As the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program community has had time to reflect this year, we’re grateful for how far the program has come since being founded as a scholarship program for a single student in 1995. We are celebrating by sharing this history in our inaugural “20 for 2020” blog series highlighting a wide range of ANSEP’s top-20 lists. We’ll share interesting facets of ANSEP as well as fun facts about higher education, science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
From our first college graduate to having more than 2,500 students in the ANSEP pipeline, this first post relives 20 of the most momentous milestones in ANSEP’s 25-year history.
- 1995: ANSEP welcomes its first student.
Dr. Herb Schroeder first realized the need for more Alaska Native scientists and engineers while working on a sanitization project in rural Alaska. At the time, Alaska Natives made up less than 2% of STEM professionals but had the best understanding of how to solve challenges facing rural communities. In 1995, he worked with industry leaders to develop a scholarship program.
- 1997: ANSEP gets its first alum.
Marcy Hensch graduated from the University of Alaska Anchorage with a bachelor’s degree in engineering.
- 1998: ANSEP launches University Success component.
Many Alaska students leave home to find themselves living on a college campus with more people than their hometown. Adjusting to an urban environment can be challenging. Weekly recitations and support from peers and professors within the ANSEP community help students navigate their way through undergraduate, graduate and even doctoral degree programs.
- 1998: ANSEP launches Summer Bridge.
Transitioning from high school to college is a challenge. Summer Bridge provides students with the opportunity to live in college dorms, earn a free math or science college credit and work a paid internship in the field of their choice. ANSEP students have successfully completed the component with industry partners like Alyeska, BP, ExxonMobil, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, ConocoPhillips, U.S. Geological Survey, NOAA, Forest Service, Bristol Bay Native Association and more.
- 1998: ANSEP opens Alyeska House.
Alyeska House provided a residential space on the UAA campus for ANSEP students and kicked off the transition to the ANSEP Living and Learning Community. Today, ANSEP occupies two floors of West Hall in the UAA Residential community.
- 2005: Dr. Schroeder receives presidential award for excellence.
Dr. Schroeder received a presidential award from President George W. Bush in 2005 for his work in developing ANSEP. He was invited to meet with the president in the Oval Office. The award is administered by the National Science Foundation on behalf of the White House.
- 2006: ANSEP Building opens.
Strategic partners provided funding for the ANSEP Building. The building provides 14,000 square feet of space that is forever reserved for students as a hub for learning, safety and a community of belonging. It embodies the spirit of a people and is a landmark in our state. Partners include Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, ASRC Energy Services, BP, CIRI, ConocoPhillips, Denali Commission, John Rubini and Suzanne LaPierre, JL Properties, Leonard and Tannie Hyde, Rasmuson Foundation, University of Alaska, U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration, U.S. Department of Education and other anonymous donors.
- 2009: ANSEP launches Acceleration Academy (Summer).
Acceleration Academy (Summer) students spend five weeks living on the UAA campus earning college math or science credits. Since 2009, ANSEP has hosted over 500 students that have completed over 2,000 university credits at its summertime component.
- 2010: ANSEP hosts first Middle School Academy.
Early exposure to STEM education is proven to set students on the track to higher education. Middle School Academy is the first opportunity for students to join ANSEP. The two-week component introduces them to the college lifestyle by living in dorms and working alongside college professors.
- 2012: Harvard Ash Center honors ANSEP.
ANSEP was recognized as one of the Top 25 Innovations in American Government for its success in preparing students for employment opportunities. In 2018, ANSEP was again named as one of the top seven finalists.
- 2014: ANSEP launches STEM Career Exploration.
This component keeps students who have already completed Middle School Academy engaged with ANSEP. From marine sciences to computer coding to geological sciences to robotics, each session introduces students to a different STEM career field.
- 2015: Drs. Matt Calhoun and Michele Yatchmeneff become first-ever Alaska Native engineering professors and only Alaska Natives in the world with PhDs in their respective fields.
Professor Matt Calhoun, Deg Xinag Athabascan from Homer and Takotna, was the first ANSEP University Success graduate in 2002. That year he established the ANSEP Alumni Scholarship Fund that most recently raised $111,000 from ANSEP alumni with a match contribution from ConocoPhillips. He earned a master’s degree from the University of Colorado Boulder and a doctorate from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He is an assistant professor of civil engineering at UAA.Professor Michele Yatchmeneff, Unangax (Aleut) from Alaska’s Aleutian chain, joined ANSEP as a University Success student. She earned a bachelor’s and master’s engineering degree from UAA. She went on to earn a doctorate from Purdue University before returning to Alaska to become an Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering at UAA.
- 2014: The ANSEP Academy building opens at UAA.
The ANSEP Academy building was opened to expand the Middle School Academy opportunity for additional students around the state. The Academy building allows ANSEP to host Middle School Academies and STEM Career Explorations 12 months of the year.
- 2014: ANSEP expands to over 100 Alaska communities.
From the Aleutian Islands to Utqiagvik, from Anchorage to Bethel, from Nome to Fairbanks and everywhere in between, ANSEP has worked with students from more than 100 Alaska communities. All ANSEP components are free to students and their families but we’re especially thankful for our strategic partner Alaska Airlines for helping students travel to and from ANSEP components.
- 2015: Buzz Aldrin joins ANSEP Celebration.
Buzz Aldrin, Apollo 11 lunar module pilot on the first lunar landing, joined ANSEP Celebration. Other NASA stars to join ANSEP Celebration have included Capt. Jim Lovell, commander of Apollo 13, Capt. Eugene Cernan – last man on the moon, Dr. Bernard Harris Jr., Dr. Mae Jemison and Dr. Anita Sengupta.
- 2016: ANSEP launches first full-time Acceleration Academy.
In partnership with the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District, Acceleration Academy puts high school students on the fast-track to a college education. Students who attend all four years can graduate high school with three years or more of college credits complete. In its inaugural year, 27 students earned over 250 college credits and experienced a 92% success rate of completing university courses.
- 2018: ANSEP expands full-time Acceleration Academy to Anchorage and opens the Acceleration building on campus.
In partnership with the Anchorage School District, ANSEP expanded its full-time Acceleration Academy. Today, students who participate in any branch of the component can go from eighth grade to a bachelor’s degree in six years or less.
- 2018: ANSEP hosts Dissemination Conference.
The National Science Foundation nominated ANSEP to share insights into the program’s strategies and success. Ninety education and university professionals from around the country came to Alaska to see techniques they can implement in their own communities. Three of these organizations have already implemented programs for at-risk youth to be supported in their quest for a STEM degree.
- 2018: Dr. Schroeder received the top alumni honor from the University of Colorado Boulder.
The George Norlin Award is the University of Colorado Boulder’s most prestigious award, honoring alumni who have demonstrated a commitment to excellence in their chosen field of endeavor and a devotion to the betterment of society and their community.
- 2020: ANSEP celebrates 25th anniversary.
Success stories from our first quarter-century include BS degrees being awarded to grandchildren from the first generation of people to use money, giving back to local communities, earning dream jobs in STEM fields and more.
With so many students in the pipeline, ANSEP is excited for the milestones to come. As ANSEP alum and Acceleration Academy director Mike Ulroan from Chevak says, “Nothing can stop us from reaching our goals.”