Because there are several new faces on our collegiate leadership team, we’d like to give faculty, staff, and students an opportunity to get to know a bit more about them. Milena Saqui-Salces, PhD, started in her role as interim associate dean for research and graduate programs on July 18, 2022. She is an associate professor in the Department of Animal Science and outside of teaching courses, Milena’s work focuses on understanding the effects nutrients and pathogenic bacteria have on the function of the intestine to help design better and healthier diets to improve human and animal lives. We asked her five questions about what she plans to focus on in this position and what she’s currently reading and listening to.
What do you hope to accomplish during your time in this role?
CFANS has achieved great momentum in research, especially in fiscal year 2022 and so far in fiscal year 2023. My first goal is to keep this trend going by supporting our faculty and students. We have all been navigating unexpected changes at all levels. Some of that change is reflected in the number of new positions in CFANS, including those in the President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship Program (PPFP). The College’s inaugural participation in the PPFP aims to recruit postdoctoral fellows whose research, teaching, and service will contribute to diversity, inclusion, and equal opportunity in higher education, at the University and in CFANS. These fellows could then become faculty members in their departments. We have six departments in CFANS participating this year, and I am honored to be supporting their efforts. I am also continuing with existing initiatives like the Gear Up for Success program, which supports early career faculty. We are starting the process of hiring a research development coordinator for this program.
How will you be an advocate for faculty, graduate students and researchers?
The first action I’m taking is to meet with faculty who have recently joined CFANS to learn about their successes and the challenges they face, to better understand how we can support them. I will do the same with other faculty, graduate students, and postdocs as the fall semester starts. I am starting to discover the diversity of experiences and needs more deeply and plan to identify what actions could more effectively address them. I am very well aware that one size does not fit all, and I am currently in listening mode to give everyone a voice.
How will you foster diversity and inclusion in CFANS?
I am very excited about reaching the implementation, practice, and assessment stage of the CFANS DEI Strategic Plan. The PPFP is one example of these important implementation steps, and there are other actions in progress. This work requires all of us to acknowledge and act on our role in building a diverse, inclusive, and equitable community.
What are three words that best describe you?
This one is really hard because there are so many different ways to describe a person. Thinking of words that describe my work philosophy, I’d say: honest, driven, sensible.
What books and/or podcasts are on your reading and listening lists right now?
I always have at least one fiction and one non-fiction book around. I am a dark novel reader and reading The Wrath Of Angels by John Connolly at the moment. For non-fiction, a friend gave me Vagina Obscura by Rachel E. Gross a few months ago and after reading about the limited understanding and biases in the study and research of women’s organs, I am reading some of the studies cited in the book. The book, by the way, is beautifully written and an eye opener, even for those of us that think we understand a little about physiology. Highly recommended.