Our Mission

The mission of the STEM Community Alliance Program is to foster interest in science among Youth-In-Custody through engagement with scientists, artists, and educators. In addition to interest in science, we aim to help students self-identify as science capable learners and encourage them to contribute to science, nature protection, and the STEM workforce. By forging connections between Youth-In-Custody, scientists, educators, and artists, we hope to expand the scope of these contributions by highlighting the role that art and the humanities can play in protecting nature, providing science information to the public, and inspiring others to act.

Meet Our Team

Full time Staff

Dr. Nalini Nadkarni

Program Director

Dr. Nalini Nadkarni is a Biology Professor at the University of Utah. She explores life in the forest canopies of Costa Rica, and studies the effects of deforestation and climate change on forests. She has published over 150 scientific articles and three scholarly books. Dr. Nadkarni’s work goes far beyond science, as she invites different ways of knowing to inspire stewardship of the natural world. She is a passionate communicator, bringing science and conservation to faith-based groups, urban youth, modern dancers, rap singers, the fashion world, and incarcerated adults and youth. Dr. Nadkarni is a TED speaker, a National Geographic Society Explorer, and has a “Tree Top Barbie” created by the Mattel Corporation. Her work is supported by the National Science Foundation and the National Geographic Society. Her awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Washington State Department of Corrections Education Award, the Archie Carr Medal for Conservation, and the William Julius Wilson Award for Achievement in Social Justice.

Dr. Nalini Nadkarni

Program Director

Laura George

Program Manager

Laura earned her M.S in the Environmental Humanities from the University of Utah. As a master’s student, Laura focused on reformation of youth environmental education, aiming to make it more inclusive to underserved populations as well as to those who don’t typically think of themselves as interested in or capable of participating in science through the inclusion of place-based interdisciplinary content. Laura currently works as the Program Manager for Initiative to Bring Science Programs to the Incarcerated (INSPIRE) and STEM Community Alliance Program (STEMCAP) for Youth-in-Care. These two programs bring local scientists to adult and juvenile incarcerated populations, respectively, to provide informal science education. Laura was drawn to these programs by their effort to engage underserved populations while expanding participants’ perception of science through interdisciplinary work and in-person contact with local scientists.

Laura George

Program Manager

Megan Young

Program Coordinator

Meg earned her BS in Anthropology from the University of Utah. She is a Program Coordinator for INSPIRE and STEMAP. She works with both programs to help provide public engagement of science training to scientists, and coordinate workshops at youth and adult corrections facilities. Meg joined the Nadkarni Lab after working in the non-profit field in Salt Lake as a community engagement coordinator.

Megan Young

Program Coordinator

Allyson Jelitto

Program Coordinator

Ally received her BA in Environmental and Organismal Biology with a minor in Modern Dance. She currently works as the Program Coordinator for the STEM Community Alliance Program (STEMCAP) connecting scientists, artists, media specialists, and community organizations with Youth In Care facilities. She joined the Nadkarni lab full-time after interning for the STEM Ambassador Program while earning her undergraduate degree. Ally is interested in using art, and specifically dance, as a medium for connecting the public with conservation practices.

Allyson Jelitto

Program Coordinator

Student Interns

Cynthia Cheketts

Student Intern

Cynthia Checketts is an undergraduate at the U of U studying Biology (environmental and organismal emphasis) and minoring in English. She loves working in the Nadkarni Lab helping with (and even giving) STEM lectures, least chub and monarch butterfly conservation projects, and data analysis. Being involved with the STEMCAP program has given her new perspectives and motivation to make sure the science that she enjoys is accessible and enjoyable for everyone, particularly those who aren’t traditionally included or interested in science.

Cynthia Cheketts

Student Intern

Kelsey Barnick

Student Intern

Kelsey is a senior in the School of Biological Sciences studying human-wildlife interactions in the Wasatch Mountain Range. Kelsey works with STEMCAP on understanding the effects of nature imagery on mental and physical health. She also assists with Mission STEMCAP as needed.

Kelsey Barnick

Student Intern

Linda Zhao

Student Intern

Linda is currently a junior studying Biology at the University of Utah. Linda works with the STEMCAP team by gathering suitable reading materials and documentaries as well as writing up guided reading questions. She is also assisting with the Nature Imagery Project as needed.

Linda Zhao

Student Intern

Monica Andersen

Student Intern

Monica is a Utah native and a junior at the University of Utah. She is married with 3 kids so she has a lot to keep her busy. She is a Chemistry major and plans on applying for the University of Utah graduate program next fall.

Monica Andersen

Student Intern

Past Employees

Natalie Toth, Program Manager 

Matt Whitaker, Co-Program Manager 

Celeste Henrickson, Co-Project Coordinator 

Allison Anholt, Program Manager

Skye Willard, Program Coordinator 

Jack Hendershot, Student Intern

Sarah Welker, Student Intern

Ananya Roy, Student Intern

Yuqi Chen, Student Intern

Allison Jacobsen, Student Intern

Kiana Luu, Student Intern

Emily Johnston, Student Intern

Our Partners

Our Sponsors