Herb Schroeder ANSEP Introduction
Fran Ulmer, UAA Chancellor
Ted Stevens on America's Engineering and Science Capacities
Published: November 22nd, 2008 11:13 PM
Last Modified: November 22nd, 2008 02:10 AM
Alaska Native corporations, our large private landowners, frequently take the lead in natural resource and economic development. We see these corporations hustling for minerals and oil exploration on their land and sometimes land owned by others. We see them taking the leading innovative development projects too.
Most recently, Doyen, Ltd., the Interior regional corporation, and two other Alaska firms -- Arctic Slope Regional Corp., another Native corporation, and Fairbanks-based Usibelli Energy -- engineered a deal with a Denver independent petroleum company to drill an exploration well in the Nenana Basin west of Fairbanks. The venture includes land owned by Doyon as well as the state and the University of Alaska, which would also benefit if the well planned for next summer strikes gas.
Another example of entrepreneurship but also with some long-term thinking and regional planning is an effort by Tyonek Native Corp., owned by shareholders from a small village on Cook Inlet's west side, to facilitate some big development projects that are planned nearby.
Tyonek's goal is not only to position itself to be involved in these projects, most likely in support services, but also to shape the development to reduce any harm to local wildlife habitat as well as the traditional Tyonek community. What's refreshing about this is that we see the people who live closest to these projects saying "yes" to them, as long as they are done right.
Tyonek has developed a visionary plan that sets aside land it owns that is important for fish and game protection but also land for industrial development and infrastructure. In fact, a 1,000-acre industrial area has been established, and Tyonek is working on a plan for road access from the Matanuska-Susitna Borough and planned housing subdivisions that would accommodate new population it feels the industrial projects will inevitably lead to.
Meanwhile, what are the projects? They are several. On the front burner is a medium-sized coal mine on nearby state land that is planned by the Bass-Hunt group of Texas. Another nearby coal deposit, owned by Barrick Gold, also could be developed.
These mines would export coal to Asia, at least initially, but there is also a plan for a coal-to-liquids plant that would convert coal from the mines to high-quality, environmentally clean liquid fuels that are much in demand in U.S. West Coast markets.
An objection some have to these mine projects is that the coal they would export, if used in industrial or power plants in China, would put more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming.
The coal-to-liquids strategy would avoid this. A key advantage of the process is that it will capture CO2, and a plant at that location could inject the gas into nearby depleted underground oil and gas reservoirs and possibly use it to get more oil from aging Cook Inlet oil fields.
Tyonek likes this idea because the liquid fuels made would have a much higher value than the coal and would create a lot of jobs as well as several billion dollars in new industrial tax base for the Kenai Peninsula Borough. An Anchorage firm, Alaska Natural Resources-to-Liquids, is working to bring into this project Sasol, the South African energy company that is a leader in coal-to-liquids.
Two other prospects for the area are the Mount Spurr geothermal project and the Chakachamna hydro project, which are near each other west of Tyonek. Both are being evaluated by private companies -- Chakachamna by TDX Power, another Alaska Native-owned company, and Mount Spurr geothermal by Ormat Nevada Inc.
Tyonek has other projects in mind, including gravel sales from its land. However, with the electricity potential of Mount Spurr, Chakachamna and waste heat from the coal-to-liquids plant that could generate 400 megawatts of power there could be a lot of low-cost electricity that could feed into the existing Southcentral-Interior power grid. Chugach Electric Association's Beluga Power plant is just a few miles from Tyonek.
With natural gas being depleted in Southcentral gas fields, the region needs new alternatives to gas-fired power generation. Tyonek hopes low-cost electricity could help attract other businesses to the region too.
All in all it's quite a vision. Tyonek deserves a hand for encouraging regional economic development and working to ensure it is done properly. I call that far-seeing leadership, and we need more of it in Alaska.
Alaska Native elders seek united voices on bottom trawling in Bering Sea
DAVID BILL SR.
April 18, 2008 at 12:18PM AKST
The Bering Sea is warming.
Alaska Native people living on the coast, keen observers of the world around us, are witnessing many changes in sea ice and animals. Elders report that it’s harder to predict the weather in the traditional way because natural indicators are different.
Scientists report that loss of summer sea ice in the Arctic polar basin inhibits the formation of winter ice in the Bering Sea. Late formation of winter ice and early melting in spring is changing the ecosystem.
Regular surveys show that 45 species of fish have shifted their range northward. With rising temperatures and loss of annual sea ice, commercially valuable fish species are beginning to occupy increasingly more northern waters, inviting fleets to expand trawling into new habitats and sensitive areas.
In June 2007, federal fishery managers agreed to establish a northern bottom-trawl boundary as a precautionary measure to prevent movement of fleets northward beyond their current footprint. The boundary is a moratorium while they develop a plan for the northern Bering Sea.
