Large UA representation at 2023 AISES National Conference underscores the importance and commitment of supporting indigenous students in STEM

Nov. 7, 2023
UA representation at 2023 AISES National Conference

Nina Sajovec

What is the one conference to attend if you are an “IndigeNerd” or supporting indigenous students on their path to careers in STEM? Over 3,000 participants of the 2023 AISES National Conference held in Spokane, WA between October 18th and 21st would most likely agree that it was the one!

AISES is a national, nonprofit organization focused on substantially increasing the representation of Native peoples in STEM studies and careers. The annual AISES National Conference is the premier event for Indigenous STEM professionals and students from the U.S. and Canada, and as far away as Alaska and Hawaii. This three-day event focuses on furthering AISES mission by providing students and professionals access to career pathways, professional and leadership development, research, and networking that also meaningfully incorporates Indigenous culture. Highlights Include largest college and career fair in Indian Country, research competitions and student awards, multiple sessions, talking circles, networking opportunities, industry partner and university tours, opening and closing ceremonies including entertainment, traditional powwow and Indigenous artisan marketplace.

opening ceremony

Opening ceremony for the AISES College and Career Fair, the largest of its kind in Indian Country

Nina Sajovec

At this year’s conference, the University of Arizona (UA) had one of the strongest representations with a total of 53 attendees! In addition to 9 students and members of the UA AISES chapter, the UA was represented by UA Indigenous Resilience Center , UA Wyant College of Optical Sciences , UA Graduate College , UA College of Medicine – Phoenix and the Haury Program of the UA Arizona Institute for Resilience (AIR) which was also one of the sponsors of the conference. At the Haury booth at the college and career fair, you could also speak to representatives from nationally recognized programs that specifically support Native American students such as Native Student Outreach Access, and Resiliency (SOAR), the A Student’s Journey and Natives Who Code as well as representatives from Environmental Science Online and the Undergraduate Recruitment Admissions & New Student Enrollment with a fun raffle. Such strong representation of the University of Arizona at this conference is excellent especially in the light of the fact that the UA is recognized as one of the top three land-grant universities with by far the most support and programs for Native students and for the local tribes, per 2023 UC Davis Benchmarking Land- grant University Institutional Practices Report!


Some of the UA attendees to the 2023 AISES National Conference, including the UA AISES Chapter President, Christian Jimmy holding the “Spirit Stick”.

Nina Sajovec

Here are some of the testimonials from the UA professionals who attended the conference:

AISES is a conference that not only teaches how to indigenize STEM, but shows why this is so important. It nourishes participants’ spirits and creates an inclusive, caring, intergenerational space for learning and sharing knowledge. We feel privileged to be supporters and to be part of this remarkable annual gathering. We go home inspired.

- Toni Massaro, UA Law Professor of Law / Haury Program Director

A few years Dr. Karletta Chief recommended the Haury Program get involved with AISES. In that short time, we have seen University of Arizona have a tremendous presence there increasing our support of Native students and faculty. The rewards of attending this conference are boundless especially considering learning how to be the best partners in their work to increase Native American representation in STEM. We look forward to our AISES Student Chapter hosting the Regional conference this spring at UArizona! 

- Nancy Petersen, UA Haury Program Assistant Director.

AISES, like many other national organizations and gatherings, brings together brilliant minds, spirit, and an unwavering commitment to Indian Country. I have been blessed to attend this conference and witness the extraordinary talent, creativity, and passion that students and professionals possess and demonstrate. Where else can you get a bunch of IndigeNerds to gather and geek out about all the innovative ideas and practices in STEM. My experiences have been incredible as the conference itself is refreshing to recommit ourselves to the greater cause in our communities and inspiring to continue on a trajectory of marrying both contemporary and traditional sciences.

– Daniel Sestiaga, UA IRes

Thank you to the Haury Program for the opportunity to attend the 2023 AISES conference. This was my first AISES conference, and it was more than I expected. The students I conversed with, and organizations represented made the trip well worth it. Connecting with prospective organizations regarding internships was a positive take away. It was a beautiful site to see so many student’s attires representing their tribal nations – it was very inspirational. The location was spectacular as well, a true sense of autumn. I hope to see you all on the event trail. Thank you to the Haury Program for inviting and hosting us.

– Santiago Tso, UA Environmental Science (ENVS) Online

This was my first time attending the AISES Conference college fair, and it was a fantastic experience. Not only did I have multiple meaningful interactions with educators, students, and families, but I also learned so much from my fellow colleagues about all of the programs and opportunities that the University of Arizona offers for Native American and Indigenous students. I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity to be included in this event!

– Natalie Wagner, UA Admissions

Derrick Gonzales, a student participant in A Student’s Journey from Tohono O’odham Community College, and part of the IRes’ Native FEWs Alliance, was extremely excited to be able to attend an event like this: 

This is my first time attending something like this, and I am very grateful to IRes for inviting me and helping me – I have never known there are spaces like this that exist specifically for us, Native American students. I also really enjoyed the opportunity to present my story, and connect with others. I have never been in Washington state, and these autumn colors are just something we don’t have back home in the Sonoran Desert.

Also, congratulations to Nancy Petersen for being awarded a distinguished Sequoyah Fellows lifelong membership at a special ceremony in Spokane. After the ceremony, Nancy shared: 

This conference is such an amazing welcoming environment, and it really is an honor while not being indigenous to be welcomed into this community. I also feel very honored to have an elder bless my hands for the work I do, and I will bring all the blessings back to the work of the Haury Program at the University of Arizona.

We are already looking forward to 2024 AISES conference to be held in Austin, Texas in October of 2024 – if you want to connect with the Haury Program and discuss exhibits and more please contact Nina Sajovec at But before that please mark your calendars for March 22nd and 23rd, 2024 for another great “IndigeNerd” opportunity as the University of Arizona AISES Chapter will be hosting the Regional AISES Conference right here at the U of Arizona - please keep an eye out for more information coming soon.