Nome and White Mountain, Alaska
Tonia Osborne has dreamed of becoming a marine biologist for as long as she can remember. However, growing up in rural Alaska, she felt that she didn’t have access to classes that challenged her academically. In 2011, Tonia became involved with ANSEP through Middle School Academy and has been engaged ever since. Before becoming a University Success student this year, she completed Acceleration Academy and Summer Bridge, which kept her on track to start college at the University of Alaska Southeast already having 41 credits toward her degree.
We caught up with Tonia, who you may remember from a blog post last summer, to see how she is adapting to college life.
ANSEP: What degree are you working toward, and when is your expected graduation date?
TONIA: In the fall of 2016 I began pursuing a marine biology degree, and I expect to graduate in 2020.
ANSEP: Tell us about your experience with Summer Bridge. How did it help you prepare for your first year of college?
TONIA: My best friend was an ANSEP student and encouraged me to join. I am so glad I did. Summer Bridge helped me make connections so I already had friends and people to study with when I started college. It was also encouraging to speak with career professionals and other students who assured me that I was following the right path to reach my dream. Seeing other people further along in the same career path really inspired me to always strive for doing my best.
ANSEP: What did you think of your first semester on campus last fall?
TONIA: I really liked it. I’m used to smaller communities, and the University of Alaska Southeast campus really has that feel to it. There are fewer students, and I love the sense of community that offers. Plus, it’s close in proximity to the ocean and great hiking trails.
ANSEP: In an ANSEP blog feature last year, you said you felt completely prepared for college. Looking back now, were you?
TONIA: Absolutely. ANSEP provided me with the opportunity to take advanced math classes before I even started college. Upon arrival, I had already completed Calculus 1 and Statistics 2. This allowed me to jump straight into upper-level classes. Many students start off behind and must take remedial classes. Through ANSEP, not only did I avoid backtracking, I started out ahead, which ultimately saves money and reduces stress. Although I am only in my second year of college, I am considered a junior by the number of credit hours I have accumulated. ANSEP also helped me develop the study skills needed to succeed in challenging courses and taught me how to talk to my professors as well as feel comfortable asking for help.
ANSEP: What is the highlight of your college experience so far?
TONIA: Definitely the relationships I’ve built. Through Summer Bridge, I developed personal relationships with my professors and fellow biology students before classes ever began. The professors lead great courses, and everyone is so open-minded – the learning opportunities are endless.
ANSEP: Tell us about the paid internship you participated in as a University Success student.
TONIA: I spent this past summer collecting data and doing research for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The internship was originally scheduled to end in August, but I’m thankful it has been extended through December so I can help finish our sea otter population estimate, which is being done through a combination of land, plane and boat surveys. I really enjoy this type of work and hope to experience many different sides of marine biology after graduation.
ANSEP: Where do you see yourself after college, and what would you say is your dream job?
TONIA: I am not sure what my dream job is, but I am very interested in diving. Many of my professors are dry-suit certified, and they offer a certification course on campus. I am considering the perks of taking a seasonal job as a marine technician so I can travel and experience different cultures.
ANSEP: What advice do you have for incoming university students?
TONIA: Apply for ANSEP, and take advantage of all the opportunities it offers. ANSEP provides financial assistance and builds connections to professors, mentors and students who are all invested in helping you reach your dreams.