Natural Sciences receives prestigious SACNAS award

At the 2012 Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science National Conference on Oct. 11 through 14, CSU’s Arlene Nededog will receive the Distinguished Service award for her work promoting diversity in sciences.

SACNAS is a group of scientists dedicated to cultivating the success of Hispanic/Chicano and Native American scientists from being a college student through becoming a professional. The focus is to give opportunities to obtain advanced degrees, careers and connections in the science field.

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Nededog, the Director of Undergraduate Retention Programs in the College of Natural Sciences, has received many awards and honors in her career that pertain to diversity such as the Minority Distinguished Service Award at CSU in 1999.

“We reach all students in the college,” Nededog said. “We have a high percentage of diversity in the college and we want to meet the needs of that population. We want our students participating in professional science organizations and to make connections with peers.”

According to Nededog, students and staff have the ability to make CSU a leader in producing top caliber diversity students in the sciences.

“Our focus is to inspire students to become leaders out of the college and become future science leaders,” Nededog said.

Paul Laybourn, Professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, along with Dr. Nancy Hurtado-Ziola, nominated Nededog for the award.

“I wanted to honor her for all the hard work and dedication she’s had and supporting the students of color at CSU, particularly in science,” Laybourn said.

Laybourn made a passing comment of beginning a SACNAS chapter at CSU six years ago, and Nededog took off with the idea to make it a reality.

The SACNAS CSU chapter has been a presence in the community for six years. This year, the chapter was awarded the SACNAS 2012 Outstanding Native American Member Outreach Role Model Award. This is the 6th award that the CSU chapter has received.

Nededog works with many colleges in Colorado, including CU Boulder, UCD and Metro, along with several universities outside of the state in the Rocky Mountain region.

“The makeup of the population of scientists is not reflective of the population of the U.S. It’s getting more and more out of synch with that,” Laybourne said. “With the demographics, and even the local area of Colorado, it’s very important to have diversity in every walk of life and area.”

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According to Layboune, the importance of a member of the CSU community receiving this award is a big step to creating a positive reputation that CSU promotes and serves diversity in its science programs

“It goes a long way to put us on the map as a university that’s dedicated toward addressing diversity issues, particularly in science,”  Laybourn said. “Which is important because we’ve seen a big improvement in this incoming class, but these are the types of things that improve those things further.”

Janice Nerger, dean of the College of Natural Sciences, sees this award as a vital achievement.

“Arlene Nededog is such a huge asset to CSU and her efforts promoting student success is exceptional,” Nerger said.

Nededog advocates, coaches and mentors students in her college to contribute to change.

“This is where my family resides, you must be actively involved to make changes,” Nededog said.

She also works with outreach programs in the area to connect college students with the kindergarten through 12th grade pipeline.

“It starts young…science is where a lot of the innovation happens,” Nededog said. “You have to begin with what sparks that curiosity.”

The conference that Nededog will be attending is not only to receive awards, but to provide an opportunity for students to explore graduate options and create networking.

Even if you are not a science student it can be used as an “opportunity to be better educated consumers of science,” Nededog said.

Diversity beat reporter and entertainment reporter Bailey Constas (@BaileyLiza) can be reached at news@collegian.com