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Blog

    Michael Ulroan

    Wednesday, June 22, 2016

    Chevak, Alaska


    “Nothing can stop me from reaching my goals.”

    These are the words that ANSEP Acceleration Academy Regional Director Michael Ulroan has engrained in his mind since he was a college student. An avid runner, Michael first recalls reciting this mantra when he was training for a half marathon on St. Paul Island while also working a paid summer internship through ANSEP.

    “I was out on a quiet road with no one else around. It was my first half marathon, so I remember really struggling to get past those longer miles that were uphill. It was just something I started telling myself, ‘Nothing can stop me from reaching my goals.’ My goals that summer were to run a half marathon and do well at my internship, and that’s what I did,” Michael said.

    Michael relates to his students on a personal level – not only is he a former ANSEP student, he is a Cup'ik Eskimo from Chevak, Alaska, and made history as the first engineer in his village when he graduated with his civil engineering degree from the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) in 2014. This feat did not come easy, though, and Michael says there were years of struggle in the beginning.

    “I went to school for eight years. It was a huge culture shock coming to UAA from a small village in rural Alaska,” Michael said. “I graduated high school at the top of my class – 31 graduating students, to be exact – but when I got to UAA, I was placed at the rock bottom of college courses. I failed those classes over and over again. It took a long time, but as I got more involved with ANSEP, I started to break out of my shell. I enrolled in classes with five or so of my ANSEP peers, and we worked together to pass our courses. It showed me how important having that support system is, and that’s why I want to help other ANSEP students.”

    Thanks to his own drive to be successful and support from ANSEP, Michael graduated from UAA in 2014 after eight years of hard work and dedication. Honored with the role of student commencement speaker, Michael instilled his mantra into the hearts of 2,400 fellow graduates and encouraged them to believe that they can do anything they set their minds to.

    “When the eagle first attempts to fly, what happens? It falls. But it gets right back up and tries again. And it falls again! But, it keeps on trying and trying until, eventually, it flies,” Michael explained. “The only reason that eagle learns how to fly is because it knows it’s supposed to fly. If that eagle didn’t believe it was meant to fly, it would have given up after its first fall.”

    Today, Michael is pursuing a master’s degree in engineering management while working full time at ANSEP. Michael hopes that his guidance will motivate other students to achieve their higher education goals.

    “Hard times are a given in life. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you are from or what your background is. There will always be obstacles between you and your goals in life. To overcome those obstacles is a choice that you must make to be successful.”