From the time he was a very young child, Randall Friendly was a good student who always enjoyed learning. He grew up living a traditional Yup’ik subsistence lifestyle in Tuntutuliak, Alaska, but Randall knew he wanted go to college. He just wasn’t sure what he wanted to study or how to make it happen. As a junior in high school, a teacher suggested he apply for ANSEP’s Acceleration Academy, and he has been on the fast track to a STEM career ever since.
“In high school, I wasn’t taught how to prepare for college. I wasn’t aware of the different career fields available and didn’t know what my next steps should be,” said Randall. “Acceleration Academy gave me insight into what it really means to be a scientist or engineer, and ANSEP guided me through the college application process.”
After doing activities like balsa bridge builds, earthquake testing and Arctic wall builds at Acceleration Academy, Randall knew he wanted to pursue a STEM degree and initially thought he wanted to be an engineer. However, after his senior year of high school, Randall spent the summer working a paid internship for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service while earning a college math credit as part of ANSEP’s Summer Bridge component.
“I thought I wanted to be an engineer because I love math, but after interning with the USFWS, I found my passion for biology,” said Randall. “I love being outdoors and in nature. As a biologist, I can use math and science to study and protect Alaska’s wildlife.”
After completing Summer Bridge, Randall decided to attend the University of Alaska Anchorage, where he is working on a major in biological sciences and a minor in mathematics. He is now a senior; but, even when he first started college, Randall said he felt confident and prepared because he knew he had the support of the ANSEP community. Whenever the classes were challenging, he turned to his mentors and study partners who provided motivation and encouragement.
“My favorite part about ANSEP is the community. With the help of ANSEP, I transitioned from being shy and introverted to being more social and comfortable accepting leadership roles. ANSEP has helped me get to this point, and I want to help other students succeed,” said Randall, who currently volunteers as an ANSEP recitation leader.
While attending University of Alaska Anchorage, Randall completed four additional internships with the USFWS through ANSEP’s University Success component. Traveling from Kodiak to the Yukon Delta to Utquiagvik, Randall has analyzed wildlife populations and conducted tests throughout Alaska.
“Through my University Success internships, I’ve traveled across the state, gained real-life professional experience and done invaluable networking,” said Randall. “My mentors have been an inspiration; and, with the help of ANSEP, I already have job offers waiting for me when I graduate.”
Randall plans to graduate from the University of Alaska Anchorage spring 2018 and then pursue a graduate degree from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. While earning his master’s, he hopes to stay involved with the USFWS and study waterfowl to learn more about their population dynamics, migratory patterns and ecology. After graduation, Randall wants to stay in Alaska and work as either a water supervisor biologist or refuge manager.
“My family has lived in the Yukon Delta for 10,000 years. I love Alaska’s natural beauty and want to preserve its wildlife and resources for future generations. ANSEP is helping me achieve my career goals, which will help protect the land I love. I want to stay involved in ANSEP so that, together, we can preserve the environment and cultivate Alaska’s next generation of STEM professionals.”