Diversity and inclusion are a key component of Energize New Mexico’s success. In Year 5, one of the main goals—50% representation by women and underrepresented minorities in all supported programs—was exceeded, with 65% female or under-represented minority participants. Diversity-specific programs such as Natives in STEM leveraged external funding to host nine hands-on Family STEM Nights at Navajo Nation chapter houses.
Recognizing the work of NM EPSCoR faculty & graduate students
NM EPSCoR believes mentors are not only vital to student growth and development, but also essential to the retention of students in STEM fields. Mentors are able to create a professional and social relationship with students that encourage them to take the next step in their careers through listening, advising, supporting, providing feedback, increasing students’ networks, and solving problems, to name a few roles and characteristics. In May 2018, NM EPSCoR awarded its second Mentoring Excellence Awards to three outstanding Energize New Mexico faculty participants: Dr. Catherine Brewer (NMSU), Dr. Martin Kirk (UNM), and Dr. Juchao Yan (ENMU). The Award recognizes NM EPSCoR participants who not only build relationships with students and support their academic, research, and career endeavors, but also work to create inclusive environments for students with diverse backgrounds. Read about them below, and visit our website for more information.
Catherine Brewer received a B.S. in Chemistry from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering and Biorenewable Resources & Technology from Iowa State University. Catherine divides her mentoring philosophy into two parts: helping a person understand their goals, and helping that person find the path to reach those goals. "By the end of a mentoring relationship," she says, "my goal for every student is that they can confidently say what they want to do and why they want to do that. Nothing gives more pleasure to me as a mentor than to learn that students who never thought they could get this internship or that award or into a graduate program, do, and I can remind them of the doubts they had and the efforts they put in to reach that outcome."
Martin Kirk received a B.S. in Chemistry from West Virginia University and a PhD in Chemistry from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is a national leader in the study of metallobiochemistry, molecular electronics and magnetochemistry, and was promoted to Distinguished Professor in 2016.Martin stresses the importance of communication of mutual expectations and goals when it comes to mentoring. This includes discussions on skills development, career development, conduct of research, and more. "My role as a mentor is to ensure that our mutual expectations are clearly stated and understood. Regardless of the career stage of the mentee, I make sure we both understand the nature of their short- and long-term goals."
Juchao Yan received a B.S. in Physical Chemistry from Jilin University and a PhD in Analytical Chemistry from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Changchun, China. He travelled to the United States soon after receiving his PhD and was a postdoc for a New Mexico EPSCoR project at UNM before accepting a faculty position at ENMU in Portales, NM. Juchao recognizes that a mentor plays many roles in the life of a student, and understands that while mentoring in university settings can be challenging—students and faculty have busy lives, and institutional resources are often limited, especially at primarily undergraduate universities like ENMU—it is still a worthwhile endeavor. On his mentoring philosophy, Juchao says, "Effective mentoring relationship cannot be overstated in the success of the first-generation college students. To be effective, a mentor should be a good listener, a good communicator, and also a trusted ally, friend, and/or advocate."
Reflecting New Mexico's general population in the STEM population
Natives in STEM is a program that was co-founded by NM EPSCoR and the American Indian Science & Engineering Society (AISES) to increase the visibility and belonging of Native people in the STEM community. This year, Natives in STEM completed a website (www.nativesinstem.org) that hosts six professional profiles. An additional 11 profiles have been created in Year 5.
Responding to recent studies that indicate representation in STEM matters to prospective students when deciding to pursue a STEM education, Natives in STEM increases visibility and belonging of Native people in the STEM community. The Natives in STEM project collaborated with the New Mexico Tribal Libraries Program, Explora Science Museum, and the NASA Astrobiology Program to host STEM Community Events in three Navajo communities. Over 50 participants attended and participated in the events. In additon, over 2500 posters have been distributed to schools, communities, and organizations nationwide, and the project was featured in a January 2017 episode of Native America Calling, a national radio show about issues specific to Native communities.