Pre-Conference Events

Maximize your experience with special programming to prepare you before the conference officially starts!


Together we… BEGIN AGAIN

SACNAS Community College Day

Friday, September 18, 2020 from 10am to 3:30pm PT

Community College Day is a virtual mini-conference day for interested students to explore degrees and careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), as well as build a national network to support transferring to a 4-year institution, research opportunities, financial support, and more.

Participants will discover the possibilities of an education and career in STEM through:

  • Motivational talks and panels — Hear directly from peers and role models who are pursuing degrees in STEM
  • Skill-building— Learn valuable skills through interactive workshops, with a focus on preparing to attend SACNAS’ National Diversity in STEM Conference*
    • Sample workshop topics include: Gaining confidence (public speaking/presenting, leadership); Transferring to a 4-year institution; Information on scholarships, grants, financial aid and resources for Careers and Internships; “Insights to Success” Panel; Importance of Mentors and Peer Mentors.

*Community College Day is a single-day event, with no registration fee required. Participants are encouraged (but not required) to register for and attend the 2020 SACNAS National Diversity in STEM Conference to continue their learning through various sessions specifically designed for community college students.

Keynote Speaker:

Dr. Farisa Morales

Astrophysicist and Program Manager at NASA’s JPL, Instructor and Chair at Moorpark College, and Instructor at CSUN

  • Dr. Farisa Morales is an active astrophysicist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), who hunts for planets and seeks to understand their formation, and is also a professor at California State University, Northridge (CSUN) and Moorpark College. Born in the US, Morales was raised in Jalisco, Mexico, where she completed her primary education. As a teenager, she and her family migrated back to the US, where she completed high school in the Los Angeles county public school system. At 18 years of age, Morales married and began a family. With a three-year old daughter and a six-month old baby, she began her college education at L.A. Mission Community College, where she majored in Mathematics. The summer she transferred to UCLA, she participated in Caltech’s SURF internship program at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Her summer internship turned into an academic part-time job at JPL, and while raising her kids, Morales graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Astrophysics from UCLA, and continued on to a Master’s degree in Physics from CSUN. Her work on planetary debris disks at JPL with the Spitzer Space Telescope, evolved into her PhD dissertation project, and attained her PhD in Physics from USC in 2011. Using the Spitzer Space Telescope and the Herschel Space Observatory, Morales studies stars with planetary debris disks—the dusty ring-like structures, home to colliding asteroids and sublimating comets, that circle stars like the Sun, and hint at planet formation processes, their architecture and composition. Morales also searches for the planetary companions stirring and carving the dust around nearby stars. She uses the powerful 10-meter Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea in Hawaii and the 5-meter Hale Telescope at Palomar Mountain in California to hunt for planets. These telescopes have been adapted with optics that enable us to mask the star’s intense radiation and see the faint infrared light from the orbiting planets. As a teacher, Morales has had the great fortune to involved CSUN and Moorpark College students in astronomical research at NASA’s JPL, opening the doors to a new generation of space explorers.

Insights to Success Panel:

  •  Panel Moderator:

    Dr. Maria Mercedes Franco is Chair of Mathematics and Computer Science at Queensborough Community College.

     Panel Speakers:

    Gabrielle Balistreri is a transfer student from Grossmont and Cuyamaca Community College in San Diego, CA. She is currently studying Chemistry at UC San Diego (class of 2021). She has conducted research in early stage Alzheimer’s detection as well as in silicon nanotechnology. In her free time, Gabrielle loves baking, cooking, hiking, and rock climbing. Gabrielle will be presenting her research in the 2020 SACNAS conference.  

    Jody Simpson started as a CS major at CUNY-BMCC where she ran several tech focused student initiatives and did research on the applications of machine learning algorithms. She moved on to NYU where she co-founded CS+ Social Good, an organization aimed at pairing capable CS NYU students to non-profits around NYC. This stems from her enthusiasm about technology, community and helping people to grow. She also loves to use technology to solve problems and has brought her talents to Google, where she works as a Solutions Engineer.

     Jason Miranda, PhD started his path to scientific leadership at Glendale Community College in Glendale, Arizona. He is now a Principal Scientist at Galvani Bioelectronics based near London, UK. A PhD in Neuroscience prepared him for a career of scientific discovery and therapy development in sensory neuroscience, neuroregeneration, endocrinology and bioelectronic medical devices. Family, basketball and mountain biking keep him busy when he’s not working with its scientific team.

