Where Are They Now? – Profiles of SACNAS Staff Alumni

By Tanya Beat

Although SACNAS was founded in 1973, the first part time staff member was not hired until the late 1980s and a second part time staff member came on in 1994. SACNAS hired its first full time staff members in 1995 and by 1998, the staff had grown to fill a small office in downtown Santa Cruz. Paralleling the astronomical growth of the organization, the SACNAS staff has now grown to a team of 20 full time employees.

Throughout the years the SACNAS staff has been a talented and committed group of people passionate about the mission of advancing Hispanics/Chicanos and Native Americans in Science. SACNISTAS in their own right, SACNAS has been a meaningful contributor to their careers. In recognition of SACNAS' 40th anniversary celebration, I had the pleasure of catching up with a few of the staff who were an integral part of the organization from 1999 to 2006.

698 Rosalina with her husbandRosalina Aranda

Position: Student Membership Coordinator (Poster Presentations & Travel Scholarships)

Years: 1999-2004

What did you love about working at SACNAS?

I loved working with staff because we were a strong but small team and had to help each other out. SACNAS also provided tremendous freedom to create a process and then improve on it each year.

What did you learn?

Before I joined the staff, I didn’t realize how important SACNAS was for Chicanos and Native Americans in science and in higher education. It was very inspiring that everyone—all from very different backgrounds and experiences— was there for the same reason and goal: providing our communities with the opportunity for a better education.

My best memory of SACNAS…was of my first conference in Atlanta, GA. It was the scariest conference for me because everything was unknown. However, my fondest memories over the years were meeting the students at the conference. I mean, we all worked so hard all year for this one event. Then, meeting students for the first time in person and hearing “You’re Rosalina!” was wonderful. It’s like I was giving them that little support and extending my hand to help them up in this part of their journey up the mountain. That was cool.

Rosalina continues to mentor and help students with their education. She works as an Administrative Analyst for the CITRIS program at the University of California, Merced.

 699 Kerri Cook

Position: Conference Program Manager and Conference Director

Years: 2002-2006

What did you love about working at SACNAS?

I loved working with Lin Hundt (SACNAS staff member from 1999-2012) and have to say that she was the best supervisor I’ve ever had. She was good at guiding you and then letting you run with it, being able to see the big picture as well as pay attention to detail. It was also fantastic to see everything come together at the conference.

What did you learn?

I learned how much work goes into planning a conference and how many people are actually involved. You have to pull together so many different facets: hotels, food & beverage, venue, sessions, entertainers, EVERYTHING. What was amazing was that there was this huge conference and only 10 staff. I learned how important interpersonal communication was and also about working together.

My best memory of SACNAS…was how the organization highly valued teamwork. We would have the best lunch gatherings with everyone bringing food to share. I had never had that at other work places and the staff were all friendly and supportive of each other. Staff cared about the work and the community.

Kerri currently lives in Arcata, CA and works as a Financial Counselor at the Financial Resource Center. A vegan for over two years now, she enjoys writing and speaking about veganism. She teaches vegan cooking classes and has a book on veganism in the works. Please check out her blog at http://veganvoice.tumblr.com

 700 Rocio Ruiz Ureña

Position: K-12 Program Manager

Years: 1999-2006

What did you love about working at SACNAS?

Besides working with an amazing staff, I loved interacting with committee members, board members, teachers, and participants. In addition, I loved the Biography Project and the e-Mentoring program where we paired a K-12 teacher with a scientist in a formal mentoring relationship that was all virtual. At the time, it was a very innovative program.

What did you learn working at SACNAS?

I learned how to be assertive and get things done. I also learned what a big difference SACNAS made for students in providing opportunities. No matter where you are on the path, there is always a positive outcome. I’ve always valued education and wanted to be a teacher for a long time. SACNAS laid a great foundation for me in my goal to be a teacher and will always remember the work I did with K-12 teachers.

My best memory of SACNAS…has to be my supervisor, Lin Hundt. I started as a student worker at SACNAS and gradually worked my way to be Program Manager. She was my mentor and taught me so much because it was an intimate work environment. I still use what she taught me at my current job.

Rocio now works for L.U.C.H.A. Elementary in the Alum Rock School District and started a teacher credential program in January 2013 at National Hispanic University. Her expected finish date is June 2015. Amongst her other accomplishments, she is married to her media naranja, Jose Ureña, and they have two children, Ylana Nayeli Ureña, incoming 3rd grader and Abram Santana Ureña, incoming 1st grader.

