2022 Speaker Bios
Karla Horgan Arévalo
Health Career Navigator, DACA & Undocumented Student Health Careers Opportunity Program (DUHOP), The Health Institute, Metropolitan State University of Denver
Karla is a Health Career Navigator for the DACA & Undocumented Student Health Career Opportunity Program (DUHOP) at Metropolitan State University of Denver. Karla is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Counseling at the University of Colorado Denver, with a focus on Clinical Mental Health. In her role at MSU Denver, Karla supports dreamer students as they navigate systemic obstacles that exist for them within higher education and in the workforce, particularly in health-related fields. As a first-generation immigrant and college graduate herself, Karla understands the importance of building trauma-informed practices when working with dreamer students.
Prior to joining MSU Denver, Karla spent six years working as part of KIPP Colorado Schools’ KIPP Through College & Career program. Karla held various roles during her time with KTCC, in both college access and college support. During her last two years with KTCC, Karla oversaw a team of advisors that supported 600+ college age alumni in finding success in either a post-secondary institution or in the workforce. Additionally, in 2015 Karla helped establish and manage a multi-million-dollar scholarship to support KIPP Colorado’s Dreamer students get to and through college.
Samesha Barnes, Ph.D.
Director of the McNair Scholars Program at the University of Florida
Dr. Barnes is originally from August, G.A. She completed bachelor's degrees in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Clark Atlanta University and Georgia Tech through their dual-degree engineering program. As a PhD student in Materials Science and Engineering, Dr. Barnes was a Graduate Mentor for four years. Dr. Barnes has served as director and lecturer with the McNair Scholars Program since 2011. In her spare time she enjoys writing, blogging, singing, cooking, and traveling.
Michael Bowie, Ph.D.
Director of Community Engagement and Diversity Outreach, K-12, Center for Precollegiate Education and Training
Dr. Michael V. Bowie (He/Him/His) serves as Assistant Dean and Clinical Assistant Professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine, and Director of Community Engagement and Diversity Outreach, K-12 for UF CPET. He completed his education and/or training at Morgan State University, Penn State University, Tuskegee University, University of Zimbabwe, and the University of Florida. He served as Assistant Director for the Veterinary Investigations Office for Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) before attending the University of Florida. His research focus is on ticks and tick-borne diseases (specifically zoonotic diseases). He has lectured in Veterinary Molecular Biology and Veterinary Molecular Pathogenesis, has several publications, and holds two U.S. patents. He has also taught middle school science classes.
Dr. Angelique Brathwaite
Director of Ecology and Management and Co-Founder, Blue Finance
Angelique is a marine biologist with over 20 years of coral reef related experience, blending science, management, art and more recently, sustainable finance for conservation. Prior to joining the Blue finance team where she coordinates scientific and management approaches, Angelique headed the Marine Research Section of the Coastal Zone Management Unit (now Ministry of Maritime Affairs & the Blue Economy) in Barbados, for over a decade. Her work involved developing and implementing coral reef related research projects; as well as management of reef systems within an Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) framework and communication of the results. She has further developed specific knowledge and expertise on Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) for marine conservation in the Caribbean and South Pacific Region, with a focus on beach protection. Angelique is a creative, scientist, with excellent communication skills, whose work history embraces both the public and private sectors. Her career has included working as a Dive Instructor, Co-Pilot on a recreational submarine, Crime Scene Investigator for Corals and Manager of a remote marine base in Mexico. Deeply passionate about marine matters, she often employs her love of different art forms (e.g. dance, visual, music, theatre) in conveying and promoting her conservation message.
Assistant Director of Outreach and Recruitment, Office of Admissions, University of Florida
Randy Brown is originally from North Little Rock, Arkansas. He attended the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, where he received a bachelor’s in Business Management with a focus on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. Inspired by his undergraduate involvement in Student Government, in addition to numerous clubs and organizations, he went on to obtain his M.Ed. from the University of Vermont. Randy’s passion for cultural competence initiatives was further nurtured during his time in Vermont and served as an incubator for his personal and professional growth. Randy’s professional experiences have led him to several different leadership positions in university settings and currently serves as the Assistant Director of Outreach and Recruitment in the Office of Admissions.
