UNM Rainforest Innovations

SandraBegay_HeadshotUNM Rainforest Innovations is supported and guided by the diverse, entrepreneurial, and innovative members of the Board of Directors. Members of the Board are researchers, inventors, academics, administrators, business executives, lawyers, and community leaders. The board guides UNM Rainforest Innovations in its mission to support the University of New Mexico and its partners as the source for innovation management and commercial development.

Sandra Begay first joined the Board in 2004 and was appointed Chair in 2011. “My experience as Chair has been always positive. I’ve enjoyed the role and I appreciate the preparation that goes into (each) meeting… between Lisa (Kuuttila) and many staff members, we get ready for the board meeting so it seems that it is effortless but there is quite a bit of preparation that goes into the meetings.”

“As Chair, I think an important piece of being the lead is to make sure all the members feel confident in the information they have and feel they are prepared to be able to hear the reports but also react to those reports. I think I’ve enjoyed that the most because we have prepared so much for the meetings.”

Sandra holds a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of New Mexico and a master’s in structural engineering from Stanford University. She worked at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and at Los Alamos National Laboratory before working for Sandia National Laboratory as a Principal Member of the Technical Staff starting in 1992. In that role, she spearheaded Sandia’s technical efforts in the Renewable Energy Program to assist Native American tribes with renewable energy development. In 2019, she took a special leave of absence from Sandia to serve as Mayor Keller’s former Director of the Environmental Health Department for the city of Albuquerque.

Sandra is a former Executive Director of the AISES, former chair of the AISES Board of Directors, and the recipient of the AISES Lifetime Achievement Award and the 2020 Indigenous Excellence Award for her substantial and impactful work to advance programs and opportunities for Indigenous students and professionals in STEM education and careers. Recognized by WEPAN (Women in Engineering Programs & Advocates Network), she has served on its national Board of Directors. In 2003, Ms. Begay was awarded the Women of Color Emerald Honor for Community Service during the Women of Color Research Sciences and Technologies Awards Conference. In 2000, Ms. Begay was the recipient of the Stanford University Multicultural Alumni of the Year Award. Other honors and awards include the Alumni Circle Award from the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (NACME) for her lifetime contributions to the advancement of Native American students in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education and careers, and the Governor’s Award for Outstanding Women from the New Mexico Commission on the Status of Women.

Sandra’s unique perspective and experience adds tremendous value to the UNMRI Board of Directors. The guidance and leadership she provides in her role as Chair helps navigate UNMRI towards its vision of playing a vital role in economic development in New Mexico and becoming an innovator in technology commercialization worldwide.

Learn more about the UNMRI board members here: https://innovations.unm.edu/about/boardofdirectors/

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