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Reaching beyond excellence
Faculty outreach key to student success
PULLMAN – John Alderete knows he’s the new kid on the block.
As a newcomer, he wants to find connections within WSU and support other faculty and staff in their work.
The associate vice provost for research arrived at WSU last winter, bringing with him his research program in molecular biosciences. A highly successful scientist who has had a $20 million career of federal funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Alderete studies the molecular basis of disease pathogenesis. He holds several patents and invented diagnostics for trichomoniasis, which is the most common, nonviral sexually transmitted disease in the U.S.
Trichomoniasis is caused by a parasite. Subsequent inflammation makes a person significantly more susceptible to HIV infection.
“It’s crucial to have a test for trichomoniasis with immediate results, so that if a person is in a physician’s office and the test for trichomoniasis is positive, the doctor can immediately move to treat the condition,” Alderete said.
Trichomoniasis can be cured by medication. That’s potentially a life-saving cure because the malady increases transmission of HIV so much that it accounts for 30 percent of HIV infections both in the U.S. and worldwide.
“Identifying trichomoniasis cases and curing them is a major help in reducing the global HIV pandemic,” he said.
Alderete is passionate about his science and about administrative work, but he’s also deeply committed to reaching out to underserved populations. In particular, he has a track record of supporting underrepresented groups to promote success in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education.
He is bilingual in English and Spanish and is the former president of the Society for Advancement of Chicano and Native American Scientists. While president, he secured nearly $3 million in funding from the NIH and other government agencies in support of the society.
“I know I must lead by example,” said Alderete of the 15-year period his lab conducted a Saturday morning science camp program for minority students, parents and teachers when he was at the University of Texas Health Science Center.
Alderete is impressed with the size and demographics of the Hispanic population in the Yakima Valley, Tri-Cities and Walla Walla areas. Because of Washington’s large Hispanic community, he thinks WSU Tri-Cities may be able to become a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) under federal funding guidelines. The HSI status, Alderete believes, could make the campus eligible for large, multi-year federal grants for outreach and retention programs, infrastructure development, faculty hiring and research support.
Meanwhile, Alderete is starting to dig into outreach work at WSU Pullman in faculty workshops with Multicultural Student Services (MSS) and other activities.
“Manuel Acevedo, in MSS, has worked hard to bring the workshops together,” Alderete said. “I just did one with great turnout and participation, and we’re looking for more faculty participation in the program this spring.”
A great deal of superb outreach and retention work at WSU is often done by staff and students, Alderete said.
“But faculty involvement, I have found, is often key to student success. And I have found that faculty want to be involved, so I’m inviting them to take part in the exciting activities that we do here at WSU,” he said.
A delegation of 14 student journalists from the Balkans are participating in a three‑week program that includes visiting regional news outlets, taking classes with faculty experts, and connecting with local non‑profits.