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Back to school advice: ANSEP students share their college prep experience

September 5, 2019

Now that it is time to head back to school, we thought we would check in with a couple of ANSEP alums who have been through this a time or two. We recently caught up with Devan Massin and Tvetene Carlson for their advice on how to be successful – and we quizzed them on their role models and favorite ANSEP memories.

Devan Massin is currently enrolled in a Master of Science program at Columbia University in New York. He is studying applied physics with a specialty in plasma physics. Devan participated in ANSEP’s University Success component from 2014-2018. After his master’s degree, he plans to go for a doctorate degree and eventually conduct research in a Department of Energy lab.

Tvetene Carlson is pursuing a Master’s and Doctorate in Civil and Environmental Engineering at U.C. Berkley with an emphasis on water/wastewater treatment. Tvetene started with Middle School Academy in 2011 and progressed to Acceleration Academy (Summer) from 2012-2014.

He completed Summer Bridge in 2015 and graduated college in December 2018, after completing the University Success component. He plans to eventually come back to teach in Alaska and spend time doing STEM research.

Which ANSEP component helped most with college readiness and prepared you for your STEM courses?
Devan: University Success helped me succeed by providing a community of like-minded students at its weekly recitations.
Tvetene: Summer Bridge prepared me the most because that was my first taste of actual work life. I experienced career growth during my paid internship at the U.S. Geological Survey and learned about the many STEM career choices.

Who were some of your role models when you were younger?
Devan: Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking inspired me through documentaries like “Cosmos.”
Tvetene: My parents first inspired me to chase my dreams. Although they’re an obvious choice, they are the biggest role models in my life. Both are very hardworking, always finding something to do and working to improve their communities. They gave me the drive to constantly work to improve myself and those around me.

Are there any ANSEP staff members or teachers who made a particularly strong impact on you?
Devan: I love Herb’s fight for getting Alaska Natives a good education by founding and leading ANSEP. ANSEP promotes college and career readiness.
Tvetene: Shirley Willis-Haslip and Mikayla Savikko cannot get enough credit for wrangling all the students from Middle School Academy to University Success. They were who I went to when I struggled with picking classes and making summer plans or just wanted to talk.

As a college freshman at the University of Alaska Anchorage, they taught me how to navigate the university system. Professors and administrators at other departments can be intimidating to talk to as students sometimes have limited knowledge about themselves and their academic priorities.

What advice do you have for current or potential ANSEP students?
Devan: One of the main things all STEM students should know is how to study, understand the material and use problem-solving. They cannot just memorize content as they did in high school. For example, learning how to derive an equation and the proper situations to use it are important in STEM fields.
Tvetene: My best advice for graduates and current or potential ANSEP students is to try new things and experiment. Join clubs that seem interesting, learn dancing, take an intimidating math class, talk to your crush or practice judo. Don’t be afraid to apply for an internship you’d love, even if you feel unqualified.

What is your favorite memory of the time you spent with ANSEP?
Devan: When I was a Youth Peer Mentor for the Acceleration Academy, there was an ongoing joke that every day was my birthday. They sang the “Happy Birthday” song to me every single day. On the last day of recitation, the students surprised me by bringing a cake and having everyone in the building sing.
Tvetene: It’s too difficult to pick only one favorite memory, but I fondly remember many late nights at the ANSEP building during University Success. Some students would spend half their time on homework. The other half spent it having philosophical debates, cooking, playing games, teasing each other and blowing off steam until the ANSEP building closed at 11 p.m.

Is there anything you want to add about your time as an ANSEP student?
Devan: I really appreciate my time at ANSEP and everything they have done for me. Without the support of ANSEP, I wouldn’t have an undergraduate degree and definitely wouldn’t be in graduate school.
Tvetene: I cannot overstate how valuable the community is within ANSEP. My tight-knit group still keeps in contact after college graduation, despite an 8,000-mile distance between some of us. We split our time between family, work, school, and other priorities.

For more information about the benefits of STEM education and how ANSEP provides development opportunities for students from middle school to college and beyond, visit