701 Jean-Paul Cane

Position/s: Program Assistant; Exhibits Manager; Associate Director

Years: 1999-2005

What did you love about working at SACNAS and what did you learn?

I loved the conferences. They were the highlight of each year. Obviously, I liked working with the staff as well. It was my first experience working in an office and I literally learned how to use a computer for the first time. I also learned about databases, programs, and grants management. A huge aspect I learned about was the Chicano and Native American community. The Native American community was completely new to me and then I began working with Board President Dr. Marigold Linton. She was fantastic to work with and I learned a lot from her.

My best memory of SACNAS…was the 2001 Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It took place only a few weeks after September 11. In fact, we weren’t sure we were going to have a conference that year but we moved forward. My best memory was the keynote address that Dr. Emir Jose Macari gave. It was amazingly heart-warming and I will never forget it. I will also never forget the sleep-deprived adrenaline rushes of the conference. We had extremely late nights and early mornings but I thrived on that sort of craziness. It was a rush.

Jean-Paul resides in Clemson, South Carolina and gets to travel the world through his work at Upwind Solutions where he leads a group of technicians who repair and maintain wind turbines. He combined his love of rock-climbing with his love of the environment.


702 Lola Aleru

Position: served in multiple capacities and left SACNAS as Associate Director of Membership & Services

Years: 1999-2005

What did you love about working at SACNAS?

I loved working with the staff. Not only were we a team, we were a close-knit family that had one goal to accomplish (the conference). I also loved my supervisor, and mentor, Marina Bobadilla. I learned from her that I could get anything done. She taught me creative ways to accomplish something on a very limited budget and empowered me so that I knew I could get it done on my own.

What did you learn?

SACNAS completely changed my mind about science. At the time I was hired, I was still a student at University of California, Santa Cruz. It was my first time working with scientists and I loved it. In fact, I’ve been working in the sciences ever since. My time at SACNAS set the expectations I have for working with people and the audience I’m serving. What I learned is that I may never have seen the immediate impact of my work but when I did see the results, like when students graduated and moved on, it was so worth it.

My best memory of SACNAS…was the Saturday night of each conference. I was so exhausted but excited about the work that we all just accomplished. It was so exciting that we were already thinking about what needed to happen for the next year. However that night, was a time for EVERYONE to celebrate, staff and volunteers included. I remember that’s when I first met members like Gustavo Miranda, Gabe Montaño and Beto Aguilar.

Lola is the Operations Manager, Africa for Aquaya Institute. She manages Aquaya’s efforts to evaluate and promote effective water quality monitoring and management among water suppliers and public health surveillance agencies across Sub-Saharan Africa. She resides in Nairobi, Kenya.

703 Marina and her familyMarina Bobadilla Washburn

Position/s: served in multiple capacities and left SACNAS as Deputy Director

Years: 1996-2008

What did you love about working at SACNAS?

I loved the ability to take something and run with it. It was wonderful to be able to explore a solution, implement it, assess its effectiveness and then make it better. It was like having the opportunity to expand your knowledge and at the same time challenge yourself to make it better. I also loved and understood that what I was doing at the office and behind the scenes was allowing SACNAS to have an impact on lives. It was changing my community.

What did you learn?

After twelve years at SACNAS, I basically learned how to run a nonprofit. I also am grateful for SACNAS because I learned that you don’t work in nonprofit for the money, you are doing it because you are passionate about the community and the service you are providing. Now I have been able to bring my skills back home to Santa Maria in my current work.

My best memory of SACNAS...is looking out at 2,000 people in the ballroom and fully understanding the impact I was making just by seeing everyone. This was my community, my academic community (I was a math major), my peer community—a community that looked like me. The other best memory was the work environment and how strong of a team we were. I really valued that connection with staff.

Marina has served as the Executive Director of Rancho Nipomo Dana Adobe in Santa Maria, CA since 2008. For more information, please go to

About the Author

 Former SACNAS Senior Program Manager (2004-2011) Tanya Beat works with first-generation professionals facing life changing decisions due to job loss, family transition, or workplace competition to help them transition into their ideal job or dream career. 

Related Resources

Learn more about SACNAS history and our 40th anniversary celebration