2019 AYWiSTEM Breakfast Event

2019 NMOST Advancing Young Women in STEM Scholarship Awards Breakfast


On Friday, August 16, 2019, the New Mexico Out-of-School Time network (NMOST) hosted its second annual Advancing Young Women in STEM breakfast in honor of (left to right) Malia Kao, Daisy Belmares-Ortega, Jennifer Johnson, Makayla Gates, Ronja Steinbach, and Antonella Riega — the recipients of our second annual Advancing Young Women in STEM scholarships for women pursuing a degree or certification in a Science, Technology, Engineering or Math (STEM) discipline.

2019 NMOST Advancing Young Women in STEM Scholar bios

We would like to express our gratitude to all who attended, and especially to our wonderful speakers, US Representative Debra Haaland, Dr. Elizabeth Kistin Keller, Dr. Karissa Culbreath, and NMOST Executive Director May Sagbakken. Thank you also to our emcee Kristin Leigh, Deputy Director and Director of Community Engagement at Explora Science Center and Children's Museum. We are also thankful for our sponsors, including the New Mexico Oil & Gas Association, the Schumann Foundation, and Dr. Frank Etscorn, Professor Emeritus at New Mexico Tech University.    

  US Representative Debra Haaland
United States Representative Debra Haaland is one of the first two Native American women elected to Congress, along with Kansas’ Sharice Davids. Representative Haaland grew up in a military family and attended 13 different public schools across the US before graduating from high school in Albuquerque. She gave birth to her daughter, Somah, four days after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of New Mexico. She launched her own salsa business, driving across the state with her daughter to sell her special blend (made with New Mexico green chile, of course.) She returned to UNM to earn a law degree in 2006, and later won the chairwomanship of the New Mexico Democratic Party. She was elected to Congress in 2018 and serves on the Armed Services and Natural Resources Committees. She is a fierce advocate for New Mexico and its citizens.

In her remarks, Congresswoman Haaland spoke about each of the scholarship recipients and their already sizable accomplishments...

"I am amazed by these women’s accomplishments and am so proud that they have chosen to use their talents and follow their passions and of course proud that they are from New Mexico. There is no doubt in my mind that they will succeed. There is no doubt in my mind that they will make positive impacts in their communities. There is no doubt in my mind that their innovations and contributions to STEM will change the world for the better and inspire future generations of ambitious and fearless women."

She touched on the challenges ahead and the opportunity to inspire and pave the way for others...

"But when you are fierce and face challenges head on you’ll find yourself with the opportunity to become a champion for those who feel disenfranchised and to provide a voice for those who feel invisible. I urge you to be the doers, the changemakers and the motivators because we need them across our country. ... Offer yourself as a mentor to others. Lift up the women around you. Help them get through the most difficult times and celebrate those women in their best of times. But most of all lead by example. ... I find the most important job no matter what field you are in is to leave the ladder down, so others can follow in our footsteps and then achieve more than we can ever dream. ... If you are going to change the world, if you are going to pave the way, you must be your biggest supporter. Look in the mirror everyday and tell yourself, “I can do this!” Be your best self, be brave, be ambitious and above all be fierce."

   Dr. Elizabeth Kistin Keller 
Dr. Elizabeth Kistin Keller is a PhD researcher at Sandia National Laboratories,a mother of two small children and the First Lady of Albuquerque. She was born and raised in Albuquerque, earned her B.A. in Political Science and Latin-American Studies as a Morehead-Cain Scholar at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and her master’s and PhD in International Development Studies as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University. After several years of international work on global water conflict and cooperation, she returned home and currently works in systems research and analysis at Sandia National Laboratories.  This is the second consecutive year that Dr. Keller has spoken at this even, so we’d especially like to thank her for her ongoing support for young women pursuing careers in the STEM fields.

In her talk, Dr. Keller spoke about the importance of a network of support...

"My greatest hope as I think about the value of what this scholarship provides for the students receiving it today is that there is a piece that is the financial support which is crucial, but I think the real value of this scholarship is welcoming you into a network of folks who are committed to your success. ... This is a network that you can call upon to get in touch with as you are pursuing your studies… know that you have this incredible network to draw on. I hope you take that as a richness of what this scholarship means."

