The National Science Foundation’s INCLUDES National Network Convening and Invitation to Co-Create was held in Washington DC, August 2-4. The Convening aims are to learn from, celebrate, strengthen relationships and broaden participation efforts and actions to take.
The University of Guam is in alliance with two other island territories, the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. The programs of the NSF-funded alliances include creating fellowships and internships for building capacity and broadening diversity in STEM.
With only 200 people attending, the conference allowed for substantial talks to unfold regarding progress, limitations & challenges, and a chance for alliances to talk with NSF people about the programs.
Perez felt it was important to get to know the other alliances and how the programs differed.
“It really showed me how much we stand out with our emphasis on working directly with students and faculty mentors as opposed to other alliances that focus on student experiences but more from an evaluation or administrative perspective,” explained NSF INCLUDES Program Associate Remedios Perez.
The major highlight of the conference for Perez was a diverse panel of students talking about their experiences as participants in the programs.
One student spoke about her physical and intellectual disabilities, another student talked about his experience of being incarcerated before becoming a student in STEM, and the fourth student shared his experience as an international student.
This panel gave the NSF attendees a glimpse of the students they are serving. UOG NSF INCLUDES alumna and currently an NSF EPSCoR GRA Anela Duenas was part of the panel.
Duenas started at UOG as an INCLUDES undergraduate fellow, then became a Near Peer mentor, an EPSCoR undergraduate, participated in the NSF INCLUDES SEAS Alliance Bridge to PhD Program, is currently a graduate research assistant, and has received a NSF GRFP toward work on her PhD once she completes her master’s.
“I was surprised that there were so few student attendees. The meetings were more for high-level administrators. It was a really good experience and eye opening to see how things were done behind the scenes. Being on the panel with three other students with very different perspectives was thought provoking,” said Duenas. “I think the student panel was very useful for the intent of the conference. After the panel many people came up to thank us for sharing our stories. They had no idea the hardships we have as Pacific Islanders even just getting resources out here.”
NSF INCLUDES continues to make a difference in the lives of people in the Western Pacific.