Alaska Native Elders from eight tribes formed the Bering Sea Elders Advisory Group, administered by the Native Village of Kwigillingok, to provide traditional guidance on how to protect our subsistence way of life as part of the pending fishery plan to govern bottom trawling in the northern Bering Sea.
Representatives of the advisory group have been traveling village to village presenting the issue and inviting more tribes to join. The group has already expanded to 20 tribes and their designated elders.
All tribes from Kuskokwim Bay to Bering Strait are invited to join. The goal is to recommend a unified proposal for protecting our subsistence.
Participating tribes will determine what areas need to be protected from bottom trawling based on elders’ traditional knowledge and today’s active hunters, fishermen and gatherers.
Each tribe will develop maps delineating important and historical use areas and places of ecological significance that are necessary to support the species we depend on in the Bering Sea.
The mapping program is under development. It will include traditional knowledge already documented. Additional or updated information will be collected based on methods used by Canada’s First Nations and experience in Alaska.
Collecting this information will be done in the Yup’ik and Inupiaq languages. Information will be translated for fishery managers to understand.
The final proposal, approved by the tribes and our respected elders, will include maps along with stories, descriptions and seasonal practices provided by Alaska Native holders of traditional and local knowledge specific to each tribe.
Developing a northern Bering Sea bottom-trawl plan is an opportunity to apply the best science and knowledge held by traditional hunters and fishermen toward pragmatic outcomes affecting conservation and cultural integrity in the Bering Sea.
David Bill Sr., chair of the Bering Sea Elders Advisory Group, lives in Toksook Bay. He can be contacted at (907) 427-7165.
Rural Development Project
The UAF CES Rural Development Project develops and disseminates relevant and easily understood research and technology to rural Alaskans – primarily in the lower Yukon Kuskokwim rivers, the Copper River Valley and Southeast Alaska – to improve their quality of life. The Project maintains an open dialog with those stakeholders to identify and adjust to evolving needs. Download the RDP Magazine >
Project faculty and staff collaborate with public agencies, professional researchers, consultants, community groups and, most of all, stakeholders. Programs and services include:
- Rural community development and economic analysis
- Forestry and natural resources
- Youth development
- Energy alternatives and environmental management
- Food self-sufficiency
The RDP has identified the following objectives to attain both the mission and the vision.
- Support research and outreach that responds to the needs of rural Alaska communities.
- Increase opportunities for community participation in hands-on learning.
- Use technology to deliver information and to enhance knowledge.
- Manage the process of community outreach.
- Foster strategic partnerships with public and private stakeholders.
- Collaborate with public and private employers in workforce preparation.
- Develop and maintain a highly qualified and motivated staff.
Good Resources Page
Good Reference/Publications Page
Renewable Resources Coalition
The RRC is an Alaskan non-profit 501 c (6) corporation founded by Alaskans with a diverse membership including commercial fishermen, natives, lodge owners, and many others. The mission of the Renewable Resources Coalition is to preserve and protect the ongoing viability of Alaska’s abundant fishing and hunting resources and the lands and waters they need to survive.
Renewable Resources Coalition
Alaskans Against the Mining Shutdown
Alaskans Against the Mining Shutdown (AAMS), a citizens' coalition, has taken the lead in fighting the initiatives put forth by the anti-mining interests in Alaska - including Ballot Measure 4 which could appear on the primary ballot on August 26th.
The AAMS coalition includes individuals and groups representing different business, regional, and political backgrounds that have gathered together to fight the very drastic and deceptive measures put forth by the anti-mining interests. AAMS launched this campaign to do three things:
(1) Protect the over 5,500 direct and indirect mining jobs, and future jobs in over 100 Alaskan communities, many of them in outlying rural Native Alaskan communities;
(2) Preserve the diverse Alaskan communities who depend on mining. Mining provides $175 million in revenue to Alaska State government, and $14 million in revenue to local governments and, in some cases, is the only source of revenue to to rural communities.
(3) Responsibly protect Alaska's future by ensuring our great mineral wealth continues to be a significant, growing sector of Alaska's economy.
AAMS also promotes responsible resource development, believing that economic development and environmental protection are not mutually exclusive. Alaska has very rigorous environmental standards and processes that mining projects have to go through, and the anti-mining interests would arbitrarily override these science-based processes and standards.
Alaskans Against Mining Shutdown
sustain sustainable rural alaska ak alternative energy development native village housing alt lifestyle change
Expanding the Engineering Pipeline
The University of Alaska Anchorage is empowering native students to succeed as engineers and scientists and providing a source of technical talent for local industry. It's a model that's being replicated with indigenous students nationwide.
By Eva Kaplan-Leiserson
In Alaska, like other areas of the country, there aren't enough engineers to go around. Oil companies must often import staff from the "lower 48," which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in recruiting and relocation costs. And then, many employees quit after just a couple of years, unable to adjust to the cold and dark environment.
