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A Qualitative Study of Motivation in Alaska Native Science & Engineering Program (ANSEP) Pre-college Students

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Interest and Movitation: Formulating New Paradigms to Increase URM Participation in Engineering

Tagged Division

Minorities in Engineering

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.94.1 - 26.94.18



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Paper Authors


Michele Yatchmeneff Purdue University, West Lafayette

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I am Unangax/Aleut or Alaska Native born and raised in Alaska. I come from a line of Unangax fishermen and spent much of my childhood in the Aleutians subsistence living. I am currently pursing my PhD in Engineering Education at Purdue University. My current dissertation title is: A Qualitative Study of Motivation in Alaska Native Science & Engineering Program (ANSEP) Precollege Students. Prior to starting at Purdue University, I was the Alaska Native Science & Engineering Program (ANSEP) Deputy Director and managed its Summer Bridge, Academies of Engineering, and University Success components. I earned a BS in Civil Engineering from University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) in 2005 and a MS in Engineering Management from UAA in 2009. I have taught the Introduction to Engineering course at UAA 5 times. I have more than five years of construction and engineering professional experience in Alaska. I specialized in water and sewer projects in remote Alaskan villages. My responsibilities have included design assistance, technical report and permit writing, feasibility studies, and business plan preparations. Previous work includes conceptual design of water and sewer systems, surveying, construction, and field sampling of water, wastewater, and ground temperatures. Additional experience includes a broad range of environmental engineering activities in the oil and gas field in Prudhoe Bay.

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A Qualitative Study of Motivation in [Program] Precollege StudentsThe dramatic underrepresentation of Alaska Natives in science, technology, engineering andmathematics (STEM) degrees and professions calls for rigorous research in how students accessthese fields. Research has shown that students who complete advanced mathematics and sciencecourses while in high school are more academically prepared to pursue and succeed in STEMdegree programs and professions. There is limited research on what motivates precollegestudents to become more academically prepared before they graduate from high school. InAlaska, Alaska Native precollege students regularly underperform on required State of Alaskamathematics and science exams when compared to non-Alaska Native students. Research alsosuggests that different things may motivate Alaska Native students than racial majority students.Therefore, there is a need to better understand what motivates Alaska Native students to take andsuccessfully complete advanced mathematics and science courses while in high school so thatthey are academically prepared to pursue and succeed in STEM degrees and professions.The [Program] is a longitudinal STEM educational enrichment program that works with Alaskanstudents starting in middle school through doctoral degrees and further professional endeavors.Research suggests that Alaska Native students participating in [Program] are completing STEMdegrees at higher rates than before the program was available. [Program] appears to be uniquedue to its longitudinal approach and the large numbers of Alaskan precollege, university, andgraduate students it supports. [Program] provides precollege students with opportunities to takeadvanced high school and college-level mathematics and science courses and complete STEMrelated projects. Students work and live together on campus during the program components.Student outcome data suggests that [Program] has been successful at motivating precollegeparticipants to successfully complete advanced high school and college-level mathematics andscience courses prior to high school graduation.This study asked, “how do Alaska Native students participating in [Program] describe theprogram’s role at motivating them to take advanced mathematics and science courses in highschool?” Qualitative interviews were conducted with 22 current [Program] precollegeparticipants and 11 former precollege participants who were pursuing STEM degrees.Preliminary findings suggest that [Program] precollege academic coursework and socialengagement components positively contributed to Alaska Native participant motivation to takeand successfully complete advanced high school and college-level mathematics and sciencecourses while in high school. Preliminary findings further suggest that [Program] precollegecomponents positively contributed to participant motivation to pursue STEM degrees andprofessions. Knowledge gained from this study may further support the use of longitudinalacademic programs to increase STEM degree persistence and graduation.

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2015 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015