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Diversity group to be awarded for its excellence in community service

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Members of UW SACNAS

(From left to right) Daniel Chee, Monica Sanchez, Zoi Sychev and Joe Camacho are representatives of the UW Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS). The group aims to promote the success of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in science.

Celebrating the diversity of and interest in the natural sciences both on and off campus is one of the many reasons the UW Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) will receive the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Service Award on Jan. 13.

SACNAS strives to not only to create an inclusive, welcoming, and exciting environment for both undergraduate and graduate students, but also for the greater Seattle area. The bond created among members of the community is the same bond that is created and celebrated here on the UW campus.

Founded seven years ago with only five initial members, UW’s SACNAS chapter has grown rapidly. Winning high-ranking awards, advancing the careers of its members upon graduating, and holding the national conference in 2012 all speak to the impact the organization has made in such a short time.

SACNAS member Zoi Sychev, a fifth-year graduate student in the molecular and cellular biology program, and this year’s national liaison for SACNAS, has experienced first-hand the positive effects of this organization.

“Finding out this organization existed during my first year here, it was absolutely amazing,” Sychev said. “It gave me a sense of community [and a place] where people of color — even everyone, it’s a very inclusive organization — can build platforms for personal and career development.”

SACNAS is committed to addressing the needs of the community, aiding in the development of significant programs that can improve the human condition, and continuing efforts to protect and empower all individuals.

“[SACNAS] fortified a sense of community, number one, and [gave] me an opportunity to become a role model for others as well as to find mentors for myself,” Sychev said.

SACNAS has a well-connected and deep history within the community. Maintaining long-lasting partnerships with programs brought to elementary and middle schools, SACNAS aims to inspire and create a fun and engaging environment that will empower youth to break the mold of the traditional views of the sciences. 

“[Science] can be broad,” said Joe Camacho, a second-year graduate student in the master’s of education program and president of SACNAS. “Define it however you want to define it.”

SACNAS is doing just that. Welcoming those who extend beyond the genome and health science programs, Camacho believes the benefits of SACNAS can be seen through illuminating paths and creating avenues for students who were unaware organizations like this even existed.

“I could say with good confidence, [SACNAS] is probably the main reason I came to graduate school,” said Daniel Chee, a fourth-year graduate student in the department of genome sciences and vice president of SACNAS. “When I came here it was an immediate group of friends that I could meet and touch base with.”

While SACNAS started out as a place for advancement among Chicano and Native American graduate students, it now focuses on the development of all races and has expanded to the undergraduate body of students.

“We foresee this to be a huge network of mentorship, a place where you can find sources and help in specific aspects,” Sychev said. “This community empowers the sense of ‘If I can do it, so can you.’”

The award ceremony will be Wednesday, Jan. 13, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. in the Health Sciences Lobby. For those wanting to learn more about the UW chapter of SACNAS, there will also be a general meeting that evening located in HUB 332.


Reach reporter Alexis Mansanarez at news@dailyuw.comTwitter: @almansanarez

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