At the same time, many of the native people of Alaska struggle with low-quality education and eke out a living in traditional industries such as fishing. A suite of programs developed at the University of Alaska Anchorage, however, is creating a win-win situation, helping some Alaska Native students live their dreams of becoming engineers and scientists.
Developed by Herb Schroeder, associate dean of UAA's engineering school, the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program includes a pre-college program for high schoolers, a summer bridge experience for entering freshmen, a set of retention strategies for university students, and continuing services for graduate students.
The model has been so successful in attracting and retaining indigenous engineering and science students that five other colleges and universities in Alaska, Hawaii, and Washington have implemented programs based on the ANSEP model. After an October conference in Anchorage, seven more in Washington, Arizona, Colorado, North Dakota, and South Dakota have committed to doing so.
At the six colleges and universities that have implemented ANSEP-based retention strategies, 70% of students have graduated or remain in the program. Among students who have completed the summer bridge program, that number shoots up to 85%. This compares to National Center for Education Statistics showing a six-year graduation rate of 36.5% for indigenous students in all disciplines.
The story of ANSEP starts in the early 1990s, when Schroeder traveled to "honey bucket" villages in rural Alaska to research sanitation. In these villages, citizens haul buckets of sanitary waste to a town dump site, often spilling the contents en route, spreading pathogens, and creating health problems.|
Schroeder noticed communication problems between the Alaskan natives in the communities and the engineers from the public health service. "I decided you could mitigate some of the problems by having native engineers," Schroeder says. "In the whole two years I worked on that project, I never met a single native engineer." So the self-proclaimed "white guy" returned to the university determined to address the shortage of Alaska Natives who see engineering as a potential career path.
But the road was not a smooth one. At UAA there was a "widely held belief that native people couldn't do math and science," he says. And when he decided that he needed to reach out to high school students to ensure they were prepared for the tough college engineering curriculum, he faced similar views from high school officials.
The attitudes Schroeder encountered were representative of what he calls "systematic subjugation" of indigenous students, in which they're not considered college material. When Schroeder talked to high school officials, he got responses such as, "These students aren't cut out for college. They want to stay here [and] ride snow machines." And, "If we offered [higher-level math and science] courses, no one would take them and those that would would fail."
Years later, Schroeder would win the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring for developing the ANSEP program. In presenting the award in 2004, President Bush said something to Schroeder that perfectly summed up the resistance he encountered: "Under-represented minorities in this country suffer from the soft bigotry of low expectations."
For Alaskan natives, low success rates in higher education were the root of those expectations. But the ANSEP program has demonstrated that it's not that indigenous students aren't cut out for college, but that their prior education leaves them ill-prepared.
Diane Kaplan, president and CEO of the Rasmuson Foundation, a major supporter of ANSEP, explains that the quality of education in rural villages is poor. "Kids from small villages who might even be valedictorian in their high school class arrive at university so ill-prepared for success that they often flunk out in the first year," she says. "Imagine how devastating that's got to be to someone's morale."
What the ANSEP program has proven, Kaplan adds, is that once placed on a level playing field with students from larger towns and cities, indigenous students can not only survive but thrive in higher education.
"It's not because they're dumb, not because they're not motivated or don't have potential or aren't interested," says Kaplan. "It really seems that the problem has been…that they are ill-prepared to be successful, and have had people tell them they're not going to be successful, and they're believing it after a while."
Says Schroeder: "We've turned all those beliefs totally upside down."
Building the Model
In 1995, Schroeder started the university retention portion of his program, working with two native students to identify what they would need to feel welcome and be successful. Schroeder's weekly meetings with the students expanded into study groups, and he eventually wove in internships to help students explore different engineering jobs.
Today, retention efforts include co-enrollment of native students in classes to support each other; twice-weekly group study sessions led by more-advanced peers; weekly team-building and networking meetings with students, faculty, alumni, and industry partners; and summer internships at partner companies. If students participate in all components and keep a 2.0 GPA, they can earn scholarships to cover the majority of their schooling costs.
Teamwork is essential to the program and illustrates its primary belief. "Everything we do is based on the fundamental indigenous value that community comes before the individual," says Schroeder.
But the associate dean found that he was still doing a lot of "damage control" with students unprepared for university courses. After coming across a summer bridge program at the University of Washington that brought high school graduates to the university campus before they started school there, he launched a similar program at UAA in 1998.
In the nine-week bridge program, students take two hours of pre-calculus class in the mornings; work an internship with industry partners like BP, Alyeska Pipeline, or ConocoPhillips for six hours during the day; and then do more math with peer tutors in the evening. On Friday afternoons students attend brown-bag sessions with industry professionals to learn about their jobs, and on the weekends students can participate in group activities like go-carting and laser tag.
