Two ANSEP alumni break barriers as first Alaska Native engineering faculty members at University of Alaska Anchorage this fall
Both recently earned doctorates in engineering
Alaska Native Science & Engineering Program
ANCHORAGE, ALASKA – This fall, two Alaska Native Science & Engineering Program (ANSEP) alumni will make history at the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) as the first tenure-track Alaska Native engineering faculty members. Both Michele Yatchmeneff and Matt Calhoun recently earned their doctorates in engineering and will begin teaching engineering courses during the fall semester of 2015 to develop the next generation of STEM industry professionals in Alaska.
“We’re proud of how far Michele and Matt have come,” said ANSEP Founder and Vice Provost Dr. Herb Ilisaurri Schroeder. “They exemplify the ideal ANSEP students. Their experiences, first as students and later as staff, speak volumes about the long-term impact ANSEP can have and also make them uniquely qualified to encourage other Alaskans to pursue STEM education and careers.”
Dr. Yatchmeneff is a Unangax (Aleut) woman who grew up living a traditional subsistence lifestyle in rural villages along Alaska’s Aleutian chain. She discovered her love of engineering in high school while attending an engineering camp at the University of Denver, and began to immerse herself in several camps and internships. While working toward her undergraduate degree at UAA, Yatchmeneff participated in the ANSEP University Success component. After earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering at UAA, she began working in Alaska’s construction and engineering industry, specializing in water and sewer projects in remote villages across the state. Throughout her school and work experiences, Yatchmeneff felt that there was an ongoing negative stereotype that came with her Alaska Native heritage. As a result, she returned to ANSEP in 2007 as deputy director, with the goal of motivating other Alaska Native students to earn STEM degrees and join her in combating those stereotypes. Yatchmeneff recently earned her Ph.D. in engineering education from Purdue University.
“ANSEP students inspire me every day because they are knocking down barriers they don’t even realize exist,” said ANSEP Assistant Professor of Engineering Yatchmeneff. “I’m looking forward to helping students learn to navigate the university and getting them excited about their undergraduate engineering degrees.”
Calhoun is an Athabaskan Indian from Homer, Alaska, and has been involved with ANSEP since 1999. After meeting ANSEP Founder Schroeder, Calhoun was inspired to pursue an engineering degree at UAA while participating in the ANSEP University Success component. In 2002, he was one of the first ANSEP students to graduate with his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. From there, Calhoun was employed as a project engineer for three years before returning to ANSEP as a regional director in 2006. Calhoun actively recruited students for ANSEP pre-college components before going outside to earn his master’s in civil engineering from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2010. This year, Matt earned his Ph.D. in civil engineering from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
“I truly believe Alaska needs more homegrown scientists and engineers, and I want to be part of making that happen at ANSEP and at UAA,” said ANSEP Assistant Professor of Engineering Calhoun. “Having more Alaska students with degrees is key to having a voice in the projects and research that will build Alaska’s future.”
Both Yatchmeneff and Calhoun are now tenure-track faculty members at UAA. During the fall semester, Yatchmeneff will teach Introduction to Engineering as well as two sections of Engineering Economic Analysis and Operations. Calhoun will teach Introduction to Engineering as well as Properties of Materials and its corresponding lab. The two will also continue their work at ANSEP, serving as assistant engineering professors to Dr. Schroeder.
ANSEP’s longitudinal model begins at the middle school level and continues through high school and into college undergraduate, graduate and doctorate programs. Yatchmeneff and Calhoun are among 146 ANSEP scholarship recipients that have graduated from the University of Alaska with bachelor’s degrees in STEM fields. There are currently more than 1,500 students in the ANSEP pipeline.
The Alaska Native Science & Engineering Program (ANSEP), founded by Herb Ilisaurri Schroeder, Ph.D., is part of the University of Alaska system. The program strives to effect systemic change in the hiring patterns of Alaska Natives in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) career fields by placing its students on a path to leadership. Beginning at the middle school level, ANSEP’s longitudinal model continues through high school and into undergraduate, graduate and doctorate programs, allowing students to succeed at rates far exceeding national numbers. In 2015, the organization launched ANSEP STEM Teacher to further remedy Alaska’s rural education issues by supporting students pursuing STEM-related teaching certificates. ANSEP plans to place one ANSEP STEM Teacher in every Alaska village by 2025.