The Ash Center at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University announced the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program as a finalist for their 2018 Innovations in American Government Award. ANSEP will now compete for a grant of $50,000 along with six other programs.
The Innovations Award recognizes public-sector programs that address social problems and provide services to the public in a creative and effective way. This year, the focus is on initiatives reducing inequality of opportunities. ANSEP is the only education program that was selected for the final round.
The objective of ANSEP’s work is to “effect systematic change in the hiring patterns of Alaska Natives in science and engineering,” according to their mission statement.
Herb Schroeder, professor of engineering and now vice provost for ANSEP, is the founder of the program.
“It’s a huge honor to be recognized as one of the top seven innovative programs in the nation,” Schroeder said. “It demonstrates what an awesome place the University of Alaska Anchorage is. There’s education and innovation going on here that are not anywhere else in the country.”
He started the nationally unique program in 1995 for university students. Now, ANSEP has evolved into a longitudinal program assisting Alaska Native students on their career paths from fifth grade through to the doctorate level.
The most rewarding aspect about his work is watching his students “grow and break down the barriers that prevented them from being successful in the past.”
The program is working with about 2,500 students from over 100 Alaskan communities. These numbers include students from all educational levels as well as ANSEP alumni.
“Most of our staff are former ANSEP students, which is really cool,” Schroeder said.
ANSEP also employs about 60 UAA student workers. Melody Otaegui, junior criminal justice major, has been working for ANSEP since her freshman year. Otaegui is mentoring middle school students from different Alaskan communities. She enjoys learning alongside the students.
“They teach you so much,” Otaegui said. “You got to be patient with the students, but you also get to have fun with the students.”
Working for ANSEP even made Otaegui consider changing her major to education. She hopes that the selection of ANSEP as a finalist for the Innovations Award will bring more attention to science and engineering programs for young students.
“Who knows, maybe you are going to see more of [programs like] ANSEP in other states,” Otaegui said.
For the final round of selection, representatives from the seven programs presented their innovations at the Kennedy School campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts. ANSEP’s presentation was focused on how ANSEP can improve academic outcomes and reduce cost of education.
The Innovations National Selection Committee will announce the winner later in the year. Other finalists include the Army Career Skills Program and a transformative mentoring program of young adults on probation.
“Our goal was to profile programs and approaches that had a demonstrated impact in improving opportunity and wealth creation for groups that had historically been left behind,” Stephen Goldsmith, director of the Innovation Award program, said in a press release.
Ash Center Director and professor of international affairs Tony Saich highlighted the importance this task.
“Inequality is one of the defining issues of our time,” Saich said in a press release. “For much of its history, America has been an engine of mobility as successive generations have risen up the economic and social ladder and that promise is in peril.”
Further information on this year’s selection process will be released later this month on ash.harvard.edu.