Audrey Alstrom, Yup’ik, grew up in the rural village of Alakanuk on the Yukon River. Today, Audrey is not only an ANSEP alumna, she is inspiring the future generation of Alaskan scientists and engineers as the regional director of ANSEP middle school components.
“What I love about working with middle school students is being able to witness their growth in the short time that they are with us and see them really get excited about their education at such a young age. The most important thing I hope our students leave ANSEP with is the knowledge that they can be successful in all aspects of their lives with a little bit of hard work,” said Audrey.
Audrey got involved with ANSEP after she graduated high school and began taking courses at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Kuskokwim Campus in Bethel. While she was happy to be somewhat close to home, she was unable to take all the courses necessary for a degree in civil engineering. That’s when her professors pointed her toward the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA), where she could work toward her engineering degree as well as join a program that would help her transition and provide support along the way – the Alaska Native Science & Engineering Program.
“ANSEP provided me with a family at the university, and that helped me throughout my education,” said Audrey. “It was great to be able to network and connect with other students who wanted to work in the same field as me. We were able to study together, go to classes together and also graduate together.”
Audrey always knew she wanted to give back, but she wanted to get some professional engineering experience under her belt first. In 2009, Audrey graduated with her civil engineering degree, settled her family in Anchorage and began working at the Alaska Energy Authority. She helped develop renewable energy and efficiency projects in an effort to solve some of Alaska’s energy concerns. A few years later, Audrey heard about ANSEP’s new Middle School Academy component and encouraged her daughter Kaitlyn to apply.
“Kaitlyn didn’t seem too excited about it at first, but she liked the idea of spending a couple weeks away from mom and dad at the university!” Audrey said. “Of course, afterward, she told me she had an amazing time and was super excited about math and science when she hadn’t been before. Shortly after that, a position opened for the component. Although it was a bit earlier than I had planned, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity. So, I jumped in the deep end, and now here I am!”
Today, Audrey is happy to be helping young students pursue their dreams, including her daughter, at ANSEP. As for her words of wisdom to young ANSEP students, Audrey tells them to never stop until they reach their goals.
“Even someone from a small community with a school that doesn’t offer big classes like physics, chemistry and calculus can be successful in the STEM field. Set goals, define a clear path to achieve them and work to achieve them with a never-give-up attitude. You’ll be able to accomplish anything. If I can do it, you can too.”