Welcome to the ANSEP family!

Joyell Acuna

January 17, 2018

Anchorage, Alaska

For as long as she can remember, Joyell dreamed of following in her uncle’s footsteps and becoming an engineer. An Athabascan who grew up in Anchorage, Joyell was unaware of the many STEM education opportunities available to her so close to home.

When she was a junior in high school, Joyell’s counselor opened her eyes to ANSEP and encouraged her to get involved with Acceleration Academy. There, she learned the thrill of engineering and gained access to endless career opportunities in Anchorage and across Alaska. The following year, she graduated high school and eagerly joined Summer Bridge, during which she started earning college credit and worked a paid internship for BP Alaska. In her last Student Success Story, Joyell shared how she felt ANSEP and internships like this were preparing her for life after college. We caught up with Joyell to find out what she is up to now.

ANSEP: When we last checked in, you were about to graduate from the University of Alaska Anchorage with a mechanical engineering degree. What have you been up to since then?

Joyell: I graduated in May of 2016 with a Bachelor of Science, but I decided to continue working toward my dream of higher education and earn my master’s degree. I began working fulltime at BP Alaska in June 2016, thanks to my internship experience there with ANSEP, but I’ve continued taking classes on the side. Now I’m only four college credits away from earning my graduate degree in mechanical engineering.

ANSEP: How has ANSEP helped you accomplish your goal of becoming an engineer?

Joyell: I’ve always been interested in engineering but wasn’t sure how to get my foot in the door. ANSEP helped me realize what engineers actually do every day and how the industry works as a whole. It was really amazing learning how many ways you can apply an engineering degree and seeing first-hand how human experience makes the oil industry work.

ANSEP: How did Summer Bridge help prepare you for your current job?

Joyell: ANSEP and Summer Bridge were instrumental in helping me land my first engineering job. My four summers interning with BP helped me network and learn skills that I still use for my job today.

ANSEP: What is the most interesting thing you learned during your BP internships?

Joyell: I met so many different contacts from different aspects of the industry, including drilling, pipeline and extraction. I learned so much from each of them, but now, as a pipeline integrity engineer, my job is ensuring safe operations throughout Anchorage. With so many friends, family and colleagues working on the pipeline, it’s an incredible feeling knowing my job helps keep them safe.

ANSEP: What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced pursuing an engineering career?

Joyell: Many of the college courses were really challenging, and I had some semesters where I was especially busy and overwhelmed. ANSEP provided financial, emotional and peer support that helped me get through it. In addition to weekly recitations where I could ask questions about classes, ANSEP provided a network of people who shared similar challenges and provided support. Even after college, I am still close with many of my friends and think of ANSEP as a second family.

ANSEP: What is your favorite part of ANSEP?

Joyell: It is hard to pick just one. I really loved the balsa wood bridge build at Acceleration Academy because it was the first time I got to see with my own eyes how much engineering plays a role in everything we do. However, the recitations and community are probably the best part. Many of my friends are from ANSEP and work in the same industry. It is great watching them graduate and continue on to successful STEM careers just like me.

ANSEP: What excites you the most about your future?

Joyell: I like knowing how much I can do for my community with my engineering degree. I love living in Alaska – it’s my home, where I go fishing and berry picking, and have other family traditions. Through my current role, I am contributing to North Slope operations and making things safer for the people who share my love for Alaska.

ANSEP: Do you have any advice for current ANSEP students?

Joyell: When things get tough, take a breath, take care of yourself and remember that ANSEP is always there to help. Pursuing a STEM career is hard, but it isn’t a race. As long as you’re making progress, you’re on track!