Although the program was successful, Schroeder found that students were still too far behind. So in 2002, he added the pre-college program for high schoolers.
Flying to Kotzebue, on Alaska's west coast and 33 miles north of the Arctic Circle, Schroeder met with 10 high school juniors that friends had told him would be successful in university studies. He brought parts for 10 computers and offered to teach the students how to build and operate the machines. The requirement was that they had to take trigonometry in high school.
All 10 students were eager to participate, but there was one catch: The school didn't offer the class. Schroeder urged the students to petition the principal for it. Now the school offers trigonometry, physics, and chemistry, Schroeder says, and its students are graduating from UAA with engineering degrees.
Schroeder's idea is now a reality in 43 high schools in Alaska, Hawaii, and Washington. If students take trigonometry, physics, and chemistry, build a computer one year, and teach another student to do so the next year, they're rewarded by being allowed to keep the computer they built. Initially funded by NSF, the program is now supported by industry partners.
The program gives students not only a vision of what they might become, says Fran Ulmer, interim chancellor at UAA, but also the necessary tools and skills to achieve that goal. Schroeder, she says, has "opened up the doors and windows of people's lives in a very powerful way."
Why It Works
In the 10 years before ANSEP, UAA's engineering program graduated three native students. Now, in the 2007–2008 school year alone, there are more than 350 native engineering students at UAA, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Alaska's Kuskokwim Community College, the University of Washington, the University of Hawaii Manoa, and Hawaii's Kapiolani Community College. About 200 more indigenous students are studying science at those schools.
What are the reasons for the model's success? The suite of programs that prepare students for university-level work is key. But equally important is the atmosphere that the retention program creates. For students and partners in ANSEP, it's a feeling of family and home.
Indigenous students come to study far from their villages and people they know, and they land in an urban environment vastly different than what they are used to. Through group study sessions; Friday afternoon pizza meetings; and organized activities like bowling, snowboarding, and rock climbing, ANSEP reinforces its group dynamic and creates bonds between participants and with faculty, alumni, and industry mentors.
The ideas of family and home are much a part of the 14,000-square-foot building that serves as ANSEP's headquarters. The ANSEP building was designed to look like a canoe and is decorated with indigenous art. Built with industry and foundation support and money from the state of Alaska, the building opened in October 2006. It is a place, Schroeder says, where native students can feel comfortable and "be native."
In addition to recitation rooms and offices, the building has a space for native dance performances and a kitchen where father-figure Schroeder can often be found on Sundays cooking up a meal for the students.
But even before the building opened, ANSEP was providing students with a sense of family. It is that feeling of community and belonging to which Matt Calhoun, a graduate student at UAA and the first ANSEP graduate, credits his academic success. Prior to joining as a sophomore, he says, "I just felt alone and distant to the point where I almost didn't continue college."
But ANSEP students, who share similar backgrounds and goals, support and help each other. Jenny Jemison, a senior at UAA who serves as a recitation leader for lower-level students, jokes, "I'm graduating in the spring, and I feel like I should have 70 other names on my diploma."
This team approach is perfect for preparing future engineers, explains junior Kelvin Goode, since much of engineering work is done in teams. "This program is pre-paring us for the engineering world from the moment we step into college because they emphasize teamwork and group thinking," he says.
Companies that host student interns and hire graduates believe that ANSEP students are better prepared than the average student. Kristi Acuff, senior vice president of employee and external relations for Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, says participants are high-caliber workers with a good work ethic. "ANSEP students just excel," she says. "We've been very impressed with them."
With an internship every summer, students are highly prepared when they start their professional careers. Every graduate so far has gone on to work for one of the 50 industry partners, Schroeder says. And when the British energy company BP recently recruited at UAA, Schroeder reports, seven of the eight people picked were ANSEP students.
"These students are competing with the best and the brightest from the whole world," he says. "Because they're BP, they're not going to lower their standards for the talent they bring into the company."
Another sign of success is that non-indigenous students are now joining the program, attracted by ANSEP's team dynamic and elite reputation. ANSEP does not discriminate and welcomes them.
As the ANSEP model spreads beyond UAA and Alaska, some believe its impact could go even further.
"I think he's created a really good educational model for retaining students into an educational program," says Carolyn Smith, operations manager at NANA Development Corporation, an ANSEP partner. UAA's Ulmer says the school is discussing the applicability of the model for growing the next generation of K–12 teachers.
Kaplan believes the ANSEP strategies could be applied to many different disciplines. "It's not really about engineering," she says. "It's about having an attitude that the students can be successful and giving them the support they need."
She continues, "What Herb has created, it's not rocket science. It's really common sense and commitment."
Says Acuff about Schroeder's eventual retirement: "The biggest hope is that he trains somebody right behind him who has the same heart, because he's got an awfully big heart towards this program and it's made it very successful."
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