APU Online Learning Original

Women’s History Month: Motivated by an Advocate for Justice

Pedro catching up with Monica Vidaurri at a restaurant in Washington, D.C. Image courtesy of author.

By Dr. Kristin Drexler
Faculty Member, School of STEM

with Pedro Maldonado
Doctoral Student, Global Security

Note: This article is the third in a series honoring Women’s History Month.

Women’s History Month is a time to reflect upon the women, past and present, who have inspired us. For this article – and to round out this year’s Women’s History Month – we are featuring graduate student Pedro Maldonado, a doctoral student of global security at the University.

Pedro Maldonado is the current Communications Officer for the Association of Women in Science (AWIS). He is also the President for the University’s Chapter of The Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics & Native Americans in Science (SACNAS-APUS).

I first met Pedro while presenting at the Southeastern Council of Latin American Studies (SECOLAS) conference in Antigua, Guatemala, in late March last year. For this conference, I discussed our multi-year study “A Case Study Comparison of Pandemic Experiences of Indigenous Groups in the Americas” in Taos, New Mexico in 2022, along with Dr. Michelle Watts and Dr. Casey Skvorc.

Pedro gave a fabulous presentation on the political psychology of Fidel Castro, which was marked by a complex blend of charismatic leadership, revolutionary zeal, and a staunch commitment to Marxist-Leninist ideology. Pedro explained how all of these factors guided Castro’s actions in transforming Cuba into a one-party socialist state and positioning it as a key player in Cold War geopolitics.

After the conference, we did a few virtual field trips in and around different sites in the beautiful city of Antigua for the SACNAS chapter at the University.

Pedro presenting at SECOLAS Conference women's history month
Pedro presenting at the SECOLAS Conference in Antigua, Guatemala last year. Image courtesy of Kristi Drexler.

An Interview with Pedro Maldonado to Discuss Who Inspires Him

Pedro and I had a recent conversation about women- and science-oriented student organizations and the female leader who inspires him, as well as what he’s doing now and his plans for the future.

Dr. Drexler: Pedro, what are you studying at the University? What are your future plans?

Pedro: I am pursuing a doctoral degree in global security. I have a background in Latin American Studies and political science.

Ultimately, I hope to continue writing academic articles on disaster management policies in Latin America.  Currently, I’m hoping to join the Senior Executive Service in the Department of Transportation.

Dr. Drexler: Pedro, what is your interest in student organizations at the University? We’re celebrating Women’s History Month in the School of STEM – how important is this event to you?

Pedro: I wanted to become involved with Women in STEM [wSTEM] and AWIS to learn about, and support women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, as well as participate in chapter activities. I hope these two organizations continue to highlight and champion women in the sciences.

Dr. Drexler: Who is your biggest wSTEM influence? Do you have a favorite mentor or inspiration? How does she continue to influence you professionally, academically and personally?

Pedro: My biggest hero, a woman in STEM who has inspired me the most, is Monica Vidaurri. She is a Ph.D. candidate at Stanford University in Berkeley, California. I met Monica when she was coding for NASA telescopes at Goddard Space Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Monica is genuinely a genius with a heart of gold. She sacrifices all of her time for the betterment of humanity through just causes.

She’s led for union rights and minority rights and has been a vocal advocate and supporter of justice in all its forms. Her brave and tenacious leadership inspires me to do better, help others as a public servant and advocate for women.

What inspired me the most about Monica’s story is the fact that she came from nearly nothing, but has become so incredibly successful and a voice for others. I am genuinely honored to consider myself one of her good friends, and we stay in touch occasionally.

Learn More about Our Student Organizations

The University has several organizations dedicated to science-oriented topics and the support of women. For more information, visit the webpages of these student organizations:

About the Authors

Dr. Kristin Drexler is a full-time faculty member in the Space Studies and Earth Sciences Department. She teaches geography, environmental science, conservation of natural resources, earth and planetary sciences and sustainability for the School of STEM. She earned her Ph.D. in educational leadership at New Mexico State University with research in socioecological systems, sustainable agroecology, and community education. Her Master of Arts is in international affairs with an emphasis in natural resources management from Ohio University.

Dr. Drexler earned the Undergraduate Excellence in Teaching Award for the School of STEM (2020) and the Dr. Wallace E. Boston Leadership Award (2021). Dr. Drexler has conducted numerous community surveys in Belize and Guatemala regarding agroforestry, conservation, sustainable agriculture, and COVID-19 impacts and is a co-investigator for the multi-year research study, “A Case Study Comparison of Pandemic Experience of Indigenous Groups in the Americas.” In the late 1990s, Drexler served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Belize; she co-founded Full Basket Belize, a 501(c)(3) and has served on its Board of Directors since 2005. Drexler produced the award-winning short film Yochi; she also founded “Science Talks with Dr. Drexler and Friends” to assist teachers during the pandemic. Drexler also co-directs the Gila Film School and has produced seven documentary films sponsored by the US Forest Service to celebrate the centennial of the Gila Wilderness this year. Drexler also serves as a faculty advisor for the University’s wSTEM, AWIS, and SACNAS chapters.

Pedro Maldonado is a Doctor of Global Security student at American Military University. He holds a bachelor of arts in political science and government from the University of Texas at San Antonio and a master of arts in international administration from the University of Miami (Coral Gables). Pedro is currently the Director of the Office of Financial Management at the Department of Transportation and has over 20 years of experience in the federal government.

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