She also spoke about the combination of hubris and humlity required in research...

"What makes researchers successful is the combination of hubris and humility. Hubris is the ability to know in core confidence that whatever room, lab, or conversation you step into you have something new to offer and you have something valuable to offer. … this also has to be coupled with humility. Researchers have expertise in fields and there is so much I can learn from those within my field."

And advised the scholars to maintain their network and approach them with that hubris and humility...

"You will not have just one mentor… You all will be doing things that are unique, you will be trailblazing in your field and will need a whole set of mentors. Some of them may be professors and some of them may be your own classmates and peers. ... My wish for you is two-fold. One as you begin, remember the number of people here that have your back, who are willing to act as mentors and as resources and support throughout your adventures and throughout your career. And also as a reminder, take forward and continue to cultivate both the hubris and the humility that will allow you to be successful as you move forward."

   Dr. Karissa Culbreath
Dr. Karissa Culbreath is a mother, a scientist, a licensed minister, a public speaker, and a published author. She holds a PhD in Microbiology and Immunology from Vanderbilt University, and is an associate professor in the Department of Pathology in the University of New Mexico School of Medicine. She is also the scientific director of infectious disease research and development at TriCore Reference Laboratories here in Albuquerque. Her first children’s book, Daddy’s Little Girl, has been nominated for an NAACP Image Award and affirms that girls can be anything they want to be.

In her remarks at the event, Dr. Culbreath touched on the need to stay open to change... 

"Let me share with you a little secret. I look at the bios and I see these amazing plans and these amazing goals...  For some of you, those plans might change. And that’s actually great. It’s wonderful to go on to university, to grad school and have your ideas and the boundaries in your mind pushed beyond what you currently think they can be."

... the need to maintain focus... 

"Focus in geometrical optics is the point where light rays originating from a point converge on an object. The focus is the convergence of these many, many rays of light. And that’s what I see in this room. I see all these many rays of light. ...  As we leave from today, and you go on throughout your career, you are going to be traveling on many rays of light in your life and finding your focus means finding that point where all of those rays of light converge and you’re at your very best... you’re at your very best self."

... and invoked one of her son's favorite children's books, "The Very Busy Spider," to make a point about taking time to recharge and renew after all the hard work. 

"Remember that after the celebration, after the rewards, there’s always time to rest… to get mental, physical, emotional, spiritual, creative rest. And as I looked through your wonderful bios, I also saw between the science and the math and the discovery and the patents and the awards…  I saw bowling, I saw horseback riding, I saw gardening, I saw violin, I saw family, I saw fun. Make sure that you take that time to continually recharge, so that the next day, you can wake up and build your brand new web."

  NMOST Executive Director, May Sagbakken

May Sagbakken has been the Executive Director for NMOST for more than two years, and is a passionate advocate for equitable access to quality out-of-school programs for all children and youth in New Mexico. May has 17 years’ experience as a director for local and international organizations focusing on women’s rights, violence prevention, and positive youth development. May has a dual Master’s in Community and Regional Planning/Latin American studies from the University of New Mexico, and a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism and International Studies from the University of Oregon. May has lived in New Mexico since 1991, and is a proud mother of three children. She is a Certified Reflexologist, Blue belt Nia Instructor, and an Advanced Trainer in the Nurtured Heart Approach. 

Her introductory talk focused on the importance of giving an equitable opportunity and voice for innovation...

"We don’t get stuck on obstacles. What we really need to focus on is the opportunity, because if 50% of the population had access to provide their ideas and their innovation then we may have a different world today. Awarding these scholarships today, we’re really providing an opportunity for young women to move forward with their dreams and their passions, and to contribute to our world with their own ideas and brilliance. And that’s what’s important, to focus on the opportunity we can provide."

Our Title Sponsors


The Schumann Foundation The New Mexico Oil and Gas Association
The STEM Next Opportunity Fund

Dr. Frank Etscorn, Professor Emeritus,
New Mexico Tech University




Our Sponsors

About NMOST Network

The New Mexico Out-of-School Time Network (NMOST) brings together policymakers, educators, childcare providers, youth development workers, and other stakeholders interested in ensuring positive youth development opportunities and outcomes through out-of-school time programs.

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1701 Mountain Rd NW
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