November 2020 Newsletter

Members Edition

November is Member Appreciation Month

November is HSI STEM Professionals Network Member Appreciation Month! We celebrate our community of scientists and collaborators as we continue to learn from and support each other through new challenges in teaching, research and capacity building. The NSF HSI National STEM Resource Hub sponsors the HSI STEM Professionals Network as a service to the HSI science community. The Network offers a variety of benefits and provides members with exclusive access to the member directory. This directory maintains contact and profile information for forming partnerships and collaborations focused on submission to NSF 20-599 among other opportunities. The Hub also provides Network members access to a variety of member exclusive resources and up-to-date announcements for opportunities offered by the Hub and its members. Members also engage in dialogue and share opportunities through the member forum, where grantwriting, pedagogy, multicultural awareness, institutional capacity building and conference/meeting discussion boards are hosted. HSI STEM Professionals Network Members receive the HSI STEM Hub Monthly Newsletter, Network announcements, early registration to all Hub offerings, and access to our soon to be released podcasts right to their inboxes.

We invite you to join the HSI STEM Professionals Network for full access to these benefits and encourage you to share this opportunity with your colleagues. We also encourage current members to update and complete your profiles with the most current information. Opportunity and partnerships await! You won’t want to miss the opportunity to build your network and find your partners through the HSI STEM Professionals Network!

In addition, HSI STEM Professionals Network Members are esteemed contributors to the HSI STEM Hub Podcasts, Webinars, and Newsletters providing insight on the most relevant issues in STEM Education. This month we feature three network members and column authors for this year’s HSI STEM Hub Newsletter.

Featured Members

Bernadette Connors

Bernadette Connors, Ph.D. is an undergraduate educator in biological sciences at Dominican College in Blauvelt, NY. Her research focuses primarily on understanding the microbial and viral ecosystems in numerous waterways in the Hudson Valley, focusing on identifying how human-related activities impact the dynamics of the aquatic microbiome. She welcomes both undergraduate and high school students into her lab and has implemented course-based research experiences for both introductory and upper-level classes in Biology. Dr. Connors has secured funding through the NSF to support STEM scholarships for students entering biology professions and established numerous research collaborations for students.

Contact information
Dominican College of Blauvelt
Google Scholar 

What are you proudest of in your career?

Having been both a STEM educator and researcher in the field of molecular microbiology for several years, many occasions have caused me to feel great pride.

  • As an educator, I was very proud that my efforts to bring and implement two different CURE programs to the college were successful. These provided new educational opportunities for our students, which allowed them to view themselves as scientists and scholars.
  • As a researcher, the occasion that evoked a sense of accomplishment and pride was when I read the award notice for my NSF grant that focused on water pollution in our region. The added value to the grant was that it allowed to learn methodologies which undergraduate researchers could then utilize to further our understanding of the pollutant source.
  • At the intersection of these two professional endeavors, I was proudest when my research student won awards at both the regional and national conventions of the TriBeta Biology Honor Society for her senior capstone project. She was both a new citizen to the U.S and a first-generation student who, following her experience in the research lab, pursued a MS degree and a career in vaccine development.

What is your personal motto?

The words that resonate most strongly with me are “Deeds, not words” (Roman proverb).  Being fully prepared to meet students where they are at and challenge them to reach their highest potential, is our primary role as educators.   It is what we “do” that allows us to fulfill this role.

How has COVID-19 changed the way you work with students? Do you anticipate the transition to remote and hybrid teaching will change outcomes for your students?

The COVID-19 situation has revealed severe weaknesses in the educational system that serve only to perpetuate the achievement gap.  For me, it sparked an inward journey to evaluate how I might play a role in strengthening the system so that education is both equitable and just.  I believe this is a rallying moment for all of us to dig in and work together to create meaningful change.

In terms of teaching and mentoring, the COVID-19 situation daily inspired me to “be better” for those I serve.  The rapid transition to a fully online platform in the spring gave me the unique opportunity to see students in their classroom, rather than my classroom.  In this remote space, I watched students struggle to maintain attention as their dogs barked, younger siblings interrupted, and wifi became unstable.  I learned a deeper meaning for the word accommodation, which draws focus to them as a person and their individual challenges rather than just as a student.

In terms of outcomes, expectations were not lowered since I needed only to change the platform of delivery and not content.  For the lecture and discussion components, a mixture of synchronous and asynchronous meetings was important and fair.  Given that the labs were bioinformatic CUREs, my expectations for what they could achieve did not suffer.  It did require that I hold additional office hours to accommodate questions that arose and allow for late submissions because of technological issues.  Student performance was no different than what I have observed in past semesters.   As a matter of fact, anecdotally, I would say that their work ethic and ability to be independent thinkers was on full display.

What do you believe the future role of current STEM students will be 20-25 years from now in the US? How do you believe the scientific enterprise is shaping the future of the U.S.?