Daniel Cicenia, M.Ed., PhD
Health Career Navigator, Health Careers Opportunity Program, The Health Institute, Metropolitan State University of Denver
Dr. Daniel Cicenia is a Health Career Navigator within the Health Institute at MSU Denver. He received both his M.Ed. and Ph.D. at the University of Florida. Daniel has a passion for closing equity gaps in education and assisting students as they progress towards their academic and career goals. In his role at MSU Denver, Daniel supports students as they navigate their paths in health-related fields. Daniel began in academic affairs at the University of Florida working for UFs two TRIO programs, Ronald E. McNair Scholars and Student Support Services. While at UF, Daniel was the founding advisor for the UF TRIO Honor Society and launched an innovative summer bridge curriculum for UFs Office of Academic Support. Prior to his work in academic affairs, Daniel was on the Political Science faculty for Virginia Tech and Catawba College
Noé U. de la Sancha, PhD
Associate Professor at Chicago State University, and Research Associate at the Field Museum of Natural History
Dr. Noé de la Sancha is an associate professor at Chicago State University and Research Associate at the Field Museum of Natural History. He is a classically trained mammalogist, primarily focusing in field ecology. He is interested in questions dealing with the effects of anthropogenic habitat disturbance on patterns of biodiversity and health of population in these habitats ranging from landscape ecology to biogeography. His lab incorporates statistical modeling, geographic information systems (GIS), morphometrics, and phylogenetics to field and museum data, with the aim to improve our understanding of various dimensions of biodiversity primarily in the tropics.
Raul E. Diaz jr., MA, Ph.D
Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, California State University Los Angeles, Research Associate, Department of Herpetology, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
Dr. Raul E. Diaz, Jr. is a herpetologist by training (biology of reptiles and amphibians) and as such began his career studying these fascinating organisms around the globe while an undergraduate at both La Sierra University and UC Berkeley (fieldwork in Southeast Asia, Mexico, Africa, Europe, Caribbean, USA). His initial love was studying the skeletal changes associated with the process of tadpole metamorphosis, which led him to completing a Masters degree at the University of Kansas. His interest in how organisms change over their lifetime subsequently led him to seek a deeper understanding of developmental biology at cellular and genetic levels, thus allowing him to complete PhD at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Anatomy and Cell Biology while conducting his dissertation work on reptiles embryonic development at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research. He is very active in the field of Evolutionary Developmental Biology and continues to explore embryonic changes associated with the formation of diverse body plans in tetrapod vertebrates. Dr. Diaz is passionate about conservation of organisms and their habitats, public outreach, training undergraduates and integrating various scientific disciplines to answer biological questions. He also loves sci-fi and monster movies which he can integrate with his studies on the development of monsters (congenital malformations).
Anne Donnelly, MBA, Ph.D
Director, Center for Undergraduate Research, University of Florida
Dr. Anne Donnelly holds a B.A. in Biology, an MBA in Finance and a Ph.D. in Education and Curriculum, the latter from the University of Florida. She has over 30 years of professional experience in the field of education as both a teacher and administrator including her current position as Director of the UF Center for Undergraduate Research. As the founding Director of this center, she has developed a one-stop-shop for students of all disciplines who are interested in undergraduate research. In recognition of her efforts encouraging and supporting students from diverse backgrounds, in 2015 she received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring from President Barack Obama at a ceremony in the Oval Office of the White House.
Catherine Early, PhD
Barbara Brown Chair of Ornithology , Science Museum of Minnesota
Dr. Catherine Early is the Curator of Ornithology at the Science Museum of Minnesota. She studies the evolution of the brains of birds using museum specimens of both extinct and extant species of birds. She earned her PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Ohio University and was funded by the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program.
Health Career Navigator, Health Careers Opportunity Program, The Health Institute, Metropolitan State University of Denver
Yona Estrada is a Health Career Navigator (HCN) within the Health Institute at Metropolitan State University of Denver. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and her Master of Science degree in Higher Education Administration from Florida International University. Yona has worked in various higher education departments for most of her undergraduate and graduate studies, such as Academic Advising, Career Services, and TRIO's Student Support Services Program. Yona was born and raised in Miami, Florida and recently moved to Denver, Colorado to pursue the role of Health Career Navigator at MSU Denver. She is a proud first-generation college graduate and is passionate about advocating and supporting underrepresented students and their personal and professional growth. In her spare time, Yona enjoys exploring the beautiful state of Colorado, cooking and trying new foods, hosting game nights with family and friends, and traveling with her husband.
