LAWRENCE — The Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics & Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) announced the election of Roberta Pokphanh, University of Kansas assistant vice provost for International Programs, to its national Board of Directors. Pokphanh officially begins her three-year term in January 2019.
For the last 45 years, SACNAS has fostered the success of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in STEM fields, supporting college students and professionals earning advanced degrees, pursuing careers in STEM and academia, and attaining leadership opportunities. The organization serves 6,000 members and a larger community of 20,000.
“It’s a great honor for the University of Kansas to have a connection to SACNAS through Roberta,” said Jennifer Hamer, vice provost for diversity & equity. “As a longtime KU employee and administrator, she can offer the board great insight into the experiences and needs of our students, while also helping KU remain at the leading edge of efforts to embrace and celebrate diversity not simply in STEM fields, but across all disciplines.”
Pokphanh, a registered member of the Cherokee Nation, began her career at KU in 2003 in the Office for Diversity in Science Training and later served as the assistant dean for graduate studies. In 2015 she was selected to be the academic director for KU’s Academic Accelerator Program in the Office of International Programs. In 2017 she was named assistant vice provost for OIP.
She has a long history with SACNAS and first became involved with the organization in 2003. She has helped prepare students from KU and Haskell Indian Nations University to attend and present at the annual conference, and she has delivered multiple presentations at the event. Pokphanh’s research and presentations have focused on preparing undergraduate students for graduate school, mentoring graduate students and developing strong student research programs. Pokphanh was part of the local organizing committee for the 2007 SACNAS conference in Kansas City, where KU and Haskell were the first university sponsors of the event.
Pokphanh sought out the position on the SACNAS board of directors because of the effect SACNAS has had on her career.
“SACNAS supports and mentors the next generation of diverse scientists in a way that honors our traditions and our communities,” Pokphanh said. “My professional career has been significantly shaped by my connection to this organization and by the SACNISTA elders who became my mentors. I am honored to be able to serve the organization, to give back, in some small measure, what this organization has given to me.”
Pokphanh earned her bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate in the history of art from KU.
SACNAS has more than 115 student and professional chapters. In addition to conducting science advocacy and policy development, SACNAS offers its members training and support, including more than 3,900 travel scholarships since 2012.