The SACNAS staff is a group of dedicated individuals passionate about advancing Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in science. SACNAS employees work to facilitate and support volunteer-led efforts, carry out staff-let efforts, fundraise, and direct overall operations.




Antonia O. Franco, Ed.D
Executive Director

Dr. Antonia O. Franco serves as the Executive Director of SACNAS; a national nonprofit organization devoted to increasing diversity in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. She leads a community of 20,000 students, scientists, and educators including 115 chapters nationwide in the movement to build a critical mass of diverse scientists with advanced degrees and in positions of leadership in STEM. Dr. Franco’s career has spanned nearly two decades in higher education and philanthropy working on issues of educational access, equity, and retention in underrepresented communities. She also has extensive experience in developing educational and community based partnerships. Dr. Franco earned her Doctorate in Educational Administration and Supervision from the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College of Education at ASU. 




Marilú Chávez
Executive Assistant to Executive Director

Marilú Chávez is Executive Assistant to the Executive Director (ED). She supports the ED in all administrative responsibilities and serves as the contact and support person to the Board of Directors, executive officers, and Council of Senior Advisors.  Ms. Chávez graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 2001 with a BA in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology and has worked with SACNAS for 11 years in a variety of roles such as Student Presentations Manager, Accounting Coordinator and Human Resources Coordinator. Ms. Chávez was originally drawn to work with the organization because of the profound sense of community at SACNAS and she is proud to be part of a movement that is opening paths to science, education, and leadership to Hispanics/Chicanos and Native Americans in STEM. 






Communications & Marketing 

482 Jenny Kurzweil 
Director of Communications & Marketing

Ms. Kurzweil is the Director of Communications & Marketing where she leads the development and implementation of the organization’s communications and marketing strategies within the context of the SACNAS strategic plan. Ms. Kurzweil has served SACNAS since 2001 as senior editor, publications manager, interim grant writer, and event production manager. She earned her BA from the University of Washington with a focus on creative writing and training in oral history. A passionate advocate for social justice and educational/career equity, she is honored to bring her communications skills into the realm of social change. Also an author, Ms. Kurzweil has written the book Fields that Dream: A Journey to the Roots of Our Food (Fulcrum Publishing) and articles for Science Careers, Science, Winds of Change, and Hispanic Outlook on Higher Education, and The Feminist Wire.



1245 Chiara Cabiglio
Communications & Marketing Coordinator

As Communications and Marketing Coordinator, Ms. Cabiglio manages social media, email marketing, and supports communications strategy development and implementation. She earned a BA in Community Studies from UC Santa Cruz, then volunteered at Cloud Forest School in Monteverde, Costa Rica where she replanted rainforest with students and supported environmental education. Prior to joining the SACNAS staff, Ms. Cabiglio was the Social Media and Marketing Specialist for UCSC University Relations. She is passionate about advancing SACNAS’ work because she believes that empowering under-represented minorities to become leaders in STEM is the key to solving climate change and the many other problems we face today. As a global citizen, she is honored to be a part of the SACNAS team.





David Kitchen, MBA
Director of Finance & Operations

As the Director of Finance & Operations, Mr. Kitchen manages the finance and operational needs of the organization. He brings more than 20 years of non-profit financial management experience and operational skills. He has worked at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and most recently at a health education organization in the Santa Cruz area. Mr. Kitchen earned a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Southern California. He is excited to join an organization focused on educational equity after teaching for five years in a community college and observing the difficulties many students face.




Jasmeen Miah
Administrative Services Coordinator

Mrs. Miah is the Administrative Services Coordinator at SACNAS. She earned a BA from Stanford University in Human Biology with a concentration in Global Public Health and Infectious Disease. After working in her field, she decided to instead follow her passion of administrative work. She has gained experience at other non-profits in Santa Cruz and is excited to be working at SACNAS. Adopted from one of Mother Teresa’s orphanages in Dhaka, Bangladesh at six months of age and raised by multiracial parents, Mrs. Miah feels a personal connection to the SACNAS mission of helping underrepresented populations. Furthermore, as an underrepresented minority with a background in science, she understands the importance of diversity in STEM. Mrs. Miah is thrilled to support the organization and help further its crucial mission.



Programs and Scientific Professional Advancement



Dawn Contreras
Senior Manager of Sponsorships & Events

As Senior Manager of Sponsorships & Events, Ms. Contreras is responsible for the sponsorship management and event logistics organization-wide and also performs duties associated with the SACNAS National Conference, including registration, travel, and lodging. A native of Santa Cruz, California, Ms. Contreras joined SACNAS in 2004 and has served in various capacities over the years. Throughout her ten year tenure at SACNAS, Ms. Contreras has continually drawn inspiration from stories of perseverance shared by our members. She fully understands the barriers and struggles confronting many underrepresented youth, and is passionate about motivating and supporting students to achieve their educational dreams in the hope that they will give back and make a difference in their communities.