Today’s students are experiencing an unprecedented situation and, as such, they will develop a novel outlook on what connects humanity to each other and to the natural world.  I envision this generation will redefine how science serves society, strongly influenced by the arts and humanities.  In this way, science will once again have a place in our culture.

It is clear that the scientific enterprise is once again focused on innovation.  However, this will necessitate that we actively mitigate issues that cause the achievement gap for minorities and women in STEM. Studies have postulated that organizations are more innovative if they rely on group thinking and “collective wisdom”, drawing on the individuality of all its members. This is best achieved in diverse environments.  The drive for innovation that is bolstered by this diversity and which is taking place within the context of a newly realized need for connectivity, will shape a generation of changemakers to lead the U.S. into a future that is accessible to all.

Authored Newsletter Column Inclusive CURE: An Innovative Way to Approach Undergraduate Research can be found here.

Edward “Eddie” Stoker

Mr. Stoker has raised close to $100 million dollars primarily for multicultural projects he has directed, some of which have received commendations from the Vatican, White House, Congress, and community-based organizations. He possesses a B.S. in Agronomy from Texas A&M; a M.S. in Environmental Studies from Baylor; and an executive certificate in Strategic Diversity and Inclusion from Georgetown. Currently, he serves as a Partners and Intergovernmental Affairs Specialist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at our headquarters facilities in Falls Church, Virginia.  As the largest conservation agency in the world, our mission is to work with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. In his role, he is responsible for establishing, managing, and strengthening partnerships that increase outreach and engagement in underrepresented communities, particularly African American and Latino.  To learn more, visit and

Contact information:
US Fish and Wildlife Services

What are you proudest of in your career?

What I appreciate most in my career are opportunities to apply not just my skills, knowledge, and experience but also my personal values, qualities, and mixed cultural background.  It’s no coincidence that I have had the greatest impact on bringing my full self to work.  Thus, I would say I am proudest of the opportunities across my career to lead teams in improving and expanding an organization’s impact through multicultural outreach and engagement.

What is your (life) motto?

My life motto, instilled in me by my mother when I was young, is “Si otros pueden, tu tambien puedes” (“If others can, you can too”).  With a realistic sense of self, it is my responsibility to pursue appropriate personal and professional opportunities, fully recognizing and accepting that I am the only person who can really limit my growth.  I don’t allow the unfounded or biased views of others to define or threaten my career.  Instead, I consider others’ views and actions as valuable input to improve or change myself or my situation.

What do you think are the barriers the Latino community faces that limit participation in the fields of conservation and natural resources management?

In my opinion, our relatively young and growing Hispanic American population faces multiple barriers to and in the fields of conservation and natural resource management, including a lack of recognition, access, and support.  Despite our representation in these and other professional fields, our presence, abilities, and contributions are not always fully recognized.  As a result, it is more challenging for us to gain access and support, limiting our participation.

What strategies would you suggest for increasing Latino participation in the fields of conservation and natural resources management?

First, I believe we must proudly embrace and promote our own cultural heritage and our Hispanic Serving Institutions.  Second, we must advocate for all public organizations to narrate stories and deliver services that are inclusive of Latinos.  Third, we must establish mutually beneficial partnerships to increase the capacity of our own and other organizations to better serve our community.

To increase Latino participation in conservation and natural resource management, we specifically need to, among other things:  preserve culturally significant lands; develop green places in urban spaces; engage youth in outdoor recreation; increase STEM capabilities of schools and colleges; and attract and develop Hispanic talent in and across academic institutions, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations working in the professional fields.

Invitation to partner: Anyone with a Hispanic Serving Institutions working on issues of conservation and natural resource management is encouraged to contact me at to discuss how we might collaborate to increase Latino representation in these professional fields.  As a first-generation Hispanic American with undergraduate and graduate degrees in science, it is an honor for me to be featured in the HSI STEM newsletter. Gracias.

Authored Newsletter Column How to increase diversity and inclusion in STEM can be found here.

Kimberly D. York, MSSA, MNO, LICSW-S.

Kimberly D. York

Kimberly D. York, is an Independent Licensed Clinical Social Worker with Supervision designation (Ohio and New Mexico) with a blended career of over 20 years of non-profit leadership experience and clinical practice. She is a widely requested consultant in the areas of nonprofit management, training facilitation, program development, strategic planning, strategic alliances, research, self-care, youth development, and mentoring. Her clinical competencies include mental health assessments, treatment plan development, conducting trauma-informed individual, family & group cognitive behavioral therapy, prevention, and resilience. She has extensive experience in the faith-based, community, and education sectors.
Prior to her current appointment as the Interim Director of Black Programs at New Mexico State University, she served as an Adjunct Professor in the School of Social Work at the same university. Kimberly holds a Bachelor of Social Work from Capital University. She earned a dual Master of Social Administration and Master of Nonprofit Organizations with Nonprofit Management certification from Case Western Reserve University (CWRU). She is a doctoral student at Grand Canyon University, completing a Ph.D. in Psychology with an emphasis in Industrial and Organizational Psychology. She is a National Trust Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) Practitioner. She is most proud to be a National Resiliency Trainer. 

