The UAA campus is fraught with a plethora of acronyms, from CPISB to SU and RH to SSB. The list goes on. Hiding behind each acronym is a building, and hiding within each building is an environment. The ANSEP building, identified with bold, white letters, is home to an environment that has evolved over nearly 15 years along with the program that began with a single student and now affects hundreds.
Herb Schroeder started the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program, ANSEP, in 1995 in response to the low number of Alaska Native students studying science and engineering at UAA.
“If a student has tan skin,” said Schroeder, “they don’t have the same opportunities as a student with white skin, it’s not that they are dumb, they are being denied opportunities”
Since the creation of ANSEP the number of minority students who have earned a bachelors degree in science or engineering has increased at UAA. In the past eight years that number has risen by almost 140.
“ANSEP is successful because we build a community and create opportunities,” Schroeder said.
A priority of ANSEP is to improve retention rates for minority students. Within the ANSEP program, there is a 70 percent retention rate. For Alaska Natives in all programs at UAA enrolled in 2001, there has been a 26.7 percent graduation rate. Through ANSEP and the opportunities the program offers, a student is more likely to stay in school and graduate.
“We are fighting the belief that Alaska Natives are not cut out for college,” Schroeder said.
Students become involved in ANSEP when they are freshmen in high school. In the United States only four percent of minority students graduate high school with coursework in math and science to be successful in college. In the ANSEP Pre-College component, students take trigonometry, chemistry and physics. So far 540 students have participated, and 62 percent of them have succeeded in their coursework prior to graduating high school.
After high school, students can apply for a Summer Bridge program. This is a paid internship for students to work and stay on campus. Then it is on to earning a degree, with help from the University Retention Component. Students in ANSEP are required to attend weekly meetings, maintain a 2.0 GPA and attend recitation sessions.
In 2007 the University of Alaska graduated the most Alaska Native Students in science and engineering in the history of the university. In 2008 an even higher number of students graduated.
“We expect to break [that] record again in 2009,” Schroeder said.
In late September, Schroeder traveled to New York to accept the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (NACME) 2009 Founder’s Award. NACME, established in 1974, created the Founder’s Award to recognize individuals who showed exemplary commitment and service in support of NACME’s mission. The award comes with a $10,000 gift to be given to a non-profit of Schroeder’s choice.
ANSEP is now being replicated in twelve higher education institutions in the Nation. In 2001 Schroeder led the formation of the Pacific Alliance, which instituted ANSEP in Universities is Fairbanks, Hawaii, Washington, South and North Dakota and Colorado