1249 Eric Curiel
Program Associate

Mr. Curiel manages travel scholarships for the SACNAS National Conference and supports program managers with strategic projects. He attended his first SACNAS National Conference in 2010 as a community college student. After transferring to the University of California, Santa Cruz, he continued his SACNAS involvement as the 2012 UCSC SACNAS Chapter President. In 2014, Mr. Curiel earned his BS in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Before joining the SACNAS staff, Mr. Curiel worked as a STEM Professional Expert at College of the Sequoias, where he helped mentor students in an undergraduate research program. Mr. Curiel is passionate about promoting and increasing diversity in the sciences.





858 Tavia Danch 
Exhibits & Advertising Program Manager

As Exhibits Program Manager, Ms. Danch provides year-round direct service to SACNAS National Conference exhibitors through exhibits event planning, sales, and program development. She joined SACNAS in 2013 and has eight years of experience in the public sector. Ms. Danch holds a BA in Communications and Political Science from Villanova University where she focused on communications as a driver for social system change. Before joining SACNAS, Ms. Danch worked for Clean Ocean Action where she developed and implemented science and policy programs to educate and inspire diverse populations to understand the importance of coastal conservation. Ms. Danch is passionate about empowering the next generation with the necessary knowledge and tools to make a difference in the world we share.





Jeannie Kovacs, MBA, MPA, CeCD (Comanche/Apache)
Senior Program Manager

As Senior Program Manager, Ms. Jeannie Kovacs leads SACNAS team initiatives that build innovative approaches for nonprofit management and delivery of the organization’s specialized programs. She brings 25 years of experience developing and executing successful business and financial models in federal, tribal and state government, not for profit, and private sector businesses. Ms. Kovacs’ servant leadership background includes working with 258 federally recognized tribes, among other prominent organizations. Ms. Kovacs holds a dual Master’s Degree from Sul Ross University in Public Administration and Business Administration. Having mentored numerous Native American graduate STEM students, Ms. Kovacs is honored to join the SACNAS team and play a role in the success of our underrepresented minority SACNISTA scientists.



Eben Lindsey, MA
Conference Program Manager

As Conference Program Manager, Eben Lindsey works with the staff and the National Conference Program Committee to develop and deepen the programmatic elements of the SACNAS National conference. Mr. Lindsey holds a Master's Degree in International Policy Studies from the Monterey Institute of International Studies and has a long-time interest in the intersection of science and policy. Prior to joining SACNAS, Mr. Lindsey worked on policy issues at the Naval Postgraduate School and served on the Secretariat of the Biological Weapons Convention and the United Nations, where he helped organize their annual meetings-including a meeting of national scientific experts--in Geneva, Switzerland. Mr. Lindsey is excited to be working with SACNAS because he believes in in the importance of a diverse and representative scientific community in the formation of equitable science policy.





1411 Robert Mendoza
Data & Technology Administrator

As a part of the SACNAS Information Technology team, Mr. Mendoza is the Data and Technology Administrator and oversees organizational data, user applications, and the SACNAS websites. Originally from Chicago, Robert has worked in the nonprofit sector for the past six years focusing on constituent relationship management, digital fundraising, website design/administration, and digital communications. He received his BS in business administration from California State University – Fresno where he focused on marketing. As an active member of the Steinbeck Rotary Club since 2004, Robert is the Club Public Relations Chair and serves on their Board of Directors. A constant learner, Robert is currently working towards completion of his Project Management Professional certification. Robert is passionate about helping motivated minorities realize their full potential and moving them forward towards their goals and dreams.






Kateryna Poradiuk, MPA
Program Associate

Mrs. Poradiuk manages the student research presentations program, including the SACNAS undergraduate/graduate abstract poster sessions, graduate student oral presentations, and the Student Peer Mentoring Program. Mrs. Poradiuk holds a BA in International Affairs from Eastern Washington University and a Master’s in Public Administration from San Jose State University.  Before joining SACNAS, Mrs. Poradiuk interned with the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and the City of San Jose. As a native Ukrainian, she is passionate about social justice and helping underrepresented minorities achieve their dreams.




Science Policy


488 Robert Barnhill, PhD 
Vice President for Science Policy & Strategic Initiatives

SACNAS’ Vice President for Science Policy & Strategic Initiatives, Dr. Robert E. Barnhill evaluates and writes on science policy issues and trends, recommends policy positions to the SACNAS board, represents SACNAS in multiple policy forums, collaborates with SACNAS’ Executive Director and department directors, and supervises SACNAS Science Policy Associates. He has been involved with SACNAS for approximately ten years, and together with his spouse and SACNAS pioneer and former president Dr. Marigold Linton, developed the conference-funding concept of “host institution.” As Vice President since 2009, he helped SACNAS establish its Washington, DC office. Dr. Barnhill received his BA from the University of Kansas and his PhD from the University of Wisconsin, both in mathematics, and has had a lengthy career in academia and academic administration, always emphasizing teambuilding and robust collaborations. As an extension of this career focus, his favorite SACNAS activity is mentoring at the Summer Leadership Institute. 



Meet the SACNAS Board of Directors