Remembering BP’s legacy of philanthropy with UAA

In August of 2019, BP announced they will be leaving Alaska and selling their operations and interests to Hilcorp for $5.6 billion.

Graphic by Michaeline Collins.

In the past, BP has maintained a strong relationship with UAA. BP has helped to fund a variety of programs and services at the University of Alaska Anchorage, including engineering camps, tutoring programs and development seminars.

The programs BP has supported or sponsored range from academic support through tutoring programs, seminars to help engineering students form connections within the engineering community, summer camps run by Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program, or ANSEP and UAA’s Summer Engineering Academy.

“Our partnership with UAA is so important to us,” David Conway, HR Director for BP Alaska, said in an interview with Alaska Business. “UAA’s future students are also our future employees and industry leaders, and providing them support and opportunities strengthens Alaska’s workforce for years to come.”

One such program is ANSEP.

ANSEP, established in 1995, was originally a scholarship program for university students. Since inception, the program has grown to include activities and programs for Alaska Native youth, from sixth grade through high school and college.

ANSEP and BP have maintained a strategic partnership for over 20 years. Photo by Jason Herr.

“BP was the founding strategic partner for the ANSEP summer bridging program in 1998, and they have supported us every single year since. They’ve also contributed half a million dollars for the ANSEP building and another half a million dollars for the Herbert P. Schroeder Chair for ANSEP,” Herbert Schroeder, vice provost and founder of ANSEP, said.

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The ANSEP Summer Bridge Program allows students to participate in a 10-week summer program at the UAA campus, college coursework in math and provides the students with internships with one of the ANSEP’s many strategic partners. Graduates of the program are eligible for scholarships to the University of Alaska.

Over 20 years later, ANSEP is appreciative of the chance to have a strategic partnership with BP.

“ANSEP wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for BP. They helped us to get off the ground, they stuck with us through tough times, and now we have dozens of students who work as engineers and scientists within the BP organization,” Schroeder said.

Another BP connection to UAA is the BP Asset Integrity and Corrosion Lab, or AIC Lab, located in the Engineering and Industry Building and a part of UAA’s College of Engineering.

The BP Asset Integrity and Corrosion Lab is home to a plethora of high-tech equipment. Photo courtesy of the BP Asset Integrity and Corrosion Lab website.

The AIC Lab maintains state-of-the-art facilities for research on materials and corrosion. Through studies, projects and research, the lab and UAA student engineers can team up with industry, government and other universities. This partnership helps to further educate students on fields such as oil and gas exploration and production, marine engineering, and architectural engineering.

Aside from adding to and enhancing industry in Alaska, UAA students are able to tackle real-world engineering projects and research.

“The knowledge we have gained providing failure analysis and testing services to local industry has helped me to give my students real-world context and has also made my research grant applications far more competitive,” Matt Cullin, Ph.D., and director of the AIC Lab at UAA, said in an email. “I think the lab is an excellent example of a symbiotic relationship between industry and academia.”

BP provided an initial gift of $1 million to purchase equipment and to make the necessary building modifications needed to house the equipment, according to Cullen.

Beyond the starting costs, BP also makes use of the lab as a client.

“They bring us many interesting projects and pay us to complete the work,” Cullin said. “So in this regard, they have provided us with a sustainable source of income by choosing to send work here rather than out of state.”

BP’s partnership with UAA goes beyond funding, and BP employees and engineers also work with the university to provide guest lectures to UAA students as a way to share decades of experience with the next generation of engineers.

“As an educator, their willingness to directly contribute to our programs via guest lectures has been amazingly beneficial. The speakers had decades of experience in the industry and provided students (and me) with an extremely valuable perspective,” Cullen said in the email.

A crowning benefit to students involved with ANSEP or the AIC Lab is that BP’s connection to UAA can lead to a future career after graduation.

“I have stopped counting how many of our graduates work for BP because they are so numerous,” Cullen said.

BP’s role in UAA engineering programs and ANSEP has bonded the global oil giant to the much smaller university community of UAA.

“We appreciate everything that BP has done for ANSEP, for the University of Alaska, for the thousands of students involved in ANSEP and all the family members that have benefited from BP’s support,” Shroeder said.