Roosevelt University Freshman Biology Major Receives Scholarship Furthering Latinas in the Sciences

Karen Martinez

CHICAGO–(ENEWSPF)–January 23, 2015.   Karen Martinez, a freshman biology major and first in her family to attend college at Roosevelt University, has been awarded a new, four-year scholarship that is intended to increase her chances of success in the sciences.

A native of Chicago’s southwest Archer Heights community, Martinez has long had a dream of going to medical school to become a cardiologist.

Now, a new scholarship awarded recently by Mujeres Latinas en Acción and the Greer Foundation is helping Martinez take the first step in establishing a clear path toward her goal.

“We know from recent studies that there is a lack of representation of Latinos and Latinas in the science, technology, engineering and medical fields,” said Gerald Guevarra, youth program advocate for Mujeres Latinas en Acción in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood where Martinez has been a participant since 2011 to area teens participating in the not-for-profit’s Proyecto Juventud (Project Youth) program.

According to the 2013 National Science Foundation study on Women, Minorities and Persons with Disabilities in the Sciences and Engineering, almost 70 of workers in science and engineering fields were white, compared to just 6 percent who were Hispanic at the end of the last decade.

While studies suggest the number of Hispanics entering STEM fields is on the rise, a recent report prepared for the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities showed Hispanics are less likely than whites to major in college in the sciences and are also less likely than whites to earn college degrees when science is their major.

“We want to encourage and help young people, like Karen, who have an interest in the sciences, so they can succeed and break barriers,” Guevarra said.

The scholarship opportunity calls for Martinez, during her junior and senior years at Roosevelt, to return to Mujeres Latinas en Acción to mentor youths on the importance of college, hopefully inspiring them to follow her path in the sciences.

“I was very worried about how my parents were going to be able to pay my tuition,” said Martinez. “This is a blessing for me and my family that should help me get ahead.”

The scholarship is one of four to be offered annually by Mujeres Latinas en Acción and the Greer Foundation for first-generation college students interested in the sciences.

“We are proud to join Mujeres Latinas en Acción to address the importance of higher education to the youth the nonprofit serves,” said Israel Vargas, assistant provost for recruitment at Roosevelt University.

Latino enrollment at Roosevelt has been increasing steadily, up by nearly 20 percent since fall of 2012, and Latinos now represent more than a fifth of the University’s undergraduate student body, according to the University’s Office of Institutional Research.

Enrollments in the sciences also have been growing significantly at Roosevelt University, where the sciences are now the most popular major for undergraduates.

“We welcome Karen into our program. She will  have a lot of opportunities to work closely with our science faculty members in the classroom and in our new labs as well as to become involved in our ongoing research endeavors,” said Vicky McKinley, chair of the University’s Biological, Chemical and Physical Sciences program.