PhD Student, Biology Department and the Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida
Adania Flemming spent her formative years in Trinidad and Tobago, a twin island nation in the Caribbean. Fascinated by water and aquatic systems she earned a bachelor’s degree in marine biology at the University of Tampa, followed by a Master of Science in zoology. Adania is interested in exploring the ecology of fishes, their role and niche in the environment, their life history as well as understanding how form relates to function. Adania is also interested in using natural history collections as a gateway to introduce students of underrepresented backgrounds to Science Technology Engineering Art and Mathematics (STEAM) careers. For her PhD she is combining her interest in education with Ichthyology, through an interdisciplinary research project where she will evaluate the impact of experiential learning within collections on students understanding of science and less known scientific fields as Ichthyology, while exploring life histories of fishes. Her ultimate goal is to work as a researcher and educator in a science center (museum/aquarium) in Trinidad and Tobago. However, upon graduation she would like to work as museum faculty, between the intersection of the research collections and the education department. As an underrepresented person in STEAM she would tell her younger self to get as much experience as possible to help realize one to two main interests and focus on developing her understanding of those interests. She would also encourage herself to always put her best foot forward, stay positive and just keep swimming.
MarSci-LACE Project Coordinator, CEO of Minorities in Shark Sciences
Jasmin specializes in elasmobranch ecology and evolution. Her past research interests include smalltooth sawfish movement ecology and hammerhead shark phylogeny. She is a member of the American Elasmobranch Society and served on their Student Advisory Committee for two years. Jasmin completed internships with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, Fort Johnson Marine Lab and FWC Division of Marine Fisheries Management. She worked as an instructor for the Saturday at the Sea program through the Florida State University Office of STEM Teaching Activities. Jasmin has a passion for science education and making science more accessible for everyone. She is the Project Coordinator for the MarSci-LACE project, which is focused on researching and promoting best practices to recruit, support and retain minority students in marine science. Jasmin is also the CEO of Minorities in Shark Sciences, an organization dedicated to supporting women of color interested in shark science. She is excited to help open doors for more underrepresented minority students to join the exciting field of marine science.
Jessica Hernandez Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Research Fello, National Science Foundation, University of Washington Bothell
Dr. Jessica Hernandez (she/e) is a transnational Indigenous scholar, scientist, and community advocate based in the Pacific Northwest. She has an interdisciplinary academic background ranging from marine sciences to forestry. Her work is grounded in her Indigenous cultures and ways of knowing. She advocates for climate, energy, and environmental justice through her scientific and community work and strongly believes that Indigenous sciences can heal our Indigenous lands. In 2020, she became the first alumni from her high school in South Central Los Angeles to receive a doctoral degree. She is the founder of Piña Soul, SPC, an environmental consulting & artesanias hybrid business that supports Black & Indigenous-led conservation and environmental projects through community mutual aids and micro-grants.
Her current research is investigating the role energy plays in addressing climate change impacts, from an environmental physics lens. By formulating energy justice pillars and deriving solutions from case studies that focus on sustainable energy and mitigation strategies (primarily those implemented by Indigenous communities), this research will help physics education recognize the historic and present-day inequities in the energy industry.
She currently holds appointments at Sustainable Seattle (Board Member), City of Seattle's Urban Forestry Commission, and the International Mayan League (Climate Justice Policy Strategist). Her book, Fresh Banana Leaves: Healing Indigenous Landscapes through Indigenous Science, is forthcoming this Spring '22.