Contact information:
New Mexico State University, Black Programs

What are you proudest of in your career?

As a first-generation college student and a very late bloomer, I am most proud of my resilience and personal commitment to growth. I didn’t go to college right out of high school, and I didn’t have a clearly thought out life plan. I have learned to value my life experiences just as must as I value my formal education. This has given me an altruistic advantage as a mental health therapist, as a business owner, as a mentor, and a leader. It naturally helps me relate to people and be able to transfer theories into practical application effectively.

What is your personal motto?

To be honest, I have two life philosophies that I live by. First, “I didn’t come this far only to come this far.” This is a daily reminder that I am fiercely resilient and that I can do anything I set my mind to. Next, “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.” This is a virtue my grandfather instilled in me at a very young age. Far too often, there is a tendency to follow the status quo instead of aligning with and remaining true to one’s own morals and values when it comes to doing what’s right.

How can allies engage non-minorities in conversations about race?

I strongly believe that you can only take someone as far as you yourself are willing to go. In other words, it’s easy to have superficial conversations about race. For example, a professor may adequately teach a course on race but may not be comfortable having a one on one conversation with a person of a different race. Recognizing the innate uncomfortable nature of race, it is important to assess one’s own intentions and the possible impact for engaging in the conversation. Race dialogue is significantly influenced by lived experiences and worldview. Authentically getting to know people and building common ground should be the foundation of race conversations. Similarly, being honest about our own bias is imperative because it sets the tone for the conversation.

How would you recommend diversifying the curriculum? And why is that important?

There is a lot to unpack in this question and many layers to navigate. Cesar Chavez’s quote, “Preservation of one’s own culture does not require contempt or disrespect for other cultures,” is one perspective that can serve us well in this daunting undertaking. It is my position that this should be printed in every textbook centered on culture and history. Diversifying a curriculum just for the sake of completing a checkbox goal is hap hazardous at best and is equivalent of drafting a strategic plan that sits on the shelf. Diversity must be embraced and lived in order for curriculum changes to be authentic and intentional. Diversity must be clearly defined, and outcomes should be measurable. These action items are important because it minimizes the tendency to mission drift.

Authored Newsletter Column Pragmatic Strategies for Becoming an Ally for the Black Community can be found here.

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Column Editors

Edmundo Medina, M.S.

Edmundo Medina holds a medical degree from the Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juarez (UACJ), where he found a passion for understanding different biological mechanisms. For his Master’s thesis, he directed a project in the characterization of an ion channel in a heterologous expression system where he developed expertise with neural cell culture and whole-cell patch-clamp techniques. Currently, he is a Ph.D. candidate at New Mexico State University, focused on projects that combine his clinical knowledge with muscle cell culture and cannabinoid pathways for the treatment of neuromuscular diseases.

Nicolas Mendez

Nicolas Mendez is a Master student in Industrial Engineering. He is from Bogota, Colombia and completed his Bachelor’s degree at La Salle University in 2018. During his professional career, he has worked in the pharmaceutical industry performing quality control, process analysis and cost evaluations. He is a member of the Recruitment Team for the Department of Industrial Engineering at New Mexico State University, working with middle and high school students to pursue a career in engineering. For his academic program he is working on research composites that will help to reduce waste in industry and re-use of environmental contaminant materials.


Margie Vela, Ph. D.  

Margie Vela is a researcher, educator and public servant devoted to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in higher education and STEM.  She earned her Ph.D. in Water Science and Management from New Mexico State University (NMSU) in 2019 and served the State of New Mexico in public service as a Regent for the NMSU System from 2017-2019. She served as an intern at the National Science Foundation in 2015 and as a Farmer-to-Farmer USAID volunteer in 2018. Her career in DEI began at Fort Lee Garrison, where she served as Director for the HIRED! Program to prepare dependents of military personnel to enter college or the workforce. Her career in higher education began at a Historically Black University, in 2010, where she implemented a multi-million-dollar program focused on diversifying the STEM enterprise. Currently, Dr. Vela serves as Senior Project Manager for the NSF HSI National STEM Resource Hub working to implement a project aimed to bolster STEM at 539 Hispanic Serving Institutions in grantsmanship, multicultural awareness, institutional capacity building and STEM pedagogy; and facilitating partnerships across institutions and disciplines. Dr. Vela serves the NMSU Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) Chapter as founding co-advisor and has served as a national panelist for SACNAS in DEI training as an alumnus of SACNAS Postdoctoral Leadership Institute. She recently earned a Certificate in DEI from Cornell University.