A 12-year-old from Napakiak, Alaska, who dreams of being the first engineer from her village has a lot of obstacles to overcome—even in a state where science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) industries make up a significant portion of the economy.
“When I started the Alaska Native Science & Engineering Program (ANSEP) 20 years ago, many people here at the university and in the K-12 system did not imagine Alaska Native people as scientists and engineers,” describes Herb Schroeder, vice provost for ANSEP and a professor of engineering at the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA). Though Alaska Native people make up 15 percent of Alaska’s population and 10 percent of the workforce, they represent only 6 percent of the state’s workers in computer, engineering and science jobs.
ANSEP is changing that. Based at UAA, ANSEP is designed to prepare and support Alaska Native students to succeed in engineering and science careers. The program offers several components that motivate young, talented students to commit to rigorous educational pathways and provides them support and training to achieve a STEM college degree and career. Many students enter ANSEP through the Middle School Academy, an 11-day residential experience at the UAA, where students engage in active learning opportunities that foster enthusiasm for STEM careers. ANSEP students continue to receive academic support and career prep through components like STEM Career Explorations, Acceleration Academy, Summer Bridge, University Success and Graduate Success.
“Today, there are more than 1,500 ANSEP students from sixth grade through graduate school, and they perform well above the national averages,” Schroeder says. “ANSEP graduates are working in the oil and gas industry, with federal and state agencies, and in education. We are working to make sure that Alaska Native scientists and engineers have a seat at the table when decisions are made about the land their families have lived on for 10,000 years.”
Despite its success, ANSEP is facing funding cuts. This month, each copy of the Raven’s Circle comes with an “I Am Successful” card that describe what ANSEP students are achieving. Each card also includes a pre-paid postcard that you can use to tell policymakers why ANSEP is important for Alaska Native people and the state of Alaska. If you believe in better STEM education for Alaska Native students, please take a few minutes to fill out your card and return it to UAA. You may also provide your feedback at www.ANSEP.net/feedback.
“With all of us pulling together we can make sure that ANSEP opportunities will be available for our students for many years to come,” Schroeder says.