CSM MESA program students with faculty sponsor Angel Pilar, counselor Jesenia Diaz, and Project Director Olivia Viveros.

CSM MESA program students with faculty sponsor Angel Pilar, counselor Jesenia Diaz, and Project Director Olivia Viveros.

College of San Mateo’s Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) program recently embarked on an enriching journey to the SACNAS (Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science) Conference held in Portland, Oregon. This prestigious event celebrated as the National Diversity in STEM Conference, provided a platform for CSM MESA students to engage with luminaries in their fields, participate in STEM-focused workshops, explore career prospects, and gather insights into pursuing graduate education.

The MESA program at CSM stands as a catalyst for empowering first-generation and underrepresented students who aspire to achieve calculus-based STEM bachelor’s degrees and significantly contribute to the evolution of STEM fields. This proactive initiative serves as a driving force to increase the presence of historically marginalized groups within STEM disciplines, facilitating their successful transition to four-year colleges and universities.

Thanks to increased state funding, the MESA program was able to send not only its dedicated students but also a trio of crucial personnel—MESA faculty sponsor Angel Pilar, MESA counselor Jesenia Diaz, and MESA Project Director Olivia Viveros—to the SACNAS Conference. This collective participation allowed for a rich exchange of ideas, experiences, and strategies aimed at addressing critical issues within STEM education.

The SACNAS Conference provided extensive professional development opportunities for faculty and staff, touching on topics ranging from closing equity gaps in STEM transfer pathways to learning from women’s experiences in science. This holistic approach to learning and growth underscores the commitment of the MESA program to empower students through exposure to real-world experiences and inspirational role models.

One poignant highlight of the conference was a heartwarming reunion with former CSM MESA student Yesenia Puga, who is currently pursuing her studies in computer engineering at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Yesenia, who presented her current research at the conference, generously shared her journey, challenges, and successes with the current MESA participants. Her invaluable insights resonated deeply with our students, guiding them to navigate the transfer process and thrive in a new academic environment.

For Olivia Viveros, the SACNAS Conference underscored the profound importance of diversity in STEM fields. It reinforced the MESA program’s unwavering commitment to empowering its studentsfis. She shares, “Conferences such as SACNAS serve as unique platforms that enable our students, faculty, and staff to connect with and learn from the broader STEM community. We look forward to providing more of these opportunities for our students.”

Kassandra Carvallo, one of the MESA program’s outstanding students, expressed her sentiments regarding the SACNAS Conference: “For me, attending the SACNAS conference not only meant gaining valuable knowledge, but it was also inspiring. Seeing all these people coming from different places, some with a background similar to mine, and witnessing their journey to become the professionals they are now was inspiring. It felt like a pat on my back, affirming that nothing is holding us back.”

Experiences like this year’s SACNAS Conference stand as examples of how the CSM MESA program continues to nurture and propel the aspirations of its students, empowering them to excel in STEM fields and realize their full potential. Through dedicated mentorship, exposure to real-world experiences, and connections with role models like Yesenia Puga, the program continues to change the face of STEM by fostering a new generation of diverse and talented STEM leaders.