Stefanie Armstrong is not your typical college student. Iñupiaq Eskimo from Kotzebue, she is a mother of two and now also an engineer. On May 3, Stefanie walked across the stage at the University of Alaska Anchorage commencement ceremony and received her bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, which is something she’d promised herself she would do since 1998.
For a year immediately following high school, Stefanie attended University of California Berkeley, where she met her husband then decided to move back to Kotzebue and after 10 years, she moved to Anchorage. Now, with her engineering degree in hand, Stefanie is taking the next steps in her career as a project coordinator serving CH2M Hill’s oil, gas, mining and government clients in Alaska. She earned the position by excelling academically as well as during her internships at CH2M Hill, one of ANSEP’s strategic partners, which provides access to required internships for students like Stefanie who are part of ANSEP’s University Success component.
Throughout college, Stefanie spent the hours between classes and studies raising her children. She makes lunches, brings them to soccer practice and – like any good mom does – helps them with their homework. With a mom as an engineer, Stefanie’s son and daughter are already following in her footsteps and are now ANSEP students and excel far above average in school.
“Last night I helped my son prepare for his binomial equations test. I’m so proud of both my kids and happy I can share what I’ve learned with them,” Stefanie said. “My daughter is so advanced that she has to take her pre-algebra class online though the Anchorage School District. She’s in sixth grade.”
While Stefanie’s strength and determination surely got her to where she is today, she attests much of her success to working with ANSEP. After returning to college in 2009, she found it difficult to juggle a family, a job and school. It was then that Stefanie decided she needed to focus on her education, and ANSEP helped her excel while giving her the financial support she needed to get her degree.
“ANSEP provided me the means I needed to succeed, and the staff truly care. If they don’t see you, they call because they want to know how you are. They do more than just teach – they listen and guide you on your journey and encourage you when you’re struggling,” Stefanie said.
There is no doubt that Stefanie, like so many ANSEP students, faced challenges along the path to graduation. However, with the support of her family as well as ANSEP staff and students, Stefanie overcome the challenges and came out with her degree in hand and a great career ahead of her.
Stefanie added, “My advice is to go after your dreams. If you want to change your current situation, you can. There was a time when I couldn’t find a job for nine months. Today, I have so many opportunities. Empower yourself, go to school and get your degree, regardless of your age.”
And what will Stefanie accomplish next? She’s not sure yet what her dream job is, but she knows she’s moving in the right direction with a strong support group behind her every step of the way. Furthermore, Stefanie has every hope that her children will continue to follow their dreams and do what they love. Maybe one day they will even teach her a thing or two about engineering!