Direct hire agreement means more opportunities for ANSEP students
On July 13, U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretary Deb Haaland signed a direct hire agreement with the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program (ANSEP). That means ANSEP students will have more chances to land federal jobs.
When Haaland signed the agreement, ANSEP students who had been interning in Washington, D.C. crowded into the room to watch. ANSEP Assistant Director Nieca Murphy was there.
“To be part of the moment was something else. And it has implications beyond just being there for the signing. Like, you think of signing a piece of paper as just being kind of black and white, but it was very much more than that. And I don't think that any of us fully realized that gravity until we were there. Seeing that this is not just an experience that we have,” Murphy said.
It’s all part of the Biden Administration’s push for diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in the federal workforce, which DOI is working towards with agreements like this one.
ANSEP promotes careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) for students from Alaska Native backgrounds and rural Alaskan communities. According to its website, ANSEP works with more than 100 communities. This year, there were approximately 20 ANSEP students (across Summer Bridge and University Success students) who participated in an internship within a DOI office or bureau. This number has increased gradually each year since 2009. Murphy thinks that the program is invaluable.
“From elementary, especially middle schoolers, they do a lot of work with the school districts to bring students from different school districts year round to Anchorage. And they do a computer build, they get hands on experience and fun exposure to STEM. And then from there they have the acceleration high schools. So they have one in Anchorage, one in Matanuska-Susitna, one in Bethel, and one in Kotzebue,” Murphy said.
Recently, ANSEP started a statewide Acceleration Academy where students live in Anchorage, take college level courses, study, and participate in group sessions.
ANSEP also partners with almost a hundred private companies, nonprofit organizations, and state and federal government agencies. One of those partnerships is the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation where student Tatiana Korthuis has been interning.
“I've been interning for the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation in Washington D.C. All these internships have allowed me to experience hands on work, whether it be in the field or in the professional office. These internships have also allowed me to network and meet new people, find my interests, find new things, try new things, and grow as a person,” Korthuis said.
Korthuis is a junior at the University of Alaska studying environmental science. Her family comes from Emmonak, and she was raised in Bethel. The 22-year-old has been in ANSEP for almost a decade.
“ANSEP has allowed me to find my passion for the STEM field. More specifically in relation to, like, the environment and in the Arctic,” Korthuis said.
Korthuis spent the summer in the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Rocky Mountain Regional Office working on grants and proposals. She said that it could be overwhelming at times.
“Some of the grants can be very lengthy and very intimidating. While there's a stack of papers in front of you, as I've learned, and got to experience that internship, I found that they're not so scary. They, my mentors and supervisors, have taught me what to look for and taught me how to approach them,” Korthuis said.
But Korthuis feels that this experience has set her up for success.
“I feel like it really relates to Alaska because, you know, maybe later on in life I'll be working on writing grants and proposals for our communities within Alaska,” Korthuis said.
Korthuis plans on continuing her education and getting her master's degree. Her goal is to work for one of ANSEP’s partner organizations.
Korthuis credits her family for her accomplishments.
“My family has always supported me in trying new things, going out there in the world, conquering different things that I never thought I'd be able to conquer. And they've backed me up. They've supported me, they've guided me to all that I've done,” Korthuis said.
Korthuis’ experience influenced her younger sister, Charlie, who is also an ANSEP student. She hopes that the program continues to expand and provide opportunities not only for her sister, but for all Alaska Native students.