast.”

Gil also said she is committed to sustainability and wants SACNAS to be at the forefront of the projects she has in mind to make Baylor more “green.”

“We need to be more green,” Gil said. “Baylor is green and gold, but we need to be green in conservation and recycling and turn to that activity.”

Aside from its scientific and academic focus, SACNAS is a great opportunity to practice language skills and hear from students from all over the world with more than 10 countries represented from its members. Gil said SACNAS offers a window into the world.

“Here with these multicultural activities, you are exposed to things that you could never imagine,” Gil said. “The only way to know about this is going to other countries. Baylor is bringing students from many other countries in one single organization that is multicultural… If you’re learning Spanish, why not come here and practice with one from Chile, one from Uruguay, one from Spain, one from Venezuela, Mexico?”

Though fundraising events are yet to be set in stone, SACNAS plans to table across campus throughout the semester and host social events. Students can follow the group on Instagram, @sacnas_baylor.