Health Reporter, NPR
Pien Huang (she/her) is a health reporter with NPR's Science desk, covering the COVID-19 pandemic. She was NPR's first Reflect America Fellow in 2019, working across the network to bring more diverse voices on air and online. She's a former producer for WBUR/NPR's On Point and was a 2018 Environmental Reporting Fellow with The GroundTruth Project at WCAI in Cape Cod, covering the human impacts of climate change. Her career path includes a detour into public art and graphic design project management, where she worked with artist Ralph Helmick on The Founder's Memorial in Abu Dhabi. She has a degree in environmental science and public policy from Harvard. Image Credit: Wanyu Zhang/NPR
CEO, Lacy Consulting Services, LLC, Interim Director, Metro Denver Nature Alliance, Podcast Host, The Green Mind
Leander Lacy is the founder and owner of Lacy Consulting Services. His company focuses on helping environmental organizations and sustainability-minded business meet their goal of improving human and community wellbeing through conservation action. Leander has worked on projects such as dam removal, deer management, building trust between fishers and conservation groups, five-state collaborative to protect the U.S. shortgrass prairie, assessing discrimination in U.S. farming and ranching, and updating the Conservation Standards with a focus on how to include Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion into conservation programming. He is trained traditionally as a wildlife ecologist and received his M.S. in Human Dimensions of Natural Resources where he did his thesis work on how to improve the quality of life of the urban poor through environmental action. Prior to starting his company, he worked on global teams with The Nature Conservancy and has been an advocate for increased social science in conservation projects. He recently became Interim Director for the Denver Metro Nature Alliance. They seek to bring equitable conservation to communities in Denver, Colorado. He also has a podcast called The Green Mind that focuses on people working at the nexus of people and nature.
Admissions Officer, Office of Admissions, University of Florida
Dave Morrin (he/him) is an east coast native (NJ/PA) with west coast roots. He is a first-generation college graduate and former teacher who joined the University of Florida with 11 years of college admissions experience, including outreach and recruitment roles with the University of Oregon and the University of Washington. Dave is a poet & spoken word artist, AmeriCorps*VISTA alumnus, and an authentic advisor who values equity, inclusion, and college access for all. He earned a Bachelor’s degree from Stockton University and a Master in Teaching degree from Western Washington University—-where he served as a graduate assistant with the Center for Education, Equity and Diversity and the Ray Wolpow Institute for the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Crimes Against Humanity.
Community Science Manager and Wildlife Biologist, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
Miguel joined the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County in April 2013. He is currently a manager in the Community Science Office within the Research and Collections Department. Prior to working at the museum, he worked as a wildlife biologist for federal and state institutions throughout California. At NHMLA, his role as a biologist involves studying local urban wildlife species of Los Angeles such as bats and carnivores. His role as a community science manager involves promoting and creating community science projects, recruitment of community scientists, and community science training. He also initiated a jaguar camera trap study in southwestern Nicaragua, where his family is from. Besides constantly exploring local nature of Los Angeles, he is very focused on improving as an educator so that he may inspire a more diverse next generation of scientists.
PhD Candidate, Florida Museum, Biology Department, University of Florida
Jeanette is a fourth year PhD candidate at the Florida Museum of Natural History (through the Biology Department), focusing on vertebrate paleontology. She studies a new population of 4-tusked elephants called Gomphotheres that were discovered near UF. She was awarded an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship to conduct her research. She received her Bachelor’s of Science in Marine Biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is first generation Latina-American and the first in her family to go to college.
Assistant Director/Pre-PhD Program Director, Office of Graduate Diversity Initiatives The University of Florida Graduate School
Erin is the Assistant Director for the Office of Graduate Diversity Initiatives (OGDI) in the newly formed Division of Graduate Student Affairs (DGSA) within the Graduate School. Erin is responsible for managing and developing programs and events within OGDI and DGSA. These events and programs include, but are not limited to Triple P Undergraduate Research Program, Graduate Student Appreciation Week, Graduate School Information Day, and The Board of Education Summer Fellowship Program. Additionally, Erin handles student inquiries, event communication, and advertisement.
Erin earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida in Sociology with a minor in Mass Communication and her master’s degree in Management from the University of Florida Hough Graduate School of Business. Erin’s professional experience includes campaign management for the United Way, recruitment, and business management.
Collections Assistant for the Ichthyology and Environmental Archaeology collections at the Florida Museum of Natural History
Sori Ruiz-Escobar (she/her) is a Collections Assistant for the Ichthyology and Environmental Archaeology collections at the Florida Museum of Natural History. She recently graduated with a B.S. in Marine Sciences from the University of Florida and would like to study fish morphology in graduate school.