    Johnny Guzman, PhD is from Southern California and attended Cerritos Community College for two years before transferring to Cal State-Long Beach where he studied mathematics.  In 2005 he received a PhD in applied mathematics at Cornell University. He was an NSF postdoc at the University of Minnesota before joining the applied math faculty at Brown University. His area of expertise is numerical analysis. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with family and friends and biking on numerous bike paths in Rhode Island. 


  • First, we will introduce the concept of handprints, which are used to measure and communicate the positive changes and the beneficial environmental, social, and economic impacts created within the organizations and individuals. Then, we will show how we might measure beneficial impacts of individuals in an organization such as the Community College. Students will learn how to calculate their negative carbon footprint. Students will discuss their own examples of positive actions. Finally, a suite of positive and realistic actions that each student can take will be provided, and students will calculate their potential handprint and understand what it takes to offset their carbon footprint.


    Zuania Pacheco, Engineering and Chemistry Instructor at Haywood Community College

    Jasmina Burek, PhD, Postdoctoral Associate at MIT

  • You’ve just been awarded a scholarship or accepted into a research program and suddenly you are asked to submit a bio. Don’t panic! In this fun and interactive session, you’ll create a bio that you can use for professional purposes that highlights both your previous accomplishments and what you plan to achieve in the future. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is and what a difference it makes!


    Tiffany Shaleen Reardon (she/her/hers), Associate Director for Engineering Excellence Programs at UC Berkeley College of Engineering 

  • Research shows the transition from undergrad to graduate school is particularly difficult for underrepresented students, especially those who start out at a community college.  Some issues are related to socio-economic status (college costs a lot!) while others are institutional/structural (what the heck is an “articulation agreement”).  This workshop is meant to help students understand the “pipeline” from community college to undergrad to graduate school and highlight the areas along the pipeline where students tend to get stuck and/or even drop out along the way.  The goal is to identify barriers and provide students with tools and info to get beyond these barriers regardless of standing.


    John Vasquez, PhD, MHSA (he/him/his), Director of Assessment & Professional Development at Van Andel Institute Graduate School 

  • Discover tools and tips to navigate the roadmap leading to a career in the health professions. Learn about turning challenges into opportunities and about what competitive application into professional programs really means. There are many roads leading into the health or biomedical professions. However, most of these roads most have common road stops along the way that are important to visit. These include the role of your G.P.A., community service, shadowing experiences, standardized test performance and ability to speak eloquently and write concisely. Come be informed and empowered to drive along the road of your choice into the career of your dreams.


    Irene Chapa, PhD, Director of Recruitment & Science Outreach  and Director of Voelcker Biomedical Research Academy  at UT Health San Antonio

    Olga Coronado , Academic Programs Coordinator , Office of Recruitment and Science Outreach  at UT Health San Antonio

    Kristen La Porte , Program Coordinator , Office of Recruitment & Science Outreach at UT Health San Antonio

    Adriana Avendano , Administrative Assistant , Office of Recruitment & Science Outreach  at UT Health San Antonio

  • This presentation will showcase efforts of the Central Florida STEM Alliance to support student achievement in STEM through integrated storytelling. Specially, this session will discuss why it’s important for community college students – and in particular underrepresented minority (URM) students – to embrace their STEM journey thus far and understand the importance of sharing their own stories in STEM and learning from the stories of others. Students will explore STEM storytelling and reflect on their own STEM journeys, as well as discover tools and methods to champion STEM storytelling at their institutions in alignment with traditional STEM communication skill-building strategies.


    John Fynn, LSAMP Senior Program Specialist at Polk State College

    Kassy Holmes, Project Director, Central Florida STEM Alliance at Valencia College

    Vanessa Lopez, LSAMP/STEM Transfer Program Advisor at Valencia College

    Damika Sanders, Implementation Coordinator, Central Florida STEM Alliance at Valencia College

    Arlene Willis, LSAMP/STEM Transfer Program Advisor at Valencia College

    Larry Young, Professor of Biology at Polk State College

  • Working as a member of a team is one of the hardest tasks we are asked to do. We wonder “Will people do their part? Will my voice be heard? I don’t want to start an argument, so I will keep my thoughts to myself.” Join NASA Education Coordinators in navigating group dynamics to develop team norms (ground rules) for group activities and projects in an inclusive and equitable way so every voice is heard to ensure the team’s success.


    Lisa Mitchell, Education Coordinator at NASA

    Alex Gladney-Lemon, Education Coordinator at Oklahoma State University – NSPACE


Please contact or call (831) 459-0170