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Program Motivates Native Alaskans to Pursue STEM Careers

By Center for Digital Education

May 21, 2013

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U.S. education needs improved quality control if it is to produce better results, says Herb Schroeder, founder of the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program (ANSEP).

President Barack Obama pledged a $3.1 billion commitment to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education in his 2013 State of the Union address, but simply providing more funding will not solve the problem of a shortage of STEM graduates, Schroeder says.

Launched in 1995, ANSEP has a proven record of success: more than 83 percent of its students complete Algebra 1 by the end of the eighth grade and more than 70 percent who begin a four-year degree in a STEM field graduate. Schroeder, who started the program while conducting research on rural sanitation in the 1990s, says the key to getting native Alaskans interested in STEM was to create native Alaskan engineers. "I worked on this project for a couple years and the whole time, I never met a native engineer," he says.

A big part of reaching students is breaking through cultural barriers, but Schroeder notes that motivation is critical. Participants assemble computers, and those who complete Algebra before graduating eight grade get to keep their machine.

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