UCR Alumna Becomes Fourth Woman to Serve as SACNAS President

Author: Madeline Adamo
June 27, 2018

onia Zárate, who received her doctorate in molecular plant biology at UCR in 2007, has been elected to serve as president of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science, or SACNAS.  Her four-year term, which includes one year as the president-elect, two years as president, and one year as past president, began in January 2018.  She works as a program officer at Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Maryland.

Previously serving as secretary on the SACNAS Executive Board, Zárate is a SACNAS life-member and has been since she was an undergraduate at California Polytechnic University, Pomona. Zárate is the first president to come up through SACNAS and plans to use her experience with the organization and professional training to move the organization forward by fulfilling a vision of true diversity, according to her SACNAS profile.

Zárate credits her personal journey to the power of mentors, and has in turn devoted her career to giving back and fostering the next generation of scientific leaders.

“We know that diversity is a driver to innovation in STEM,” Zárate said. “To ensure that we are able to tap into the wealth of diversity that is reflective of our nation’s demographics, SACNAS believes that we need to take an approach that goes beyond recruiting and includes a commitment to reflect on policies and practices that have contributed to the promotion of or acted as barriers to diversifying the STEM enterprise.”

For 45 years, SACNAS has been committed to fostering the success of Chicanos/Hispanics, Native Americans and other underrepresented populations in science, technology, math, and engineering, also known as STEM. The organization has built a national network and provides resources to ensure that the STEM enterprise reflects national demographics.

Zárate has held over 24 chairs, co-chairs, and general member appointments for programs and committees that focus on student engagement, retention, and promotion and or diversity/inclusion in STEM in her previous appointments at UCLA, USD, and on the national level. She is also an alumna of the Linton-Poodry SACNAS Leadership Institute, or LSPLI, and the Advanced Leadership Institute, which help to empower participants as agents of change, Zárate said.

“The overall goal of these programs being to prepare a cadre of diverse scientific leaders that will help drive diversity, equity, and inclusion policies at all levels in their home institutions,” said Zárate.

SACNAS co-founder Marigold Linton is also a UCR alumna. After graduating in 1958, Linton earned a doctorate from UCLA. By age 35, she was a psychology professor at San Diego State University. She later served as a professor at the University of Utah, and has spent her entire career mentoring American Indians and other minorities. In the organizations 45-year history, Linton is the second and Zárate is the fourth female to serve as president of the organization.