Coordinator III, Office of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships, University of Florida
Kimberly began her career in financial aid by working as a student assistant while pursuing her undergraduate degree. After serving as a financial aid advisor for several years at Santa Fe College as well as the University of Florida, she went on to obtain her M.Ed. in Student Personnel in Higher Education. As a first-generation college student, Kimberly understands the financial concerns and barriers may students face. As a coordinator in the University of Florida’s Office for Student Financial Aid and Scholarships (SFA), she continues to support students in their pursuit of a higher education.
Assistant Professor of Higher Education and Public Policy, Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations
Dr. Kelly Slay is an Assistant professor of Higher Education and Public Policy in the Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College. Her research examines issues of race, diversity, and equity in higher education and is primarily focused in three areas: the factors shaping Black students’ college choice, completion, and career trajectories; the use and equity implications of enrollment management policies (admissions, recruitment and financial aid) aimed at improving institutional diversity, particularly in post-affirmative action contexts; and racial and gender inequities in STEM in undergraduate and graduate education. Dr. Slay was recently awarded a grant from the Spencer Foundation to examine the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on college enrollment among Black high school students.
Drawing lessons from her personal background as a first-generation college student and professional experiences in college access, recruitment, and readiness programs, Dr. Slay is passionate about helping students from minoritized backgrounds pursue their educational and career goals. She received a Ph.D. in higher education with a concentration in public policy from the University of Michigan.
Assistant Collections Manager for Karoo Palaeontology, Iziko Museums of South Africa
Zaituna Skosan manages the research-focused and internationally-known Karoo Palaeontology collection at the Iziko South African Museum. She has spent close to 20 years working both to share and protect South Africa's world-renowned geoheritage by prospecting, excavating, and curating fossils. Ms. Skosan is an expert fossil preparator and is actively involved in a number of education and outreach programs at the Museum.
Hope Szypulski, DNP
Interim Dean, College of Health and Applied Sciences, Metropolitan State University of Denver
Hope Szypulski is the Interim Dean of the College of Health and Applied Sciences at MSU Denver. She started her career in academia at Metropolitan State College (now MSU Denver) in 2011. During this time, she was in the role as faculty and Associate Chair of the nursing department. In August of 2017 she left Metropolitan State University for Arapahoe Community College to become the director of the nursing program. She was in the role for 2 years until the position of Interim Associate Dean became available. November 2022 she moved to the role of Interim Dean.
She received her bachelor’s degree in nursing from Carroll College in Helena, MT in 1990, her MS in nursing obtaining a Women’s Health Care Nurse Practitioner degree from University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver, Colorado in 1998 and her Doctorate of Nursing Practice degree from University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Aurora, Colorado in 2011.
At the start of her nursing career, she was direct commissioned into United States Army Nurse Corps in 1990 as a 2nd Lieutenant. After attending Officer Basic Course (OBC) at Fort Sam Houston Texas she spent the next 6 years on active duty then transferred into the US Army Reserves 5502nd Army Reserve Hospital Aurora Colorado. She remained in the Army Reserves for the next 7 years in the role of an operating nurse, 66E, until branch transferring into the U.S. Air Force National Guard at Buckley Air Force Base. In 2011 she retired after 21 years of service in the role of Chief Nurse of the 140th Medical Group at the rank of Lt. Col.
Besides her military career, she worked as a Women’s Health Care Nurse Practitioner for Kaiser Permanente, Planned Parenthood, and a private clinic within the Denver Metro area.
Brett Woods, PhD
Interim Dean of the School of Natural Sciences at High Point University
Dr. Brett Woods is the Interim Dean of the Wanek School of Natural Sciences at High Point University. He earned his PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Kansas. He studies marmots. His research focuses on the processes that govern fat deposition as well as behaviors that lead an organism to gain mass, specifically in preparation for hibernation. Dr. Woods has worked directly and/or indirectly with over 150 URM students in STEM fields. Dr. Woods was a 2014 recipient of the University of Wisconsin System Regents Diversity Award.