ANSEP founder honored with First Alaskans Institute award

by Matt Jardin  |   

Vice Provost of the Alaska Native Science & Engineering Program Herb Schroeder
Vice Provost of the Alaska Native Science & Engineering Program (ANSEP) Herb Schroeder presents UAA Chancellor Sean Parnell and distinguished guests with Inupiat snow goggles as Parnell pays a visit to the ANSEP summer barbecue on his first full day as chancellor. (Photo by James Evans / University of Alaska Anchorage)

During the 10th annual Howard Rock and Ted Stevens Smokehouse Gala, organized by the First Alaskans Institute (FAI), Herb Ilisaurri Schroeder, Ph.D., was awarded the Friends of First Alaskans Ted Stevens Award. This honor is given to a person who has shown, through their support of Native issues and partnership with FAI’s cause, that they are friends of the Alaska Native community.

Schroeder was recognized for his work establishing the Alaska Native Science & Engineering Program (ANSEP). He serves as vice provost for ANSEP.

ANSEP enrolls elementary, middle and high school students from more than 100 Alaska communities in multi-week sessions on the UAA campus every month of the year. The sessions are designed to inspire and prepare students for university courses and careers in any field they choose. 

ANSEP students in the Acceleration Academy go from eighth grade to a STEM B.S. degree in five years. Other popular opportunities include the Middle School Academy, where students are taught to build a computer they get to keep, and Summer Bridge, which provides graduating high schoolers with paid internships at one of ANSEP’s community partners.

“We show students the possibilities for their lives,” said Schroeder. “We inspire them, guide them and provide opportunities for them to achieve their goals.”  

Since its humble beginnings, ANSEP has graduated more than 500 alumni with STEM B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. degrees, all of whom have moved into leadership roles across the Alaska economy. More than 2,500 additional students are on track to follow in their footsteps, with nearly 1,000 students attending ANSEP sessions on the UAA campus in 2019 prior to the pandemic.

While working on an Alaska public health project, Schroeder realized how few public health engineers were Alaska Native, so he established ANSEP in 1995 with a single Alaska Native student. 

“In my two years on the project, I never met an Alaska Native engineer,” said Schroeder in an interview with the University of Colorado Boulder’s CU Engineering Magazine. “This was one of the first times that I realized Alaska Natives were being discriminated against. I wasn’t going to quit until that kind of discrimination was gone forever and it would never happen again.” 

Prior to the FAI award, ANSEP was named as one of the top seven innovations in American government by the Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance. In 2013, ANSEP received the Partners in Conservation Award, along with the U.S. Geological Survey’s Alaska Area Science Center, for exemplary collaboration with the Department of the Interior to take innovative approaches toward the conservation of America’s public lands and resources. And in 2014, ANSEP received the U.S. Department of Energy’s Minorities in Energy Award. 

Schroeder himself has received several honors, including the White House Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring in 2004, and the Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) Denali Award in 2005 — the greatest honor presented by AFN to a non-Native. In 2008, ANSEP partner organizations provided more than $5 million to establish the Dr. Herbert Ilisaurri Schroeder Chair for ANSEP. And in 2009, the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering honored him with the Reginald H. Jones Distinguished Service Award, which recognizes individuals whose accomplishments have resulted in increased underrepresented minority participation in the engineering workforce. More recently, in 2018 the University of Colorado Boulder honored him with the George Norlin Award, which recognizes a demonstrated and long-lasting commitment to excellence in one's professional career and a devotion to the betterment of society and community. 

Schroeder was honored at a virtual ceremony Nov. 20, along with Howard Rock Alaska Native Leader Award recipient and UAA honorary doctor of sciences Rosita Worl, Ph.D, and First Alaskans Institute Young Native Leader Award recipient and UAA justice alumna Nicole Borromeo. This year’s gala also marked the 50th anniversary of the passage of the landmark Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA). 

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