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STEM Stories: Recognizing iconic women in STEM during Women’s History Month

March 2, 2022

March is Women’s History Month and ANSEP proudly supports the women in STEM who are breaking down barriers and achieving success.

Women in STEM 
According to the National Girls Collaborative Project, women represent half of the U.S. college-educated workforce but only 29 percent of the STEM workforce. Perhaps even more staggering, only 15 percent of all engineers are women.

Despite the overwhelming odds against women in STEM fields, NASA is one organization that has paved the way for women to make their mark on the universe. Currently, women comprise one third of the NASA workforce, and 59 women have flown in space for the U.S., Russia and China combined.

Women of NASA 
A few milestones for female space exploration include:

  • 1963: First woman in space.
  • 1983: First American woman in space.
  • 1984: First woman to participate in an extra-vehicular activity.
  • 1992: First African American woman in space.
  • 1995: First female Space Shuttle pilot.
  • 1999: First female Space Shuttle commander.
  • 2001: First female Space Station expedition crew member.
  • 2008: First female International Space Station commander.

ANSEP and NASA join forces to inspire students
ANSEP has a longstanding relationship with NASA and a shared mission to provide students from all backgrounds with access to STEM education. In 2016, NASA Aerospace Engineer Dr. Anita Sengupta visited with students at ANSEP’s annual Celebration. She told them how her efforts were responsible for safely landing the Mars rover Curiosity on the surface of the red planet. She encouraged ANSEP students to find their passion, dream big and never give up. Today, Sengupta continues inspiring students across the world by leading the industry with groundbreaking innovation in the eco-friendly transportation sector.

Female heroes 

Janelle Anausuk Sharp, ANSEP alum and Regional Director for the ANSEP Anchorage Acceleration Academy, and a team of scientists researched a large lake in Alaska that is bubbling with methane! PBS’s Nova television science series “Arctic Sinkholes” followed them this summer as they worked to understand where these bubbles are coming from and how much gas is being released. Through her research, scientists across the world were able to learn all about arctic sinkholes and how it relates to the Siberian craters.

ANSEP alum and University of Alaska Anchorage graduate Jessica Hunt is already using her degree to help students in her hometown of Emmonak. Growing up in the rural community of only 800 residents, Jessica understands first-hand the unique academic challenges students in her village face. As a high school math teacher, she instills a passion for education in her students and connects them to programs like ANSEP that foster academic success.

Dr. Michele Yatchmeneff also understands the challenges many minority students and students from rural Alaska experience. As a doctoral student at Purdue University, Michele was often treated like a minority quota instead of a deserving candidate. After earning her degree, she decided to return to Alaska where she serves as UAA executive director of Alaska Native Education and Outreach, an ANSEP mentor and is the first female Alaska Native engineering professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage. It is her mission to empower students of all backgrounds to embrace their heritage and achieve their career goals. The National Science Foundation has even recognized Michele’s innovative approach to understanding societal factors’ relation to a sense of belonging and awarded her the prestigious Faculty Early Career Development Grant.

Yosty Storms, who grew up living a traditional subsistence lifestyle in Unalakleet, thought that she was bad at math. Then she discovered ANSEP. As a Middle School Academy student, she realized she actually excelled at math and had just never received proper instruction. Yosty progressed all the way through the ANSEP pipeline and now works full-time as an ANSEP regional director. She uses her experiences and expertise to help students from across Alaska realize their full potential.

Yosty provides support and guidance to ANSEP students like Summer Morse, who is also following her dreams and is on track to become a biologist. Now a University Success student, Summer first became involved with ANSEP when she joined the full-time Acceleration Academy (Mat-Su). As a high school student, she was able to earn free college credits and jumpstart her STEM career. With the support of ANSEP, Summer enrolled at the University of Alaska Anchorage feeling confident and academically prepared for college.

From the Last Frontier to the Final Frontier, ANSEP is incredibly proud to support women who are making strides in STEM education. To learn more or get involved, visit