The Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program (ANSEP) at the University of Alaska should be a model for universities across the country. The program started in 1995 with the goal of graduating more Alaska Native students with STEM degrees. But they were smart and didn’t try to use a Band-Aid to fix the huge problem of Alaska Natives being underrepresented in STEM.
A 2014 conference paper (Session F2B, “Do It Right the First Time”) describes the program in detail. Students in ANSEP start preparing in middle school for college. They agree to complete Algebra I by leaving 8th grade, and four more STEM courses by the end of 12th grade. Beginning after 6th grade, the ANSEP students spend at least a couple of weeks each summer on the University of Alaska campus, where they do hands-on research and network with Alaska Native faculty and students. This supportive curriculum continues through college and even graduate school, if the students choose. 86% of ANSEP university students have graduated or are still enrolled!
Obviously, the University of Alaska and its partner schools had to make a significant commitment of time and money to make ANSEP work. Are larger state universities willing to make that commitment to first-generation and underrepresented students in STEM? For those librarians who have a voice as faculty, tell your university administrations where programs like ANSEP should be prioritized compared to branding campaigns, building projects, and other debatable uses of funds.